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Formation a Key Theme at a Nairobi Youth Symposium Ahead of 2018 Synod of Bishops

CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 21 September 2017

iys youth symposium 2017 ahead of synodThe need to form young people to enable them face various facets of life with maturity was a dominant theme at the recently concluded youth symposium, which was convened to contribute toward the preparation of the Synod of Bishops on the youth slated for October 2018 in Rome.

Organized by the Institute of Youth Studies (IYS) at Tangaza University College (TUC) in Nairobi, Kenya, the two-day convention brought together some 200 participants who discussed themes that could help guide the deliberations of Bishops at their meeting in Rome next year.

The formation of the youth to engage the media with due responsibility, the preparation of young adults for marriage, the value of having the parish experience and the active participation of young people in Small Christian Communities (SCC) were among the themes discussed at the 15th and 16th September conference.

Other themes included the conceptualization of the identity of youth in Africa and the need realize the formation of the youth in institutions of higher learning.

The participants of the symposium were drawn from different youth groups from parishes in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, various communities of young people undergoing religious formation and IYS students.

On January 13, 2017, Pope Francis announced, in a letter addressed to young people, “that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,’” and went on to tell the youth, “I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart.”

The Pope invited young people across the globe to contribute to the agenda of the Bishops’ Synod saying, “The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism.”

“Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls,” Pope Francis emphasized in his letter to the youth.

Facilitators at the IYS-organized symposium were drawn from different groups involved in youth apostolate, among them TUC’s office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor designate, TUC’s University Chaplaincy, Christ Work for Life Movement, Youth in Small Christian Communities, the Archdiocese of Nairobi Youth office, St. Martin’s, Nyahururu, Waumini Radio and the Kenyan Association of Vocations Animators (KAVA).

Below is an overview of the key messages of the IYS Symposium.

Formation of Youth Through Media

In this presentation the speaker took the participants through the merits and demerits of social media especially with regard to contemporary youth. Although media is one of the very important features of contemporary life, it must be controlled so that it does not lead young people into negative behavior. The presenter suggested that before people post anything on social media there must be a clear indication that the message being transmitted is true, helpful, inspiring and kind.

Youth Experience in the Parish

Every person, willed into existence by a loving God, has a vocation to realise thus enjoying ‘fulness of life’. Family, school and church should support the young person in the realization of this vocation. When one examines, however, what happens in catechesis, one discovers that instead of supporting the discovery of vocation, catechesis tends to offer only a series of precepts to be memorized. Likewise, modern families tend to provide very little support for the process of discernment, leaving young people without any clear sense of life purpose. This has a negative effect on their ability to make sound moral choices, especially as they enter into adolescence.

Conceptualizing youth in Africa

Over the years, the understanding of what constitutes ‘youth’ has changed with the changes in society. Adolescence is now prolonged as the age of marriage is postponed. Youth should be able to understand who there are and at what time they are living so that they may be able to face the challenges surrounding them and deal with them in the context of their locality. Youth in Africa may face different challenges from those in America or Europe.

Ministry to youth in the University concept

Youth within University should be handled with a lot of care. They represent a big percentage of young people who need a lot of input in order to hold them together until the completion of their studies. A lot of challenges surround them and religious leaders, especially the chaplains, should engage them to make sure all or most of their energy is spent on the right things.

Youth in Small Christian Communities

Small Christian Communities are the basis and foundation of faith in the church in Africa. Young people should be involved in SCC matters so that their faith is consolidated from the family setting. In a SCC setting, a youth is able to fully participate and this will provide them with solid foundations that will enable them to participate more fully in the wider church context.

Formation of Young Couples

Young people need to make serious life decisions at some time. Most of them opt for married life. In marriage they are expected to fulfil certain obligations which are very core to the rest of their lives. It is clear that if young people do not make the right choice of spouse or learn how to handle their relationship they end up in a broken or abusive marriage. Good preparation is therefore very important to ensure that their relationship may last and their marital duties be fulfilled.

James Gatuku, IYS Project Development Coordinator contributed to this news story

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