PROVIDENCE — With 11 other youths from around the United States, 16-year-old Olivia Marcoux of Rhode Island recently found herself with a grand view of Saint Peter’s Basilica, surrounded by the ancient architecture, holy sites, and the stone roads of Rome, in what she described as a “beautiful and timeless atmosphere.” The young woman had embarked on a mission to meet and speak with the Holy Father to give him an important message from America’s youth.
The parishioner of Holy Trinity Church in Woonsocket serves on the National Youth Advisory Council and was recently granted an audience with Pope Francis on October 12 at the conclusion of the general audience in Rome. This special delegation of 12 people from different cultural backgrounds and parts of the United States was tasked with bringing the voices and gifts of young people into the work and ministry of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
Marcoux, a student at Mount Saint Charles Academy, and the delegation were called to express the concerns of U.S. youth with the Holy Father. Once she processed this assignment, she realized just how daunting it was.
“I was responsible for summarizing everything that United States youth felt was important to tell the Holy Father,” Marcoux recalled. “I had to represent an entire generation of American youth to the head of the Church to show him how the Church can better connect with youth.”
With this interpretation in mind, she collected around 100 responses from young people on the questions of “What do you want to tell Pope Francis?” and “What do you want Pope Francis to do for you?”
“Surprisingly, many of the answers were very genuine and their ideas aligned perfectly. Ultimately, we presented the message that youth need community, recognition and Mass involvement if they are to be interested in the faith,” she said.
Marcoux was one of two selected to deliver the message in a face-to-face visit with Pope Francis.
“This was an incredible honor which has led me to see more fully how my gifts can be used to serve the Church in representing the youth and in forming a better future,” she explained. “This visit also showed me just how deep the history of our faith goes and how the Catholic faith is truly universal, which has inspired me to make some sort of mark on that history and to become closer with God knowing that I have a huge group of people worldwide who believe in and are working for the same things as me.”
Since this visit in October, the National Youth Advisory Council has returned home to share the story of their pilgrimage with others, most especially the message Pope Francis would like to share with the young people of the United States.
Marcoux said the pope told them to tell all young people in the United States that “we need to find more joy and that we always need to be looking for joy in our lives and in the church.”
During the visit, the members of the advisory council also met with Vatican officials to provide input on improving outreach. Going forward, the council will work collaboratively with their local and diocesan communities, and with all members of NYAC to ensure our Holy Father’s message reaches the young church. Their efforts will include digital campaigns, blogs, video projects, and witness reflections.
The pope will be sending his own message to young people that will be shared at the National Catholic Youth Conference this November in Long Beach, California, and online.
Incredibly committed to Catholic Youth Ministry here in Rhode Island, Marcoux has served as a Mother of Hope Camp counselor, is a member of the Diocesan Leadership Team, teaches faith formation at her parish and is on her school’s campus ministry. Having been named to the National Youth Advisory Council on August 1, she will serve on the council through July 31, 2024.
Marcoux explained what has motivated her to want to be so involved in sharing her faith with other Catholic youth.
“I believe that youth can find a supportive, steadying, and wholesome community within the Church that is lacking in much of our modern world. It’s difficult to be a teenager with so much social media, information, and pressure present in our lives,” she said.
“Having mentors and friends who are committed to imitating the morals of Christ is invaluable to young people — it can help to get them through times of trouble, stress, or anxiety, and it will help them to work to better themselves.”
With reports from Catholic News Service.