By J.C. Montenegro
I had the blessing to participate in the Catholic Volunteer Network Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, November 5-8. In this article, I’m not writing about the conference in general, but rather about what had the greatest impact on me while I was attending the conference. I’m not judging the good work done in so many ways in our Salesian works, but rather trying to encourage future movement and apostolic efficacy.
1. How pastoral am I in regard to my interaction with young people? This is one of the questions that most affected me. How much time do I spend with young people? Do I share with them my vocational story? Am I ready to listen and to accompany them on their journey?
These questions have challenged me a lot lately because I’ve been so worried about administration that I’ve forgotten to be with the young people. I asked myself as a volunteer coordinator, how do I move volunteers if I don’t take the time to promote and talk to them about my missionary passion? It’s time to be more intentional on my part and spend quality time with the young people whom God has entrusted to me.
2. What is my narrative? By narrative I mean the “tools used to engage and emotionally connect with our young people. These narratives are stories that explain why we do what we do.”
Many times I find myself complaining about what’s happening in our province. We need more vocations, we need more volunteers, better leadership, and so on– more complaints that may not be appropriate to list here.
But the question remains: what is the narrative that I want to share with the young people with whom I interact? I want my narrative to be “young people are the present and the future of a better world, and I want to be here to support them in whatever way they need to accomplish this goal.” I have found myself many times complaining instead of being part of the solution. I need to move away from this posture.
3. Why don’t we change our conceptual maps? Young people are leaving our churches. This is not only a perception; it’s reality, demonstrated by research such as that of the Pew Research Center.
What are we doing to keep the young engaged? In the Los Angeles region, where I am, we’re blessed to be in a highly-populated Latino area where we still have young people around. Moreover, are we intentional in our narrative? Do we know what our province or parish or school narrative is? Is our narrative one which is updated and in tune with our young people?
We must do things differently, trying new approaches. If we fail, we fail, but at least we’ll have tried. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. Let’s not allow our fears and past failures to make us complacent with what we have and with whom we have become.
These are the three main points that I took from this conference. I hope this “article” helps us to shake up our ideas and to decide to do something for our young people and the future of our Salesian works. I believe great things are yet to happen