Meet Julia Oseka: The 22-Year-Old US Voting Delegate at the Synod on Synodality
The college student told CNA she finds inspiration in her confirmation saint, Thérèse of Lisieux.
At first glance, 22-year-old Julia Oseka seems like your average college student. But the junior at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia majoring in physics and theology, a native of Poland, is anything but ordinary. Oseka is one of 10 non-bishop voting members from the United States and Canada who will be at the Synod on Synodality taking place at the Vatican this month.
In 2022, Oseka became a student leader for Synodality in Catholic Higher Education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (SCHEAP), which is a coalition of Catholic universities, colleges and Newman Centers in the Philadelphia area fostering student voices in the synod.
In April 2022, a large, intercollegiate listening session took place at La Salle University with representatives from all participating colleges and universities and Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia. Soon after this meeting, Perez and other SCHEAP members selected Oseka as one of three Philadelphia delegates to the synod’s North American Continental Assembly.
In an interview with CNA, Oseka called her participation in the synod “very humbling.”
“I see it as really a sign that the Church is ready and is open to listen to people — and invite people — to be very active in those big decision-making and discernment processes in the Church,” she added.
The Synod on Synodality will mark the first time a synod includes voting delegates who are not bishops. Nearly a third of the 366 voting delegates were chosen by Pope Francis, including laypeople, priests, consecrated women and deacons. Fifty-four voting members are women.
Oseka, who calls herself a feminist and has said she dreams of being a physics professor one day, is the only female physics scholar in St. Joseph’s University’s prestigious John P. McNulty Program, which awards scholarships to women in STEM. She told CNA she finds inspiration in her confirmation saint, Thérèse of Lisieux, whom Oseka thinks is “so relatable. She was so young when she passed away and led a heroic life. She’s a doctor of the Church and a great woman.”
Despite preparing for her monthlong trip and taking part in interviews for the media, Oseka has still managed to focus on her schoolwork and spiritual life. “I have been praying before. I am praying still. I’m doing my Ignatian examen daily and trying to pray different forms of prayer as well,” she shared.
Oseka won’t be the only young adult attending the synod from North America. Father Ivan Montelongo, 30, a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, Texas, who was ordained only three years ago, will also participate. So will Wyatt Olivas, an undergraduate at the University of Wyoming and a member of the Diocese of Cheyenne, where he served as a catechist and music minister.
Oseka has said she believes women and LGBTQIA+ people should have greater roles in the Church. She told CNA that during campus-level synodal meetings organized by SCHEAP, she and her peers were touched by the “joys and hardships” that others voiced. And this is when she realized that “there are people in the Church who are underserved.”
“They’re on the ‘peripheries,’ as Pope Francis would call that — not a lot of attention or guidance is devoted to those people, and young people are part of that group I believe, as many of my peers voiced that, and hope and wish for more spaces for them to be the now of the Church currently,” she explained.
Oseka said she hopes the synod “will facilitate openness to the Spirit.”
“During the discussions lately with other synod participants something that really struck me is that we have to be open to the mystery and immerse ourselves in the mystery that is fundamental for all synod participants,” Oseka continued. “So I really hope that all of us will open our hearts for the surprises of the Spirit and will be brave enough to embrace those surprises.”
She added: “I’m looking forward to what it will bring, but I’m sure it will be filled with grace and the Holy Spirit among us.”
- synod on synodality