By Fr. Santo Arrigo, C.Ss.R.
Celebrating our history in our Ministry to Young People in Canada
Over three decades, Redemptorists in Canada have undertaken bold and exciting initiatives in the area of Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry (RYVM) as an outreach with and for young people throughout our country. In all three regions of our newly formed Canadian Province, we have had a tremendous history of mission and service to call forth young people into mission through sharing our charism as Redemptorists, rooted in our founder, St. Alphonsus, and to live the gospel through opportunities for direct service, training youth and adults in youth and young adult ministry, and through personal and spiritual formation.
Among these works have been S.E.R.V.E., the Youth Mission Team, the Welcome Home, Équipe Pastoral Jeunesse at the Shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, Liguori Circles, Dialogues in Canada and in the United States, High School Mission Team, Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies, Fraternité St. Alphonse, our parish efforts at youth and young adult ministry, as well as the work and programing to foster vocations to Redemptorist life and mission.
The impetus from within our Congregation and in the Church
Ever since the 20th General Chapter in 1985, by recognizing young people as among the abandoned in the world and in the Church, Redemptorists and Lay Partners in Mission have sought to identify and respond to the pastoral and spiritual needs of young people. The 25th General Chapter in 2016 reconfirmed with greater urgency that, “Each Unit should be attentive to the areas of urgent need, paying special attention to young people” (XXV Chapter CSsR, Message, 9). This urgency has been reflected in the work of Pope Francis through the Synod on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”, 2018, and the subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, “Christus Vivit”, 2019.
The Congregation and the entire Church reflect on the urgent pastoral and spiritual needs of young people in today’s times. Their “religious quest” varies throughout the world and is greatly influenced by their local political landscape, scandals that have rocked the Church, as well as the culture. In our Redemptorist mindset, we recognize young people as among the abandoned in our Church and in our “wounded world”. It can be likened to the Good Shepherd leaving the ninety-nine sheep to seek the one lost sheep, but our experience today shows us that we must leave the one faithful sheep to go after the ninety-nine who have wandered away. It is a different world out there, and our mission field is varied and more complex. Our approaches to meet the pastoral and spiritual needs of those currently in our pastoral circles as well as those outside of our circles need to be different. We ask ourselves: How do we “dialogue” among young people today? If they “know about” Jesus, how do we seek to foster that relationship? If they “don’t know” Jesus, how do we help them to identify their hunger of the spiritual, with a relationship in Christ? And in all of this, how do we serve as a bridge towards a life of faith through the community of the Church?
The General Commission for RYVM in Rome is working on a revised document of the General Guidelines for RYVM (2000) that takes into account the current pastoral opportunities and the reflection of the Redemptorists and the Church to provide an inspiring reflection on the tasks before us in our work with and for young people. The General Commission, of which I am a member, will work to implement these Guidelines on a Conference, Provincial and local level; working with a Conference Commission as well as a Provincial Commission to realize our mission for and with young people. It is important to note that though the word “Vocation” is still contained in the title, this ministry is about the broader sense of vocation, and is not focused on the task and work to promote Redemptorist Life and Mission.
Re-“Ignite”-ing our mission in Canada
In response to the invitation of the Congregation, the General Chapter, and the work of the North American Conference, the former Edmonton-Toronto Province, now a Region in the Canadian Province, established the Office of Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry based in Toronto, beginning in August 2019. The work of this office, based on the above reflection, seeks to support, imagine and promote Redemptorist ministry with and for young people across Canada, through our parish and pastoral centres and in the areas where we are in mission. As some of the work is based in Toronto, and with the Toronto outreach to young people through St. Patrick’s Shrine Church and the city of Toronto over the last number of years, we have used our branding “Ignite” to become a mission for all of Canada as our brand for “Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry”. Some of the work that we are engaged in Toronto includes: Redemptorist High School Retreat Team, Bible and Beer, Pub Nights on different topics, Spiritual Direction, Table for Two, “one-off” programs and events and development of mission formation for Young Adult Team Members involved with Ignite Toronto. Across Canada, over the last few months, we have been working with our Saskatoon parishes (Ss. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Aboriginal Parish) to dream and develop programs for youth and young adults in their parishes and communities. We are planning to have an area wide “Dialogue” to invite young people on the peripheries of their faith to come and Dialogue and to connect about spirituality and how we as Redemptorists can continue to grow in our mission in Saskatoon. In St. John’s, through the work of St. Teresa’s Parish and our RAFFT (Redemptorist Adult Faith Formation Team), we will work together to dream and vision youth and young adult programs in the coming spring, and prepare for a local area “Dialogue” much like what we will offer in Saskatoon during the winter. The Redemptorists, through Ignite are renewing our relationship with the Center for Ministry Development in the United States to provide leadership and support for the offering of the Courses in Comprehensive Youth Ministry in Canada. The main leadership for the Canadian courses will remain in the United States, but our support will help with the development of sites across Canada and the promotion of Comprehensive Youth Ministry.
We are currently developing forums for resources in Youth and Young Adult Ministry for use by our Redemptorist parishes, and will offer ongoing support and supplemental training as well as missionary formation for our Parish ministries through Webinars, and on-site program support and training.
Four months is a short period of time, but reflecting upon the work that has already been accomplished through Ignite Canada and the directions that we find ourselves moving in the months ahead, it is an opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and friend in familiar and new ways, so that the Good News of Plentiful Redemption may not only be heard, but communicated with a radical transformation of our wounded world for the sake of the Kingdom.
Visit our website at ignitecanada.wpcomstaging.com