International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023: “Journeying with the Youth”

Loyola School of Theology, in partnership with Don Bosco School of Theology, hosted an International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023, with the theme “Journeying with the Youth”.

This transformative gathering for young leaders from all around the world was held on April 13-15, 2023, at Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Philippines.

It brought together young people from different cultures, backgrounds, and ministries who wish to explore the implication of Youth Ministry in accompanying the youth today on their faith journey. While the attendees were largely from Asian nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Laos, South Korea, and Indonesia, there were also some participants from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania.

International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023

The Rationale and Dynamics of the conference was spearheaded by Fr. Jerome Vallabaraj SDB, Emeritus Professor of the Pontifical Salesian University, Rome. In his own words, he explained: Youth Ministry is a science faithful to God and faithful to the young person, faithful to theology and pedagogy, and is perceived from a double interpretative lens of Pastoral Theology and the Human Sciences. Hence, Youth Ministry needs to be in constant interaction and exchange between the reflection domain and action domain so that reflection can shape the practice of Youth Ministry and the action domain can inform the reflection domain on the nature of the ground realities.

There were two sessions per day on this three-day event. The morning sessions were allotted to keynote speakers who shared theoretical and pedagogical inputs about Youth Ministry. In the afternoon, the participants were divided into pre-selected workshops which are “dedicated to some of the concrete prevalent practices of Youth Ministry in different parts of the world to facilitate the participants of the Conference to have a personal experience of what and how Youth Ministry practitioners minister to the young in various cultural contexts and to learn from them how to minister to the young in one’s cultural situations.” According to Fr. Vallabaraj, this interaction and exchange between theory and practice further nurture the four basic perspectives in Youth Ministry: contextual, foundational, paradigmatic, and formative.

International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023

On the first day, the two essential themes in every youth ministry were presented. First is identifying the environments in which young people sought life and fulfillment. Second is identifying the unwavering fundamental principles, values, convictions, and tactics that emerged from the faith perspective of the Christian community. Fr. Martin Macasaet SDB discussed the foundations of youth ministry from the standpoint of the new evangelization, while Dr. Jayeel S. Cornelio provided sociological views on the prospects and problems for youth ministry.

On the second day, the Youth Ministry's central and core component, youth catechesis, was discussed. Fr. Renato G de Guzman SDB provided insights on the theme "Toward a Youth Catechesis from the Perspective of Evangelizing Catechesis." Fr. Antony Christy Lourdunathan SDB talked about the relationship between the youth, media, and ministry and how new media affected ministering to young people.

International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023

On the third day, the high point of Youth Ministry, a mentoring process that encouraged young people to discern their life choices, was emphasized. Fr. Jose V. C. Quilongquilong, SJ spoke about mentoring the young to discern their life choice: vocation discernment. Fr. Jerome Vallabaraj SDB talked about youth animation and the importance of planning at the local level.

The afternoon sessions focused on prevalent practices of Youth Ministry in different parts of the world, giving participants a personal experience of how Youth Ministry practitioners had ministered to young people in various cultural contexts. Participants were able to learn from these practices and hopefully apply them in their own cultural situations.

International Conference on Youth Ministry 2023

“Journeying with the Youth” ICYM 2023 provided the opportunity and tools for young leaders, seminarians, consecrated persons, religious, non-government representatives, priests, and lay people and emphasized the importance of accompanying the youth as they journey with the Church in deepening their understanding of how to create positive change in the world through Youth Ministry. The conference featured keynote speakers, interactive workshops, and small group discussions focused on a variety of topics, from community organizing to spiritual development. Through collaboration and dialogue, the participants left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper commitment to making a positive impact in their communities.

Overall, this conference highlighted the significance of ministering to, with, for, and by the Youth. Accompanying the youth means teachers, elders, and ministers must see them as co-journeyers of the youth, “not a sage on the stage but a guide on the side” - Dr. Jayeel S. Cornelio. It is important to establish authentic and intimate friendships with the youth to draw them to a deeper experience of God.

Since the youth are called to be evangelizers as well, the Church must be their home, according to Pope Francis' Christus Vivit. It is recommended that ministers see Jesus in every child, understanding that when we listen to the young, we are also listening to the young's story of Jesus. Through prayer, youth ministry helps young people find their identity, lifestyle, and role in ministry. Youth ministry should lead them, not to a hedonistic lifestyle, but to become who God wants them to be, with the ultimate goal, of eternal happiness.

Fra Martin Gabito, OFMConv.
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