YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE SOCIAL AND ECCLESIAL FUTURE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
Fr. Telmo Seródio
It is commonly said that young people are the future of any community, be it in the family unity, the national or international community or the ecclesiastical one. As such, this proposal for reflection points to a vision of mutual collaboration in the building of the future, that is, communities must take care of the new generations to allow continuity. Society (family) and the Church “are called to the closest collaboration in that fundamental mission which is inseparably constituted by the formation of the person and the transmission of faith”.
With this quote from the Pope Emeritus, I want to bring to the attention of the community in general and the Church of Southern Africa in particular of the need to take care of the responsible and thorough education of young people if we need to produce responsible individuals, that is, capable of being the future of our particular communities and of the region as a whole, because it is in the formation of people and in the transmission of the faith that we prepare a future of simultaneous continuity and growth.
The social and ecclesial future comes as a result of the dialectic of self-construction between youth and the community.
It is imperative to take care of the transmission of virtues to the new generations, in order to make them adults (generative) and collaborative in the process of development and continuity of their own community of belonging (and of reference).
These virtues essentially correspond to human (evangelical) values, necessary for society and for the pursuit of the common and personal good.
In this case the promotion of schools, the family, catechesis, as places for the formation of new generations in values such as responsibility and care for the social and human future, must be at the center of social and ecclesial concerns, since the future depends on the personality of each member that integrates and continues to integrate the community.
A few days ago, Pope Francis highlighted the expression “accompany” when addressing those who guided young people in Italy at Camp Alpha, reminding them that this must be a keyword for the Church. Then he advised the youth to have Christ Jesus as a traveling companion, for “united with Jesus, each one of us becomes a seed destined to sprout, grow and bear fruit”. And often what leads young people to the paths of death, such as joining extremist groups, is the absence of a strong and engaging figure, doctrine or ideology in our current situations.
Francis also reminds the young people who participated in the Festival (Mladifestv) in Medjugorje, which took place from 1 to 6 August 2022, that “Jesus knows how hard life can be and that there are many things that burden our hearts”. Hence His call that “come to me and learn from me”. “This call requires walking and trusting – the Pope continues – and it does not allow us to stand still, rigid and fearful in the face of life’s challenges. It seems easy, but in dark moments we simply withdraw into ourselves. It is precisely from this solitude that Jesus wants to make us leave, which is why he says: ‘Come’”.
As mentioned in my master’s thesis, the personality of young people reflects the relationships of the elderly: parents and other members of the community. Therefore, the Church as Mater et Magistra must, as the Pope says, guide societies in our sub-region to have and to show a convinced guiding approach, centered on the figure of the perfect man who is Christ.
The Church and societies, centered on the family, must be aware of their natural duty to generate, care for and develop new members of the community, that is, for their own continuity. Christian education rooted in faith “illuminates everything with new light and manifests God’s intentions for the integral vocation of man”
In the psychosocial literature of relationships, the concept of balanced care was developed, which is necessary for the construction of a harmonious community.
Generative young people, that is, capable of building a harmonious society, are influenced by important factors, such as school and work, which help to generate personal and community well-being, to make a healthy transition to adulthood, to find autonomy. Young people have their own identity formed from family, social and ecclesial identity.
Social generativity is a process of self-generation parallel to the education of young people, in a model of “educating society”, as stated by Amadeu Ngula. young people must be receptive and transforming, open in the confrontation with the novelties that surround them every day and at the same time have the ability to filter and build their own ideas, thoughts and differences, novelties and resilience. In other words, they must be masters and apprentices in the construction of their own and subsequent societies.
The future generations must finally establish a dialectic, between the continuity of the previous spaces related and the affirmation of diversity and a new enriched relational space. In this way, young people create a bridge between origins, traditions of faith and culture, and future possibilities. And what is the Church’s contribution to this dialectical process of mutual responsibility between societies and young people?
In his study “Globalization calls Africa”, Emilio Grasso presents the need to start from a “preferential evangelical option for the poor and the young, for the oppressed and crucified peoples”, in order to assess the paths that the Church must take in this process. And Saint John Paul II in Centesimus Annus says that the real and effective paths “can be born within the framework of different historical situations, thanks to the effort of everyone… social, economic, political and cultural. The Church offers guidance from her own social doctrine, which, recognizing the values of these aspects, indicates the need for them to be oriented towards the common good”.
The social and ecclesial future in our southern region inexorably passes through the care of identification, of generating trust and of transmitting the sense of belonging and, at the same time, of opening to young people the knowledge of values (essentially evangelical), norms, rights and duties of the community.
In the current context and in perspective of the future, the Church must show that there is only development of a people when it is committed to the formation of consciences, to the maturation of mentalities and behaviour. She must witness to young people the need for the development of every man and woman as children of God, created in His image and loved by Him above all creation. Therefore, no material good should be placed above the values of humanity.
Today’s young people must first of all recognize their importance within communities and use this position to be the driving force in building a stronger regional community that is socially and ecclesially cohesive. Secondly, they must know how to welcome the “elderly”, integrate them into their collective personality and transform them into “new”, inserting new contours and influence, which comes from globalization and creativity, in order to make that importance more valuable. Lastly, recognize that the communities of the future will depend heavily on how they welcome and promote effective collaboration.
YOUNG PEOPLE AND THE SOCIAL AND ECCLESIAL FUTURE OF SOUTHERN AFRICA