Dear Salesian Family,
This weekend, the Salesian Lay Missioners (SLMs) begin their three weeks of formation for mission. This year eight young adults are preparing to go to a Salesian presence in another country, seven of them having just graduated from college, one returning SLM ready to go out again.
We find in these missioners-to-be young people who are attentive to the voice of the Lord and seeking a closer friendship with Him. Even as we face the reality of the disaffiliation of young Catholics, we see the marvelous things that God is doing in the lives of the young.
If you have an hour this month that you could set aside for personal professional development, I would recommend watching a recorded webinar on the NFCYM website: “Reinventing the Vision of Young Adult Ministry,” presented by Doug Tooke. Here I’ll just highlight four points that challenge us Salesians in our ministry. After reading these few points, you might say there is nothing here you didn’t already know. The purpose of drawing attention to these points is to see how our ministry may have to adapt to the reality of the young people today. We can’t just keep doing things the way we have always done them.
1 – Young adults are transient. We need to equip them to be disciples who can live their faith wherever they go. Much of our ministry is geared toward a more permanent, residential type of discipleship. Completing a program or being a member of an organization will not be enough to prepare young people to be disciples in the world today. They are on the move.
2 – Young people value authenticity more than perfection. They look for guides who can be personal and vulnerable. They will follow those who are on their own journey of conversion.
3 – Young people expect the Christian community to practice hospitality. Consider the experience of many Catholics when they go to Mass: they can enter the church and never be welcomed, or skip Mass and never be missed; no one asks why they weren’t there; no one seems to care. In contrast, in line with the vision of a Church presented by Pope Francis, the young people hope to see a Christian community that reaches out to those who have wandered, welcoming them when they return, accompanying each brother or sister in Christ in a personal way.
4 – Young people love the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother. These are meaningful expressions of their faith. They like to share these expressions of faith with others.
These are just of few of the points in this presentation that caught my attention. One thing we can observe right away is how relevant the Salesian spirit and mission are today: going out to meet the young where they are, winning them over with sincere kindness, sharing with them friendship with Jesus, whom we meet in the Eucharist, trusting in Mary our Help. In the Salesian charism, we have a treasure to share for the education and evangelization of the young today.
Let’s support the young people at SLM formation with our prayers. As we move into the new academic-pastoral year, let’s renew our commitment to live our Salesian vocation with and for the young, so that they continue on the journey of faith wherever they go.
Fr. Tim Zak