JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH
Jesuits in formation from across the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific gathered in Thailand from 19 to 26 December 2022 for the Scholastics and Brothers Circle. Over 50 Jesuits came together, hosted by the Xavier Learning Centre in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand. The participants were from 18 different countries, with most from Asia Pacific with a small number coming from other Jesuit Assistancies.
The theme of the gathering was “Youth Ministry and Vocations Promotion in Minority Catholic Countries”. The theme was chosen to allow reflection on one of the Society of Jesus’ Universal Apostolic Preferences: accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future. The gathering was organised by an international group of Jesuit scholastics and the local Thai scholastics played an important role in assisting with logistics and the program.
The group heard from those who animate youth ministry in different parts of Thailand, with a variety of approaches shared and discussed in the context of both to diocesan and Ignatian youth ministry. There was an emphasis on the stories and lived experience of those who participated in such programs. As participants, we also had the chance to share in small groups about the way the content of the talks was moving us.
Further talks drew on the connection between young adult ministry and vocations promotion. In the Jesuit context accompaniment and formation always has a strong imperative to consider the way those accompanied and formed are discerning God’s call in their lives. In very practical ways this has particular application for younger people. Living in a way that witnesses the joy of Jesuit life enlivens the ministry of a Jesuit helping others discern their call, while suggesting a particular path for other young men.
As engaging and thought provoking as the sessions were, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Jesuits from so many different cultures. Each with his own personality and way of living the Jesuit vocation. Conversation and sharing over meals through the day and experiencing together the work of the local Church in norther Thailand allowed me to deeply reflect on and appreciate my Jesuit vocation. Spending Christmas with this wonderful group of Jesuits was a great way to conclude 2022 and look to the new year.
Julian Butler SJ