(Bengaluru, India) In keeping with Fr. Superior General’s call and one of the Bangalore Province’s apostolic priorities to reach out to the youth, the Secretariat of RYVM (Province of Bangalore), organized the first-ever National Redemptorist Youth Gathering. It took place from 12th to 14th January 2018, at Nava Spoorthi Kendra, Bengaluru. This historical event brought together youth representatives from the Parishes that are served by the Redemptorists across India.
The title of the gathering – Young Witnesses of the Redeemer – drew inspiration from the Sexennial Theme drawn up for the Congregation by the XXV General Chapter. The main objective of this gathering was to share the Redemptorist Spirituality with our youth and form them to be witnesses of the Redeemer. Besides this, the programme also aimed at facilitating inter-cultural exchange and unity among the youth, promoting Redemptorist youth collaborators and creating Catholic youth leaders who can make a difference in the Redemptorist parishes in our country.
To start the process, Fr. Peter Balaswamy, the Secretary of the Secretariat of the RYVM, formed a core group to plan and organize the gathering five months ahead of the event. The core group included Frs. Joseph Royan, SiluvaiMuthu, Michael Kasper, Arul Sekhar, Gerald Anand, Sandeep Menezes and Peter Balaswamy.
Responding to this call, 130 youth attended from different places including Bengaluru, Burigora, Chennai, Kalunga, Kemtatoli, Madurai, Mangaluru, Maloth, Mumbai, Pedamanapuram, Pilavilai,Tenali, Trivandrum, and Meghalaya. In addition to the youth, we had 7 adult animators who travelled with the youth, 4 Religious Sisters and more than 15 Redemptorist priests to help out in the organization of the activities during the gathering.
The programme began with the registration of participants followed by the grand inaugural ceremony by Rev. Fr. S.Arulanandam, Provincial Superior of Bangalore Province. The three-day programme included themes like ‘the Role of the Youth in the Church in India,’ ‘Qualities of a Redemptorist Youth Leader,’ ‘Who are the Redemptorists?’ ‘Introduction to the Redemptorist Saints, Blessed and Martyrs,’ ‘What do Redemptorists Do Worldwide,’ ‘Civic Responsibilities of Redemptorist Youth,’ and so on. The programme was structured in such a way that it would communicate the Redemptorist Charism to a multicultural and multi-linguistic audience. Inputs were designed to engage with a youthful and energetic audience. This meant using music, dance, activities and games which helped the youth to internalize the messages they had heard in the talks. The youth also had the chance to exhibit their talents and the beauty of their local music and art forms in an evening of cultural presentations.
Sufficient time was also dedicated to giving the youth a spiritual experience of the presence of the Lord through morning prayers, introduction to the Alphonsian method of meditation, the Holy Eucharist, procession with the Icon of Mother of Perpetual Help and so on.Two highlights of the spiritual activities were: the ‘Stations’ of the Redemptorist Saints, Blessed and Martyrs’ modelled upon the traditional Lenten Stations of the Cross; and an experience of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which was enhanced by the use of special lighting and music. On each of the three days, the liturgy for the Holy Eucharist was enriched by the participation of different cultural groups with music and dance.
The sessions were mostly animated by a mixture of experienced, zealous and enthusiastic Redemptorists. The resource persons were Frs. Juventius Andrade, Anthony P. Rajan, Joseph Royan, Peter Balaswamy, Gerald Anand and Sandeep Menezes. Young Witnesses of the Redeemer (YWR) 2018 was further enriched by the presence and participation of the Secretary of the Bangalore Archdiocesan Youth Commission, Rev. Fr. Divia Paul who gave the first talk on the role of the youth in the Church. On the final day, the youth also had an opportunity to pose their questions to a group of expert panellists which included Rev. Fr. Edward Joseph (Vicar Provincial of Bangalore and Chairperson of RYVM Bangalore), Rev. Fr. Ivel Mendanha (Vice Provincial of Majella), Rev. Fr. Joseph Royan (Faculty of Moral Theology at St. Alphonsus College, Bengaluru) and Rev. Fr. Sandeep Menezes.
The programme concluded with a commissioning Mass celebrated by Rev. Fr. Arulanandam, C.Ss.R., Provincial Superior of Province of Bangalore. He challenged the youth first of all to know the Redeemer personally before becoming His witnesses. During the Mass, the youth renewed their baptismal vows and took an oath to share in the Redemptorist spirit in a candle light ceremony. As a sign of their missionary commitment and of their participation in the event, each of the participants received a missionary bag which had the emblem of YWR 2018.
At the conclusion of the conference, many of the youth expressed that they thoroughly enjoyed the event and benefitted tremendously from it. They made a lot of new friends from other cultures. The programme also received much appreciation from Confreres. Many of them have expressed their wish that YWR should be either an annual or biannual event. The programme was a grand success only because of the blessings of God, the guidance of Fr. Edward Joseph (Chairperson for the Secretariat of RYVM) and the cooperation of Rev. Frs. Samir Kujur and Anthony Frank (the members of the Secretariat of RYVM), the core committee members, the parish priests who responded positively, the religious Sisters and the youth who made the event so lively. YWR is definitely a historical milestone in the life of the Redemptorists in India. It will remain as a great memory and a powerful inspiration for the lives of the youth who participated and the confreres who organized it.
Frs. Sandeep Menezes and Peter Balaswamy,C.Ss.R.