Pope Francis Appoints Julia Osęka ’25 as Delegate to Universal Assembly in Rome, Marking First Time in History Non-Bishops Have Voting Status

Article from Saint Joseph's University, Kevin Gfeller
photo of young woman

Pope Francis has named Julia Osęka ’25, a physics and theology major at Saint Joseph’s University and student leader of SCHEAP (Synodality in Catholic Higher Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia), a voting delegate from North America to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome which takes place from Oct. 4-29, 2023. The Assembly is the first of two such gatherings in the three-year global synod on “Communion, Participation and Mission,” which Pope Francis convened in Oct. 2021. This marks the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church that non-bishops will have voting status in a synod.

“My confidence in the Synod processes and outcomes is all the more deepened with Julia Osęka’s appointment by the U.S. Bishops as a delegate,” said Daniel R.J. Joyce, S.J. ‘88, vice president of mission and ministry at Saint Joseph’s University. “She brings her compassionate heart and sharp intellect to give voice to the aspirations of young Catholics in the U.S.”

Born in Poland, Osęka is an active member of Campus Ministry at Saint Joseph’s. She distinguished herself among her peers for her commitment to the synodal process on Hawk Hill and in two cross-campus gatherings with Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Pérez. In addition to being among 70 non-bishop voting delegates, Osęka is among a small group of young people who will participate in discernment and voting on three priorities identified by millions of Catholics through the two-year synod process to date: a communion that radiates through unity, co-responsibility in service of the Gospel by recognizing diverse gifts, and participation, governance and authority through more synodal structures and institutions.

“Pope Francis' invitation to the young people to actively participate in the Synodal meeting this fall is truly indicative of this Synod's focus to be a missionary journey of the entire people of God,” said Osęka. “The communion, to which we are called, blossoms in appreciation of the diversity of all the members of the Church - including us - young people, who want to be ‘the now’ of this Church and its protagonists. As a young woman, being able to participate in this Synod is truly hope-filling and beyond joyful!”

Osęka’s nomination as a delegate from North America originated with student, staff and faculty members of SCHEAP, a one-of-a-kind coalition of 11 Catholic colleges and universities, as well as three Newman Centers in Philadelphia who have journeyed together in the synodal process since Nov. of 2021. SCHEAP seeks to empower college students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to accept Pope Francis’ invitation to participate in the global Synod, to create pathways for members of participating campus communities to walk the synodal path together and to grow higher education’s contribution to the conversion process of becoming a more synodal Church.

With the support of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, SCHEAP trained more than 30 staff animators from participating campuses who facilitated more than 50 listening sessions for college students from Feb.-April 2022. Leaders designed a cross-campus listening session with nearly 100 students and Archbishop Pérez, including a participatory art component. The group’s final synthesis report earned accolades from every level of the Church hierarchy, including the Vatican. More than 100 members of SCHEAP met with Archbishop Pérez again in Jan. 2023 to discern together the priorities emerging from that report. They commissioned Osęka, who the group had nominated at Pérez’s invitation, as one of three delegates from Philadelphia to the North American Continental Assembly.

“I was filled with great joy to learn that Julia Osęka was selected as a representative of young adults to participate in the next phase of the Synod on Synodality in Rome,” said Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Pérez. “The Church of Philadelphia is blessed to count one of its faithful among those from around the world who will gather at the Vatican. They will continue the work called for by Pope Francis earlier this year for all Catholics to help bishops better understand the nature of the Church, its people and their needs through dialogue and prayer.”

To learn more about the synodal process, visit https://www.synod.va/en.html

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