The working motif for the weekend was ‘a journey to, in and from the desert’, as in the desert, our questions may not have answers, but it is a place where we can search and explore our questions.
The weekend began with feedback of the previous years meeting, what we’d done as provinces as a consequence of the meeting and what we hope to do in the future. It was interesting to hear how the provinces have many similarities as well as differences. Everyone was impressed to hear how the Maltese are working with parents along with young people, as without support and belief from the parents, any long term projects are difficult to put into practice.
The following morning we had talks from the different areas of Youth Ministry in Ireland: Fr Chris O’Donnell from Limerick shared his stories and experiences of Youth Ministry and how he will always stand by that you should never underestimate the power of a residential experience for a young person; Caroline and Eunan talked us through some research on ‘Explicit Evangelisation’ and its importance to young people today and finally Fr Val Collier gave an immensely inspiring talk on the work the Salesians do in Dublin in the Don Bosco House projects, whose mission is to provide a safe home for youngsters from dysfunctional backgrounds and offer them a warm, caring and welcoming environment.
What struck us from all of the talks was the enthusiasm and energy that everyone has for their work and youth ministry. After each talk we came together and, guided by our facilitator for the weekend, discussed out thoughts on what had been said and reflected on some questions given to us. One of the main points that came up in discussion, and one which there are many differing opinions about, is how do we put the ‘ministry’ into youth ministry? How do we evangelise to young people? Is the language used for evangelisation that which young people can associate with and respond to?
There were many questions asked and many answers given. One thing everyone was in agreement on was that in order to deliver successful youth ministry you need young people. There is ‘no point in preaching to the young in a parish full of old people’. The importance of meeting the young where they are was reiterated.
Overall the weekend was a successful experience of learning from each other. Like with any family and any discussion, there were disagreements and different emphasises, but the focus point of each provinces Youth Ministry is still young people and trying to administer to their needs, whatever they may be.