Rome (Italy). On 8 December 2023, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Youth Ministry Area of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians sent the document to the YM teams and the Principals of the Institutions of Higher Studies (ISS-FMA), “This is the generation that seeks the face of the Lord” (Cf. Ps 24:6). Guidelines for Youth Ministry in the Institutions of Higher Studies of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
It is significant that the Document was published on a day when we commemorate the encounter of the new priest John Bosco with Bartolomeo Garelli in the sacristy of the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Turin, on 8 December 1841. This meeting became the seal of Don Bosco’s vocation and the paradigm of the Salesian educational method. Don Bosco, who owes to Mary the beginning of various important stages of his life, said, “It is Mary who did everything.”
The Guidelines were developed in synodal form. In fact, the Youth Ministry Sector involved all the Youth Ministry Teams of the ISS-FMA who wished to collaborate, starting from 3 April 2018, the date on which the “Document ad experimentum” of university ministry was sent, carried out with the collaboration of many members of the ISS-FMA. On 1 April 2023, a questionnaire was sent, the goal of which was its review and approval.
In the letter of presentation, Sister Runita encourages, “I invite you to animate the process of the application of these pastoral guidelines as a good opportunity to continue to deepen the identity of our ISS-FMA, motivated by the faith of its deepest animating nucleus, that is, the community of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians who offer this service to young people, to the world, and to the Church.”
The task of Youth Ministry in the Institutes of Higher Education of the FMA, like all pastoral commitment, has as its first and last aim evangelizing action, that is to proclaim the Good News. Therefore, much more than a presence of the Church in the university environment, Pastoral service is part of the Church’s salvific project and translates into a legitimate expression of the right and duty of Catholic Education to collaborate with the university community in this project. In this sense, it is “an integral and indispensable part of the life and structure of the Institution.”
University Ministry, as stated in the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “Is the activity of the University that offers community members the opportunity to coordinate academic study and para-academic activities with religious and moral principles, thus integrating life with faith” (n. 38). Part of its task is to animate, energize, and awaken a life of faith in the members of the academic community, so as to enable them to integrate with it as a whole.
This, however, presupposes a certain type of articulation that implies, beyond the most varied differences, the strengthening and establishment of a dialectic between knowledge, faith, reason, and religion.
The mission, purpose, and raison d’être of the Pastoral Care of Higher Education Institutions within the academic world is to use methods, resources, and strategies to seek to aggregate and unite forces among as many members as possible, whether they are teachers, students, staff, and Past Pupils, on the basis of the principles, values, and morals of Catholic Christianity, of pedagogical humanism, while remaining open to dialogue, interaction, and sharing with cultural, religious, and knowledge plurality.
“The Gospel is incarnated by allowing its choral nature to resonate differently in people’s lives, as a single melody capable of expressing itself with different timbres. I would like to entrust to you three attitudes that I believe are important for your service: to appreciate differences, to accompany with care, and to act with courage”. (Pope Francis to the participants in the meeting of Chaplains and Heads of University Ministry, 24 November 2023).