Zagabria (Croatia). From 25 to 27 November 2022, the 18th General Assembly of  SYM Europe and the Middle East was held in Zagreb, Croatia, on the theme: Moving beyond ourselves, strengthening the SYM Europe and  Middle East.

The General Assembly was attended by more than 70 young people, Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Salesians of Don Bosco, and Salesian Cooperators from 15 European countries, united by the charism of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, for the good of many young people in the whole European continent.

The presence of the Councilors for Youth Ministry, Sr. Runita Borja, FMA, and Fr. Miguel Angel García Morcuende, SDB, who held some formative moments, was a source of joy and encouragement for the young people.

The Assembly elected a new “Small Team”, the SYM European coordination team is now made up of five young people:  Sean from Ireland, Iva from Croatia, Katarzyna from Poland, Paula from Spain, and Giuseppe from Italy;  as well as Sr. Lolia Pfozhumai and Fr. Joebeth Vivo, who represent the FMA Congregations and SDB extension. Also, Marta and Pablo, from the former Small Team, accepted the invitation to continue supporting new members for next year.

The participants were hosted in the Oratory of Jarun, a district of the Croatian capital where the Salesians of Don Bosco of St. John  Bosco Province (CRO) built a church in memory of the 15,840 Croatian victims of the war in the Balkans.

Giuseppe Oriani, newly elected member of the Small Team, talks about his experience:

“Starting from this point, I would like to begin recounting this experience, because it reminded us all of the importance of peace. Peace is a topic that has suddenly acquired great importance in Europe due to the outbreak of the Ukrainian war. With peace bridges can be built between people, plans can be made for a future of serenity for young people, aiming at the growth of each of them. The Jarun church dedicated to the Virgin Mary is a monument to peace, as are the Croatian people who welcomed us to Zagreb, happy to host an international event in their land.

The European Salesian Youth Movement is the only Salesian reality in the world that embraces an entire continent and that creates relationships between SDBs, FMAs, and young people from many countries. During the Assembly, we had the opportunity to reflect on the state of SYM Europe, on its organization and on the next steps to be taken together in the years to come. Many ideas and themes came to the attention of the Assembly and, even if not everything was shared by everyone, we have begun a journey that will lead the SYM to grow in faith, visibility, and mutual support among the participating countries.

Antoija Ledenko and Luka Hudincec, former members of the Small Team, shared their testimonies of life in the Salesian Youth Movement and in the Salesian Family in general, as they are now Salesian Cooperators.

There was also time to share some good practices that every SYM has experienced in their own country and to give them the opportunity to get to know each other better, an aspect that is not taken for granted, especially after the pandemic. Prayer, small play spaces, and informal coffee breaks were some of the moments in which we were able to experience the Salesian Spirituality of joy and family.

As many of the participants said, ‘in every House of Don Bosco we feel at home’. The Zagreb Assembly was no exception to this unwritten rule and, thanks to the young people of SYM Croatia, we also had the opportunity to make a short visit to the city center, strolling through the Christmas markets.

The 18th General Assembly of SYM Europe in Zagreb was a time of challenges and changes, where the participants had to discuss many issues and how to address them. But it was also a moment of great joy and familiarity, in which people from different countries were able to meet in the name of Don Bosco and Mother Mazzarello, keeping their joyful spirituality alive”.

On Sunday 27 November, the young people said goodbye and made an appointment for next year in Poland, the destination chosen for the 2023 Assembly.