Online spring conference for Redemptorists and RYVM youth leaders from Europe
On Saturday 6 March, a meeting was held with European PGVR representatives, organised by the PGVR Commission of the European Conference. Given the impossibility of travelling due to the health emergency, the meeting took place online via the Zoom platform and had as its central theme “Hope in times of crisis”. About 85 people were present, representing the various local youth ministry realities, including the Superior General, Fr. Michael Brehl, the Coordinator of the European Conference, Fr. Johannes Römelt, some fathers of the General Government and of the Conference, the brothers responsible for the various Provincial Secretariats and many young representatives of the different local realities. Many Provinces were present including Rome, Naples, Spain, France, San Clemente, Dublin, Warsaw, Bratislava-Prague. There was also representation from the Province of Baltimore.
The official language was English, but due to many participants and to facilitate communication, simultaneous translation was offered in three different languages: Italian, Spanish and Polish.
To start the meeting in the best possible way, there was a beautiful moment of prayer which put our hearts in the right disposition and prepared us to listen to the message of greeting from our Superior General, Fr Michael. Gerard O’Connor who gave a very accurate analysis of the world of youth today. He also offered a lot of food for thought for the next moment. The participants were divided into 10 micro-groups of 9-10 people according to their linguistic background for about 40 minutes. In the various groups, the participants were able to share their experiences and reflections.
The synthesis of these sharings were then reported in the plenary session and collected in a general concluding summary. We could not end our meeting with a final moment of prayer in which, each in his or her own language, we addressed the Father and our Perpetual Helper, Mary.
Fabrizio Podda C.Ss.R., Italy
Thoughts for the conference
We began with poetry from Emily Dickenson – how many of us have found ways of coping through the work of artists, poets, dancers, or musicians… these are where we can experience joy, happiness, wholeness, and where we can touch and share hope in times that are tough.
Fr Gerry reflected on the perspectives of OK boomers, Millenials, and Generation Zed, and it reminded me of the words of Mary’s great Magnificat, found in the gospel of Luke: “All generations will call me blessed”
When we feel “We are really at breaking point” and that “There is nothing to look forward to”, the words of Jeremiah echo forth…“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This conference today takes place in Spring – a time, as Gerry put it, of “energizing air and life-giving rains”: Rain is often seen – at least in Ireland – as dismal and grey. Fr General reminded us that Pope Francis invites us to see what can be life-giving in the rain and together to be a witness of hope in the world.
We heard inspiration from the American theologian Doris Donnelly, who reminded us that when our backs are up against the wall, there is a fact and a possibility “that is not yet in” – God brings good out of every situation – the challenge I heard spoken today is of the need to expect good to emerge from the messiness of the pandemic.
Fr Gerry posed to us that Hope is easier to recognise when we learn it rarely comes from outside… our deepest longings need to meet our willingness to make them real. I ask each person to ask of themselves: HOW WILLING AM I TO RECOGNISE HOPE?
In our discussion groups, we shared signs and seeds of hope within us…we shared our personal experiences and came together as people, remembering with Fr Brehl that – we are all in this together, and in the boat with us is Jesus. We are locked down, but we are not alone.
Every group acknowledged that the situation of the pandemic has been difficult, it hasn’t been easy, and at times it can be hard to find hope; however, when we do, naming these signs of hope does not take from the hardship…
This time is a calling to discover the essential things of life and return to what is most important in our lives.
We heard that it is a big challenge in ministry not to be able to gather physically, but hope calls us to adapt our mission and find new ways of responding.
The pandemic has affected all generations equally, and history has taught us that everything passes eventually. Our hope lies in building bridges and connecting with people in all kinds of ways. And we are grateful for Gerry’s passion shared today.
Transfiguration is a time of respite and strengthening – our sacraments, our prayers, our rituals help us gather around the mystery enclosed.
I guess that calls us to answer – What sacred space within shall I build to hold “NOW” – this present moment – in my life?
If I may finish this summary by offering again the 3 things Brendan at the beginning said were the Hopes of this Conference. These were: that we Enjoy, are Inspired and are Challenged and I think I speak for all of us when I say this is indeed what has been achieved.
Let us go from here “Still, Calm, and Filled with Hope”