Faithbook

Through the global Magis programme, young people play a vital role in strengthening Ignatian spirituality. Cristina Molina explains why.

 JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH 

By Janark Gray, Province Communications Officer

For centuries, communities and congregations worldwide absorbed faith through their elders. But now, as Cristina Molina points out, the equation is shifting and youth are an increasingly major ingredient in spreading and strengthening the Catholic faith.

“Putting young people in touch with God’s dream is so important,” says Cristina, the Ecuadorian-born Mission and Identity Officer at Newman College, Melbourne. She sees great significance in Magis, the global program for those between 18 and 30 years of age connected to the Society of Jesus.

The main Magis event was held in Portugal in late July this year, just before World Youth Day. As explained here on the Jesuits Global website, “MAGIS 2023 (was) an opportunity for Ignatian youth from different countries to reflect, share and celebrate together in preparation for WYD 2023 in Lisbon. It was an invitation to experience the joys and the cries of so many people, made possible thanks to the diversity of so many participants. It was an invitation as well to experience the presence of a shared desire, in each person’s heart, for more just societies that could offer sustainable and life-giving possibilities.”

Cristina Molina. Photo courtesy of Cristina Molina.

Cristina, who attended the event as well as World Youth Day, sees Magis as a major inspiration for young Ignatians. “This was my first time,” she said. “I had heard about it before, in the overall context of World Youth Day, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew a little bit about Magis, but I had only a peripheral understanding of what was involved or even what to expect if I attended. So I really went there with my heart open because I knew that was the best way to take the deepest meaning out of that experience.

“We received a lot of information from Julian (Julian Butler SJ), who did some introductory sessions in which he explained what was involved. We were a group of around 16 people from Australia and New Zealand. Apart from me, there were two others from the Newman College family. They were both first-year students and I knew both of them because we share mealtimes together at the college. Because they were in school at Xavier College, they knew more than I did about what to expect on the trip. They were familiar with the concept of the Magis, as well as the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

“Growing up in Ecuador, I was in a Dominican school because the Jesuit school there was only for boys. So I wasn’t really exposed to learning about Ignatian spirituality, the Magis circle and Examen. Many of us who grew up like that and had strong faith still didn’t know that you can talk about your feelings and your desires and your aims and still be able to do it in a safe space. Going to Portugal for Magis and World Youth Day really reinforced these and many other aspects that have been a part of my life since I first came in contact with the Jesuits.

“The Portugal trip opened my eyes to many Ignatian aspects. It was really good to learn how to find beauty and joy in everything and to be able to find God in all things. After coming back from the experience, we have really grown in many ways. Before we left, too, we exchanged a lot of reflections and that deepened after we came back. I guess it can be really hard to explain to someone what exactly Magis is or what exactly World Youth Day encompasses, especially if someone is not across those concepts or has not been to one of those events before. In that case, it can be really challenging to understand what exactly they entail and how much one is able to get out of it in a way that really refines and enriches your life.

“This will really equip me in a more meaningful way when carrying out my role at Newman College. I already have a special focus on social justice and sustainability. In addition, I work in the area of strengthening the mission and the identity of the College. Part of that entails talking to students to work out how they perceive our identity, as well as our mission as a College. Having done this trip and having embraced everything I learnt while I was there, I think I’m better equipped to offer our students ways to strengthen their faith and to focus on their sense of ethics as well.

Magis 2023

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Cristina Molina (front row, 1st from right) with some of the members from the Magis 2023 group. Photo courtesy of Cristina Molina.

“Newman College actively encourages students to attend spiritual events, not just World Youth Day and Magis but others too, like the many pilgrimages in Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. The aim is to encourage our students to embrace this kind of experience.

“I realise that it’s possible for people to sometimes feel alone in their faith. But I would definitely use my own experience of Magis and World Youth Day to be able to help anyone feeling spiritually isolated. There were about 2,000 people at Magis. I did not expect so many people to attend, but it was so uplifting to see so many people with the same faith and speaking the same common language of faith. That was the foundation of a real sense of unity. Getting the fullest depth of that experience was really, really important to all of us.

“This was absolutely a collective experience. It is hard to understand how you could have a collective experience that leads you to a deeper individual exploration of your own faith, but attending World Youth Day or Magis makes you understand exactly how that is possible.

Jesuits Telling Jokes by Nikolaas Sintobin SJ. Photo: Cristina Molina.

“The highlight for me was realising how valuable and how very powerful a Jesuit education is. Another aspect was finally being able to understand how Ignatius, almost 500 years ago, knew about being present in every moment. This is really vital in society today, but we call it mindfulness. We just give it a different name, but Ignatius was the person who really placed such deep emphasis on it. For him, mental health was also a really important ingredient in one’s relationship with God.

“I definitely feel that my faith has become stronger because when you see so many people with deep faith, it strengthens you as well. This experience also made me more curious in general about the Jesuits. One of my colleagues lent me the book Jesuits telling Jokes: A (Serious) Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, by Nikolaas Sintobin SJ and it was amazing. This was after I had returned from World Youth Day and Magis, so I was absolutely able to relate to things I had seen and experienced during my trip. I was able to see, much deeper than before, how Jesuits can connect with their faith and how they live a life of faith while serving others. For me, it was great timing to read a book like this. I’d say it was the perfect postscript to a trip that taught me so much.”

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