In preparation for World Youth Day, here is a reflection on Youth Ministry
THE SISTERS OF CHARITY IN THE YOUTH MINISTRY TODAY
1.Youth ministry, one of the founding elements of the Thourethian Charism
It does not seem necessary to me to remind us that, prayer is the surest way that leads us to the divine source, that makes our lives and activities flourish. Indeed, it is at the heart of prayer at Einsiedein that St. Jeanne Antide received the revelation of her vocation and before the call to the evangelization of the poor; there is an interpellation in relation to the expectations of the youths: "My daughter," said the canon, "here is the will of God: He wants you in France. The present circumstances are still dangerous for you; they would persecute you and you could be put to death. However, go ahead, but in a country where you are not known. The youths that are abandoned to ignorance are waiting for you: go like a good daughter of Saint Vincent de Paul, evangelize the poor; you will do a great good …. The Good Lord who has kept you, who has preserved you from all dangers, and His Blessed Mother, will always keep you. In this confidence, continue to walk with courage and you will triumph over everything "(MSR in LD pp543 - 544).
Thus, youth ministry was the first founding element of the mission of St. Jeanne Antide. In her time, the youths were abandoned to ignorance and it was necessary to act with conviction of faith to get them out of there. Today, our youths are not learned despite the improvement of the intelligent quotient. In fact, pastoral care remains linked to the dynamism of our Christian faith. The motivations of our pastoral care must take into consideration all the orientations of faith of the universal Church and the current vision of the needs of our places of mission. But in all, young people remain the target of a significant spiritual need to answer the fundamental questions of existence and spirituality they face. Like St. Jeanne Antide, we feel challenged by this youth in lack of reliable landmarks and go out of ourselves to join them where they are and where they are waiting for us.
2. Sisters of Charity: where are we with the youth ministry today in our African Province? We are Sisters of Charity and we say it with pride, but do we also live it with pride? Isn’t our vocation to Love? «THOU MUST LOVE…". This clarion call is also that of waiting for a response of love for Christ and his suffering members of which young people are part of it. Young people suffer from the lack of authentic references, self-knowledge, follow-up, and accompaniment and so on; family life crumbles in various forms. In short, they suffer from various tribulations that can be classified in 50 problems according to McDowell and Hostetler in his book: The youth, its problems, their solutions (2018). It is a synthesis of: "Emotional Problems, Relationship Problems, Family Problems, Sexual Problems, Abuse, Imbalances, Dependencies, Educational Problems, Career Choice Issues" and we can add, Problems with Vocational Choices , Problems of cultural identity and Problems related to the use of new means of communication. For years, our African Province has been giving youth pastoral care, mainly based on girls' homes. I would like to emphasize here the need to broaden our pastoral vision. For the pastoral care of young people in our Province seems to have taken a lukewarm attitude, a blow to our missions. This invites us to rethink our commitment to the Mother Church, and especially to our Province.
3. For a practical pastoral commitment in the service of young people.
For practical pastoral engagement with young people, we must answer the fundamental question: What are the needs of young people today? The young people we are talking about are teenagers and young adults, who need to build or strengthen their identity, direct their lives or discern their vocation. They need us, each sister of Charity, even friends of St. Jeanne Antide to accompany them in their research. Sometimes they are just afraid to take the risk of the unknown. For this we can reassure them, listen to them, encourage them, invent practical activities with them, do with them what they like (outings, concerts, pilgrimage, dynamic meeting of exchanges on various themes that interest them and help them). Each sister should be engaged in a parish group as a daughter of the Church. The school is also a place of youth pastoral that is not negligible to organize. The African Child's Day and the Day of the Music Festival could be another opportunity to get together with the young people. And concerning vocational discernment, it is important that we organize a much more active vocational pastoral ministry. Meaning, in addition to the vocational camps, it is possible to intervene at certain important moments of the liturgical year such as the day of vocations, Easter Monday or another time. Youth ministry is unavoidable and requires more attention.
Sr Giséle (de la Province de l'Afrique)