Saint John Bosco, who founded the Salesian community of priests known for their work with young people, believed the most important thing adults can do for young people is accompany them as they explore their interests.
For Father Angel Fernandez Artime, head of the Salesian order worldwide, accompanying young people goes as far as joining the Dance and Theatre Arts ministry at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish in a freestyle dance session, regardless of his own skills in the area.
Father Artime met with the young people of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Surrey Sept. 4 for an informal chat. The young people and their parents could ask him any questions they had.
Speaking through a translator he told them about his recent visit to Salesian communities in Croatia. He met more than 400 university students there who were very much modern men and women but also showed a spiritual depth he said he found impressive. “You can be a modern young person and have deep faith, deep convictions,” he said.
However, there is a catch. “If you think our society will make things easy, that’s not possible.” Today’s society proposes a certain order one’s life should have, but deep ideals are not included, he said. There are, however, certain sacred spaces in everyone’s life where deep ideals are offered and nurtured. Those spaces include the family and communities like a parish.
In order to develop deep ideals and convictions that nurture a relationship with God, one needs to take care of relationships that are positive and constructive, allowing oneself to “be accompanied” when it all seems too difficult.
One young parishioner asked Father Artime if young people really have a role to play in a parish community. He responded by asking the audience to imagine what the parish would be like without any young people or children. “It would be depressing,” he said.
“Youth give us reasons to feel and have hope ... as young people you can’t be silent, it is in you to do stuff, move around, be creative! We adults need that creativity, that desire to do (things). Those coming after you also have the right to have the same experiences you had.”
Addressing the adults in the audience he reminded them that as lay Salesian cooperators their job is not to “be strong” but “to serve, to have our arms outstretched.” He also told the adults their job is to accompany young people, whatever their interests are. “Often we don’t have the capacity to teach them those things - like dance,” Father Artime said, but adults can accompany young people as they explore those interests and find ways to integrate them into their lives.
Father Artime was scheduled to travel to Toronto Sept. 5 and Montreal Sept. 7. Originally his trip was to include visits to Salesian communities in the United States, however he was denied authorization to visit the U.S. because of visits he made to Salesian communities in Syria in April.