Pope requests youngest Synod member be excused from classes

Pope requests youngest Synod member be excused from classes

Wyatt Olivias, a 19-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, asked Pope Francis to sign a letter requesting he be excused from classes in order to rest after four weeks of work at the Synod General Assembly.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

After four intensive weeks at the Synod, the idea of going straight back to the classroom, right after a 13-hour flight from Rome to Denver, was a bit daunting.

It was too much even for a young man like Wyatt Olivas, the American student who, at 19 years of age, is the youngest participant in the Synod on Synodality. 

Signed “Francis”

The young man, a student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, a missionary at the Catholic youth programme Totus Tuus, and a catechist in his home diocese of Cheyenne, will leave Rome on Monday, 30 October.

He was supposed to show up in the lecture room, which is a three-hour drive away, potentially with snow on the road, as early as Tuesday morning.

Half-jokingly, Wyatt decided to draft a letter explaining to his professors that he needed to recover from his work at the Vatican before resuming classes.

Who better to have it signed by than the ‘President’ of the whole assembly? With a smile, the Pope agreed to sign, writing “Francis” in his tiny handwriting.

Wyatt’s letter, with the Pope’s signature

The letter

The letter, which the young man drafted himself, reads:

“Wyatt A. Olivas has been an integral part of the Synod on Synodality, working diligently to contribute to this significant event in the Church. His efforts have been greatly appreciated by the Church community, and we are grateful for his dedication and hard work. As a result of his tireless efforts, we believe Wyatt deserves a break from his classes to recharge and rejuvenate”.

“Wyatt,” the letter continues, “has pinky promised to return to his classes and complete his work, and we trust that he will keep his word. We are confident that, after this much-needed break, he will return to his studies with renewed energy and focus. Therefore, we kindly request that he be excused from his classes for a short period.”

Giving voice to the youth

The Pope smiled as he returned the letter to the young man.

“It’s true, you are important,” he told him. Olivas thanked him for inviting him and thus giving a voice also to that group of young people who – as he had mentioned in interviews before the event in Rome – often feel somewhat cut off from decision-making in the Church.

Wyatt Olivas, centre, with other young synod participants from the US

‘Amazing experience’ at the Synod

This Synod, Wyatt told journalists at a briefing in the Holy See Press Office on the 18th October, has given him a new perspective.

“It’s been an amazing experience to truly be listened to and hear these different perspectives from all around the world. I think it’s just amazing that I get to see these other sides. So it’s very exciting to be here.”

Exciting, of course, but also demanding, so much so that a break was needed before returning to the classroom. And, in this case, he has the Pope’s blessing.