Synodal meeting in America. Youth, faith and vocational Discernment

The Order of the Pious Schools, whose work consists in the service to children and young people, following the ideals of its founder, Saint Joseph Calasanz, decided to welcome the synodal proposal of Pope Francis, whose thematic addresses aspects related to the ideals that prevail in the Piarist mission: “Youth, faith and vocational discernment”.

The Piarist Synod of Youth is being carried out in four phases: local or in Piarist presences, demarcational, continental and worldwide.

The meeting of the Circumscription of America took place in Oaxaca, Mexico, with the participation of 51 representatives of the 8 Piarist demarcations of the continent: Province of Argentina, General Delegation of Chile, Province of Brazil and Bolivia, Province Nazareth (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru), Province of Central America and the Caribbean (Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Cuba), Province of Mexico, Viceprovince of the Californias and Province of the United States and Puerto Rico.

The meeting took place from July 30th to August 2nd, 2018. There, the demarcations had the opportunity to know realities different from their own and expand their horizons. The fundamental axis of the work consisted of four concrete actions: to recognize (to see), to interpret (to think), to choose (to act) and to celebrate. All the activities carried out had a constant relationship with these three actions.

It began with the presentation of the participants, coming from all the Piarist demarcations of America. Later, in the Synodal assembly, they shared the conclusions of the work carried out during the local and demarcational stages and showed the different problems of which young people participate in their own social realities. Subsequently, a film was projected aimed at stimulating the critical spirit and the ability to deepen.

The creativity of young people was also promoted and used to translate their reality and idiosyncrasy through the use of social networks, the elaboration of memes and newspapers. An important work of the meeting consisted in the realization of the Problematizing tree, an activity in which each one could make known the fruits of his reflection, by means of five symbols: root: What nourishes or sustains the faith of the young people? What are your certainties, clarity, actions? What is non-negotiable? Why to evangelize?

  • Stem: What pastoral actions or projects have worked or functioned? How to evangelize young people? How to accompany the youth vocationally?
  • Bugs: What threatens the life of faith of young people? What problems do you see in the Church and in the Pious Schools to proclaim the faith?
  • Leaves and fruits: what fruits gives faith to young people? What is the positive that young people see in the faith, in the Church and in the Pious Schools?

Another very valued activity was that morning in which the participants collaborated in a meaningful way in the school of tasks of Oaxaca, activity that, without doubt, managed to connect with the Calasanctian spirit, to find the joy in the service to the neediest and to give without expecting to receive anything in return. Many of the young people who participated in the meeting are volunteers in non-formal education, in Catechesis, in the Calasanz Movement, in missions or in other pastoral activities of our demarcations.

Another of the initiatives of the Synod was to find different realities, cultures, customs, traditions and the worldview of each place. This was possible thanks to the cultural samples of each presence. Finally, we had a pilgrimage to the archaeological zone of Monte Alban, which helped us to value our ancestral roots and everything that makes us unique and unrepeatable.

The proposal that Pope Francis makes in this synod is novel since, on this occasion, young people are involved responsibly in history. We are able to generate change and be the hope of a Church and a world that in an insatiably way seeks answers, meaning and strength. That is why this proposal is interesting. The theme goes according to the work of Calasanz, which was dedicated to the service of children and young people and, as we can see now, with the Pious Schools that he founded, generated change and hope.

The term Synod, which etymologically means “to walk together,” comes to be interpreted as advancing together in faith, giving meaning to our existence and to feeling like beloved children of God the Father. It is an opportunity to look from a new perspective to the Church, that refuge of fullness and inner peace that brings us closer to the depths of ourselves and our neighbor.

This experience is an invitation to act, to try to give the best of ourselves every day, to offer free what is given to us free of charge.

A very curious detail is that at the time the meeting of America was held, simultaneously in Oaxaca, was celebrated the traditional feast of the Guelaguetza, Zapotec word that means sharing. This term has a profound relationship with the experiences experienced at the synod, since our mission in this world is to take advantage of all the gifts, talents, qualities that God has given us, to make them work in the service of those who need it. This is the way to give meaning to our life, to leave a footprint, i.e. that our ephemeral passage through the world is full of fulfillment and endure in the heart and soul of all those with whom we have shared.

The meeting was very constructive and encouraging, because it helped us to understand that the Piarist work is giving fruit, which has become a benchmark for all those seeking inner peace and an experience close to the most human and authentic of each individual, which is working towards the construction of a much more fraternal world, in which it is respected and valued that which makes us unique.

The spiritual and personal enrichment, the fruit of reflection and prayer, helped us to change our perspective on certain ideas, contributed to look at everything in a different way, with better eyes, with the eyes of the heart. We no longer see faith as something strict and related to those dogmas characteristic of a traditionalist Church. Faith is something that goes beyond that and has a much deeper meaning. It is that sustenance that allows us to stand during difficult times when we touch the bottom. It is this opportunity to learn something we needed, the certainty that the journey will make us stronger, will help us discover qualities that we did not think we have and, above all, that despite the adversity, there is someone who loves and protects us, that has allowed us to live these difficult situations because he knew that we would overcome them.

Also, this meeting taught us a new way of life: to live in love and happiness, but in an authentic way, that we do not “feel happy”, but that we “be happy”, i. e. not see happiness as an ephemeral and transient state that disappears or changes depending on time or circumstances, but happiness must be transformed into a lifestyle.

This is the lifestyle we want to choose: that we learn to take advantage and value all that life offers us, that we do not cling to what could be, but we enjoy the here and now, that we be not afraid to be what we really are, to say what we feel and feel what we say, to match the words with the actions, that we be not afraid to be wrong. We are not perfect beings, but we are perfectible. That we be a seed of hope that is growing and one day will bear fruit, that we be attentive to the call of the Lord so that it does not go unnoticed and leaves without giving fruit, that we be not afraid to give ourselves completely and selflessly to the neighbor because, after all, that’s what we’re here for.

I feel that Calasanz united us and will always unite us.

Alex Alarcón.Former student of Calasanz School of Cañar, Ecuador