Dear brothers, we are in the midst of the process of welcoming the Synod of Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment. This is the time of the Church. But in our Order, we are in the midst of discerning work on the experience of the Piarist Synod of Youth, which celebrates its General Assembly in Oaxaca.
I’m going to dedicate two Salutatios to this very important process. The first, the one you have in your hands, is written before the Assembly of Oaxaca. The second one, I’ll write it later. In the second I will try to offer you my reading of the experience that we will live in Oaxaca, in order to help you to welcome everything that is done there. This second letter will be well aware of the post-Synod Apostolic exhortation written by Pope Francis. But in this first part I want to present a series of concrete proposals that are, without hesitation, Piarists challenges proposed by the Synod held in October 2018.
I have always thought that the reception of a Synod, like that of a Chapter, takes time. That is why I offer you these proposals, many of them very specific, one year after the Synod held in Rome. I’ll just cite them, without developing them. I leave to you the task of thinking “what does it mean for our Province or our Piarist presence each of these proposals“. I will try to make references to specific paragraphs of the final Document of the Synod (FD) of November 2018, in order to help you to contextualize the proposals and to work the document.
The challenge of Listening (FD97). It must be said that it was a synodal cry. Although some synodal father went on to say that “the work of the Church is not listening, but teaching”, the general consensus was that the Church will not be able to exercise its “teacher” function if it does not learn to listen to young people previously. Listening and accompanying the Piarists to young people means a lot of things. Among them: the creation of structures and dynamisms of listening; the pastoral ministry’s orientation towards the accompaniment of young people; training in accompaniment and monitoring dynamics of how this accompaniment is carried out; the preparation of qualified persons to listen and accompany, etc.
The development of complete pastoral processes (FD16. 142), from childhood to adulthood and to insertion into the Christian community. I think that all the effort being put into the development of the Calasanz Movement goes in the direction indicated by the Synod, and that one of the most precious fruits of the Piarist Synod will be the universalization, consolidation and development of the Calasanz Movement in all the demarcations and presences of the Pious Schools.
Revitalizing our parishes (FD18. 129). The Order has just created the Piarists Parish Network, in order to respond to this ecclesial, synodal and Piarist objective. It is necessary to be aware of the need that the parishes have to grow in significance, to think the missionary, to put themselves in a Piarist dynamic, to recognize that sometimes they are far away from the young people, etc. The call is clear: let’s transform our parish into communities more capable of life and mission, more identified with the mentality of the Order.
The fight against all kinds of abuses (FD 29-30-31). Among many others, there is a clear challenge: to work so that what has happened in the whole issue of sexual, conscience and power abuse does not happen again. And this will mean, among other things, that we must qualify our Piarists, educators, catechists and collaborators on this subject. We need to design training processes.
To promote social commitment and participation (FD46). I still perceive little sensitivity among ourselves to work on the challenge of growing awareness of the importance of social and political participation among our students and young people in the processes. It is necessary to think very thoroughly what it means to work for the creation of responsible citizens, builders of more just and participatory societies.
Self-critical processes (FD53). It is very interesting to try to understand the ecclesial self-criticism that the Synod of Youth did. Perhaps in our Chapters we lose opportunities for healthy self-criticism, and we should think about it. As an example, some statements of the Synod: “the Sexual and economic scandals”, “the lack of preparation of the ministers, unable to understand the demands of the young people”, “the scant care of the homilies and the liturgy”, “the passive role that is given to the young people in the parish communities and in the diocesan dynamisms “,” the ecclesial difficulties to give reason for their doctrinal positions “, etc.
Young people as a theological place in which the Lord reveals his hopes and challenges (FD64). Perhaps we are too accustomed to think and discern from ourselves, from our approaches or from our traditional processes, and we do not give the importance to the sensibilities and hopes of young people. I know many young people who still expect a lot from us, but their hope is not exempt from certain doses of disappointment or dissatisfaction.
Renewing Consecrated Life from new perspectives (FD88). Among them, we can cite the following: The audacity of the new foundations; the mission in the periphery; the fecundity and creativity of so many lay people who share charism and mission, creating conditions for an authentic Vocational Culture, etc.
What does synodality mean in the Pious Schools? (FD 119,123). There is no doubt that in the Church there is a strong reflection on the challenge of synodality. This is a dynamism that must be reflected in all areas of ecclesial life. And also, among us. And, as in the Church, we must also ask ourselves about the role of young people in the Pious Schools.
The vocational qualification of Youth Ministry (FD140). It is a challenge always open to us, something that must always be present. Just as it is clear that Vocation Ministry has its own space, it is also that the vocational must enlighten all pastoral. Let’s never get tired of thinking about it.
The presence of women in the Church (FD148) and in the Pious Schools. Awareness of the importance of women’s presence in the development processes of the Pious Schools Is becoming more and more clear to us. Among them, we can cite some: the development and coordination of the mission; the ability to accompany; important training contributions; the sensitivity and proposals provided by the Fraternities; the presence and contribution of women in the teams and secretaries of the Provinces; the decisive contribution to the directive function of our works; participation in certain phases of the chapter processes, etc.
Offers we can do, as Piarists, to help in the processes of discernment of young people (FD161). Among these possibilities that we can offer to strengthen and qualify the processes of vocational discernment of so many young people, the Synod underlined three:
- Opening experiences of shared fraternal life. What is the welcoming capacity of our communities? How can we and should we prepare our communities so that we can offer young people meaningful community living spaces? There are already some interesting experiences between us.
- Strong and meaningful apostolic proposals. It is clear that for a young man to be able to carry out, in Piarist matters, his vocational discernment, he needs to experience the Piarist mission. In a strong, meaningful, accompanied, defiant way. We can do a lot more than we do, no doubt.
- Experiences of consistent prayer and spirituality. This is a dynamism without which vocational discernment is not possible. Can we offer young people a quality prayer space? I think of our communities, but not only in them, but in possible offers of well-accompanied spaces of spirituality, and of proper itineraries of spiritual growth.
The initial formation of the young Piarists (FD100.163-164). The Synod of Youth also spoke of young people growing up among us preparing to be religious, educators and Piarists priests. And the criteria that the Synod underlined are quite demanding and clear: the choice of trainers; the prioritized training criteria; the contribution of the laity in the formation of the religious; the importance of introducing training in pastoral and education in the formative curricula; the dynamics of verification and evaluation of the formative itinerary, etc. Likewise, the Synod stressed the importance of an adequate organization of accompaniment both in the initial formation and in the first years of Piarist adult life. The Synod proposed accompanied and supervised companions. Here we have a very clear track for our reflection.
As you can see, I have not yet wanted to enter into the post-Synod Apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis (Christ lives!). I hope to do so in the context of the General Assembly of the Piarist Synod of Youth in Oaxaca, and then to offer some other reflection. My interest is to continue to help the Synod of Youth not be an event for us, but a space of discernment for our authenticity and vocation fidelity, to be more and more the Piarists that young people need.
Receive a fraternal hug
Fr. Pedro Aguado Sch. P.
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