Challenges for Youth Ministry

Ajoy Fernandes sdb

The Youth Pastoral scene of our province is complex. We work in different settings in urban and rural areas: colleges, schools, technical institutes, boardings and hostels, shelters, parishes, youth centers and oratories. Further, there are different dimensions to youth ministry: education and culture, evangelization and catechesis, groups and movements, and vocation ministry. This Provincial Chapter aims at drawing up a structural plan that will indicate a thrust for our province over the next six years. Based on consultations with Salesians in various forums, I propose four areas of focus that might help operationalize the dimensions of our apostolate amidst concrete opportunities or challenges in our settings.

Educating the Marginalized to Life and Livelihood
DB-Tech India has helped access government schemes for training and obtaining employment for rural and urban youth who live below the poverty line. The challenge consists in creating backward linkages to youth in villages and slums; motivating them to access our training programs; scouting for areas of employment that are currently in demand in community, industrial and corporate settings; creating modules to match these skills together with life-coping skills; and fostering employment linkages.

Rural Catechesis and Evangelization in Urban Contexts
Many rural Catholic children in Maharashtra and Gujarat live far from their parish, attend government schools, and have limited access to a Catholic upbringing. The challenge is to create basic catechetical modules in the vernacular and impart them during the course of periodically scheduled camps, with follow-up in the villages. In the urban sector, evangelization could focus on creating among our school and college students an awareness of the needs of marginalized populations; and fostering outreach programs. Such initiatives would hopefully enable our students to think and act in socially responsible ways amidst the neighbourhood and future work situations.

Animating Groups and Movements with the Salesian Youth Spirituality (SYS)
We have groups such as altar servers, choirs, youth groups, sodalities, scouts, past pupils etc., functioning in various settings. We need to animate these groups across the province in a phased, organized and consistent manner by disseminating the SYS among i) Salesians, ii) collaborators and youth animators, and iii) youth groups; organizing regular meets; and camps and rallies at the local, regional and provincial levels to initiate a Salesian Youth Movement.

Fostering and Accompanying Vocation Candidates
A shift from vocation recruitment to vocation promotion and accompaniment consists in: identifying boys and collaborators amidst our various groups and outreaches who display a liking for our spirituality; inviting them to participate in our programs; accompanying them and their families through a discernment; and animating them together with other interested candidates before inserting them into our aspirantate or formation structures.

The challenge for the next six years consists in enhancing initiatives undertaken in the areas mentioned above by setting up adequate mechanisms; and establishing concrete targets and time-frames towards achieving our goals. Finally, we need to mold our systematic efforts into a movement in the service of youth, the Church and our Nation, in the Don Bosco Way.

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