The Councilor's presentation covered the first part of the morning, but work was preceded by a time for prayer which acknowledged that "only God knows us fully." Fr Attard then offered a vision of the proposals the Congregation has been developing on Youth Ministry and Family via the Special General Chapter (CGS) from 1971 to the present.
"The family is the place of one's first education," said Father Attard and, "...the task of our communities is to try to maintain, with parents, a collaboration and a profound understanding of responsibility and common actions, that is: the education of young people." He added: "Youth Ministry without family is not a genuine pastoral experience."
During his presentation, and his long journey through the documents of the Congregation and the Letters of the Rector Majors (Fr Egidio Viganó, Fr Pascual Chávez, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime), Fr Attard highlighted three oft-repeated concepts: participation; pastoral direction; formation and accompaniment - the latter clearly defined as vocational accompaniment that "involves the family as the first place for vocational growth (...) something that we have not always known how to do."
The challenge we have to face
In order to arrive at Fr Attard's proposal, and prior to the Congress, a realistic analysis of the whole Salesian world had been carried out on the topics of perception of marriage and the family, pedagogy, the integration of all pastoral work and models of accompaniment.
On several occasions during his talk, the Councilor indicated that formation should be "increased and better." In a religious, socially and sexually pluralistic context, better qualified accompaniment was necessary. In this moment of "horizontal and vertical crisis, which influences the meaning of the presence of others and of God," he said it was important to propose the spirit of family as an "existential category."
And, he added, Youth Ministry "is not an activity, but rather a process" that must be integrated into the project of the Provinces.
In his concluding statement, Fr Attard spoke of the importance of placing young people at the very center of Youth Ministry by offering paths and processes that are enriched with the reflection of all concerned - with reference to the group work of the congress – as well as creating educational ecosystems, appealing to government and to animation to identify the pastoral urgencies of each context - and offer answers.
Lastly, he insisted on the importance of the "policy of small steps": do a little at a time, but don't stop doing it.
An important moment in the Congress was the presentation of some examples of good practice: the Salesians' work in Chennai (India) for the integration of young people with HIV; the family support centers in Bratislava; the educational alliance accompanying families and young people in Turin; the various formation experiences of parents in New Rochelle (USA), Dingli (Malta) or Macao (China); work with groups of parents in Madrid, the Spanish project "Pastoral in Zapatillas", consisting of an itinerary and various poster cards to live Christian life in the family, curated by the publisher Edebé.
The second day of the International Salesian Youth Ministry Congress ended with the Eucharistic Celebration presided by Msgr Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto and Special Secretary of the two Synods of Bishops dedicated to the theme of Family. In the homily, he referred to Don Bosco as "a dreamer who knew how to dream God's dream for the young." Msgr Forte also emphasized that "what matters is not what each of us can give, unless we give all that we are; God does not ask us anything that is ours, but asks for our very selves."
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