by Karen Laurie
MUMBAI, NOV 8, 2016: The late South African leader, Nelson Mandela, once said that, 'Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world'. His words ring true even today, and Father Maria Charles, the Youth Ministry Delegate of South Asia, who met delegates at the South Asia Youth Ministry Regional meeting at Don Bosco High School in Matunga from November 1 to 3, stressed on the need for young Salesians to be constantly trained to answer the new challenges posed by youth today.
A number of youth-centric issues were addressed at the meeting in a bid to find new relevant strategies to work with young people in need. The delegates tried to identify problems that youth face and also to single out certain interventions to resolve them. Among the issues discussed were the challenges of dealing with migrant youth, substance abuse, helping youth make right choices, youth violence, misuse of social media and dealing with youth coming from broken families.
But, as Father Charles stressed repeatedly, the only way for Salesians to answer these new challenges is hands-on training. "If we need to intervene, we need to get ready ourselves, so we decided to concentrate on a training manual for the young Salesians, in order to help them become more effective youth ministers," he said. "We also discussed (at the meeting) that every community would also have a good educative-pastoral plan to try to make it imperative so that the mission entrusted is not just to an individual but community, so every community is geared towards taking care of their neighbour and problems with young people around."
"Training young Salesians, we don't have enough knowledge. What gives us an edge is that we are committed to this cause as we don't have any motives or hidden agenda except to serve the young person, so that makes us courageous enough. But what we lack is the methodology or the approach, so that's what we need to learn, so once we learn that then any group of young people should be okay with us. As youth workers we should not be worried about different types of people. In order to make that attitudinal change to work with any type of group we need training.
"Training young Salesians, creating a training manual that would help in the different phases of formation starting from novitiate, pre-novitiate, philosophy, practical training, theology, so we would help the young Salesians in different phases and someone said even young priests need training. Once they become priests, we would have intense training for them on serving the youth better."
In a bid to kick-start this process, in January 2017 an international conference, entitled 'Emerging trends in youth development' is being planned. At the conference, speakers will highlight the best practices being adopted to deal with young people on a global scale.
"We would like to collect these good practices by Salesians or outsiders, that would help Salesians strategise better because one process is to learn within and the other is to learn from everyone else who is doing it," Father Charles said.
"There are a lot of groups like Yuva, FSL in India doing work, so we would learn from them, as we are inviting them all on January 20 and 21. We are inviting speakers from UK and Ireland and getting groups of practitioners from Bangladesh and SAARC countries."
Delegates also stressed on the importance of the Salesians expanding their scope of focus by including the family unit to their already existing youth-centric ministry.
"We believe a lot of formation takes place in families. So if a young person turns out to be good or bad, its because most of the time he's been influenced in the family, so no use in saying the family formation is apart from the youth's character. If we want to help the young person effectively, then we need to help the family in some way. We feel we are not well prepared to reach out to the families. How do we reach out, what type of formation can we give to parents?"
"We have to find some way of meeting young couple who find it difficult to cope with marriage and bringing up children. We want to do that so we have healthy children coming up and not a child who has seen parents fighting the whole time. We realise we need training, psychological training and training in pastoral love, i.e we need to understand and not judge."
Professional help and out-of-the-box-thinking is the need of the hour at a time when youth grapple with newer problems. One thing is for sure, Salesians - the champions of youth causes - are not shying away from dealing with these challenges in a bid to help youth the world over.