Youth and Mission
SSNDs recently attended the SEDOS Seminar entitled Youth and Mission. It was held in Ariccia, Italy from 30 April to 4 May 2018.
What is SEDOS?
Sister Kathy Schmittgens
What is SEDOS? SEDOS (Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission) is a forum open to Institutes of Consecrated Life, who commit themselves to deepening their understanding of global mission.
SEDOS began during the Second Vatican Council when nine missionary societies met informally in Rome to discuss mission in the Church. The group made a significant contribution to the Vatican II document Ad Gentes.
SEDOS’ focusses on deepening understanding of world mission. To do this, it organizes seminars, conferences, and workshops which are open to the public. The speakers are chosen for their wide experience in the missionary field.
The topic of the seminar, Youth and Mission, is important to world mission, because there will be a bishops’ Synod on Youth in October 2018 and because there is a desire to find ways to share Good News with young people in the world today.
The annual residential seminars provide a wonderful space for missionaries from every continent to share the situations, challenges and joys of mission. We can learn about what we share in common and what is unique to each culture. We ponder together how Christ’s mission can be shared in today’s world.
You can learn more at https://sedosmission.org/
(Sister Kathy is a councillor on the SEDOS Executive Committee.)
Reflections by those who attended this year’s seminar
Sister Kathleen Storms
Each of us attending the seminar was moved by the experience. Collected here are short reflections that will hopefully motivate you to search more deeply into the presentations. We are grateful that SSND is a member of SEDOS and over the years have invited sisters to attend this annual seminar. Because of the topic, participants represent differing aspects of our SSND reality.
Sister Martina Radež, General Councilor
I was challenged by Dr. Emilia Paladino’s words:
“Our religious life is a stable and comfortable way of life. It is not attractive! Young people do not see passion in a stable life. They want to be happy. Why should they condemn themselves to sadness?” The last General Chapter is calling us to authentic community life!
And I was affirmed by Michael Papenkordt’s words:
“You do not have to be young to talk to the youth. Youth is looking for genuine disciples.”
Sister Carolyn Anyega, General Councilor
I found this year’s SEDOS seminar on Youth and Mission inspiring. Sharing with and listening to so many religious and lay missionaries from so many countries and religious congregations was in itself very inspiring for me. I learnt that many young people are attracted to religious communities that are authentic, welcoming and happy. That the youth do not need to be talked to but mentored, accompanied and listened to. Therefore, I choose to strive toward being an authentic woman, faithful in my religious commitment; being there for the community and the youth, sacrificing, and being ready to be changed in the process.
It was very challenging to receive some of the learnings from the research that was conducted in the USA as was presented by Brother Paul, Holy Cross Congregation, that the youth see the religious as comfortable and sad. I resolve to find joy in my religious life and radiate it; to share my vocation story and listen to my sisters; to allow God to touch and influence my heart because if I am not evangelised, I have no business evangelising the youth.
Sister Cristiane Martins da Rocha
I was invited by the General Council to participate in the Seminar held by the Documentation and Study Service on the Global Mission – SEDOS, whose theme was: “Youth and Mission”, from April 30 to May 4, 2018. It was an excellent international and multicultural experience and, at the same time, challenging. The content of the lectures contributed greatly to my training and knowledge.
I was touched by one comment in one of the lectures that we must believe in the youth of this new millennium and be witnesses of joy and courage as consecrated women. We were asked: How do we approach today’s youth? Do we know their dreams and desires and what they are looking for?
Another observation made me reflect on how we build human relationships in community life; this is an important point for today’s youth when discerning their vocation.
The seminar was a beautiful experience of being connected with religious and laity from various parts of the world, women and men followers of Jesus Christ, expressing their joy and gratitude for the call of God. When faced with the challenge of the tongue, a smile or a gesture was for me the best communication.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend this Seminar.
Sister Kathleen Storms, General Councilor
When was the last time you felt “fire in your belly?”
Michael Pappenkordt, in his presentation on Evangelization, spoke about how the evangelizer needs first to be evangelized before his/her message can be heard by others. This message touched something deep inside me.
As professional teachers, spiritual directors, missionaries, and leaders it is easy to stay in one’s head and not move to the message that has been burning in our hearts. He spoke so clearly that the young can hear God’s message of love and compassion through anyone, no matter the age or ministry. He invited us to practice evangelization on the street corners of our lives—wherever life meets us. We can be the unnamed Emmaus disciple who heard the whole story of Jesus’ life and was changed by it.
“Love gives everything” calls us to this same passion and energy. I feel my heart burning to be changed because of what I am experiencing. That’s how the Gospel works.
Novice Esther Peter Bassey
I am from Nigeria and a second year Novice of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Given the many options in life, what originally attracted me to religious life was my Aunty who is a religious. I wanted to serve God in this way of life.
I chose to become a missionary because I wanted to serve God through active ministry. I was also interested in getting to know and live with people from other cultures and backgrounds. My cousin, a priest and spiritual director have been important supportive figures in my discernment. My personal prayer and visiting communities of religious congregations to see how the sisters live their prayer life and mission/charism was very helpful for me in my discernment.
When I visited some congregations, detailed information about their life and charism was not available. This made discernment a challenge.
My family was very supportive during my discernment especially, my maternal family since they are devout Catholics.
As a young religious, my current challenges are intercultural and intergenerational living. Food issues and different climate have also been challenging. My greatest hope for future religious life is that we will learn more skills in living interculturally and intergenerationally.
I would like to advise vocation directors to be creative and considerate in the use of modern technology, for example, the use of phones and computers (laptops) and internet service. They should be open to receive interested women for who they are, without judgement; offer kindness and warmly welcome them. Affirm and challenge them when the need arises. Young interested women should be allowed the freedom to make their own choice of congregation. Directors need to listen to the rich life experience of new members and not set up resistances toward them.
Sister Eunice Dagi
Living my Call as a Religious
The SEDOS seminar was an amazing week. The overall topic was youth and mission. The seminar started with a skit based on the scripture story of Elijah and the poor widow. The point: bring whatever little gift you have to God and God will multiply it. Often God invites us to a project and we bring the excuse that we are not gifted in that area. Through Elijah, God told the widow to share her last food, and as she shared it everything multiplied. In the same way, when God calls, let us dare to respond without hesitation; God will multiply our gifts.
During this week, we came to more deeply realize that each member of the Congregation is responsible for vocation promotion. There could be a sister who is working on this as a full-time ministry, but it does not end there. She is just one person; whatever she does alone will not have much impact. However, if each member of the congregation is conscious of bringing in new members and actively participates by being physically present and sharing their lives with those who are searching, more young women will come to us and remain with us.
Over these days, it was also reaffirmed that each one of us can share in a unique way the fire and zeal that was in us when we were discerning a religious vocation and in the early stages of religious life. Sisters, if that zeal is there no more, look for ways to re-ignite it, to recommit ourselves to God, and live practically what we have vowed. Pope France talks about the authentic joy which comes from our encounter with God. The radiance of this joy, not only invites young women to us, but also throws lightheartedness into our environment and the world. We need to be that magnetic energy that when we enter a place, there is immediate positive energy spread to each person. If many years ago, we said yes to follow Jesus in a more radical way, what is stopping us from living that life today when that joy and peace is most needed?