Celebrating our history in our Ministry to Young People in Canada
Over three decades, the Redemptorists in Canada have undertaken several bold and exciting initiatives in the area of Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry 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, as through personal and spiritual formation.
Among these works have been S.E.R.V.E. (Summer Endeavour in a Redemptorist Volunteer Experience), the Redemptorist 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, Redemptorist High School Mission Team, Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies Program, Fraternité St. Alphonse, our parochial efforts at youth and young adult ministry, as well as the creative works and programing to foster vocations to Redemptorist life and mission, just to name a few.
The impetus from within our Congregation and in the Church
Ever since the 20th General Chapter in 1985, 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 at Pattaya in 2016 reconfirmed with greater urgency that, “Each Unit (Redemptorist) should be attentive to the areas of urgent need, paying special attention to young people” (XXV Chapter CSsR, Message, 9). The General Commission for Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry, under the General Secretariat for Evangelization was established to help to identify, reflect and promote our Redemptorist Mission for Young People throughout the world.
Pope Francis, in the recent Synod for “Young People, Faith and Vocation Discernment” (2018), and the subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, “Christus Vivit” (2019) reiterated this need to place young people at the center of the pastoral heart of the Church. It is important to note that when Pope Francis speaks, and the subsequent documents refer to vocation, there is a recognition that Vocations to religious life and priesthood are important, but they are rooted in a fundamental sense of call, which, rooted in Baptism, as a sending forth as a disciple of Jesus. This vocation is not just for those who identify it as part of Religious Life, Priesthood, Married or Single Life, but is a sense that needs to be recaptured for all the faithful, and it be the foundation of call in life of all the baptized. Therefore, when we speak of “Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry”, we are referring to ministry to young people which includes the discernment of God’s call in their life, and not specifically about Vocation as directing young men towards Redemptorist life and mission. This definition is in concert with the Church’s broader sense of vocation and need to use the word vocation in our world today. It is the fundamental call towards a life in Christ which must be fostered in all Christians well before a Vocation to ministry and a life-long commitment is possible.
The Congregation and the 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 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 wondered 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 does seek to foster that relationship? If they “don’t know” Jesus, how do we help them to identify their hunger of spiritual, with a relationship with 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 Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry 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, with 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. When the General Government approves the new Guidelines for RYVM, I would recommend each confrere take the opportunity to read them and understand how they apply to not only our work in RYVM but how they shape and inform all of our Redemptorist ministries.
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, 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.
Fr. Santo Arrigo C.Ss.R.
Coordinator of Ignite, A Program of Redemptorist Youth and Vocation Ministry Canada