Asia and Africa. On 2 December 2023, a webinar was held on the spiritual accompaniment of young people, organized by the Salesian Institutions of Higher Education (ISS – FMA) of Asia and Africa. The webinar was addressed to young animators and educators.
Sister Maria Victoria Sta. Ana, FMA, Councilor for Youth Ministry of the Philippine Province St. Mary D. Mazzarello (FIL), welcomed more than 100 participants from India, the Philippines, and Africa, reiterating the call to accompany young people.
Sister Maria Asela Chavez, FMA, Coordinator of the Commission for Education, Higher Education Sector of the Philippines and organizer of the webinar, then presented the speaker, Sister Maria Pacencia “Paz” Bandalan, FMA, spiritual director and animator of Salesian youth groups at Mary Help of Christians College (MHCC) in Canlubang, Laguna, Philippines.
“Guiding young people towards Christ” through listening and accompaniment is the theme Sister Paz developed, starting from what was written in Chap. 5 of the Guidelines of the Educational Mission of the FMA (LOME), which also speaks of the process of accompaniment of young people.
Sr. Paz stressed the importance of teaching young people to pray. What better way to love them, help them live in the presence of God, and propose a path to holiness. In this perspective, she explained the three phases of prayer: knowing God – knowing oneself, loving God, and deeply loving God. Along the different phases, young people need to be accompanied because this facilitates their progress from one phase to another in the spiritual life. Sometimes, in fact, young people remain in the same phase due to a lack of knowledge of other phases to which the Lord can be calling them. This is why it is important to have a spiritual guide who has the ability and the art of listening, and knows how to lead them on this journey.
This is what happened in the life of Mother Mazzarello, whose phases of the spiritual journey can be understood in the light of the different houses she lived in during her life connected to her spiritual life: Mazzarelli – Christian initiation; Valponasca – personalization of faith; Valgelata – crisis and purification; Collegio – maturity; Nizza- death and glorification.
Sister Paz also highlighted the importance of a catechesis linked to life, as a concrete way of accompanying young people. This becomes a help to reduce the gap between the teachings of the Church regarding the moral life, and all that contemporaneity presents to young people today.
The speaker then shared the stages of spiritual accompaniment carried out at the MHCC in Canlubang, with the aim of achieving intimacy with Jesus: spiritual friendship during Salesian assistance, followed by spiritual accompaniment through catechesis and guidance to progress in faith.
There is also a program for students at MHCC College who attend the Bachelor of Arts in Religious Science with a specialization in Values Education. It is the formation of catechists for spiritual accompaniment, which begins with spiritual direction, followed by training on the management of retreats, the experience of the guided individual retreat, and formation on the basic skills of spiritual accompaniment.
Sister Paz quoted the Catechesis Directory at no. 135c: “The Church feels the duty to form her catechists in the art of personal accompaniment, both by offering them the experience of being accompanied to grow in discipleship and by enabling them and sending them to accompany their brothers and sisters.”
She then took up the Synthesis Report of the first Session of the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held from 4 to 29 October 2023 Synod, where it says: “The people who carry out the service of listening and accompaniment in its various forms, need an adequate formation, also according to the type of people they come into contact with, and to feel supported by the community.” It also adds, “It is proposed to establish a ministry of listening and accompaniment” (No. 16, p). The modalities of conferral of this ministry should promote community involvement.
To conclude the event, Sister Asela thanked and awarded the e-certificates to the speaker, Sister Paz, and to those who contributed to the realization of the webinar: Sister Maria Victoria Sta. Ana; Sister Mary Anne Andres, Dean of the Women’s Technical Institute Maria Nostra Ausiliatrice (MOHTIW); Sister Ivone Goulart Lopes, collaborator of the Framework for Youth Ministry and Representative of the ISS-FMA; Sister Regina Mary Rathinaswamy of the ISS-Commission FMA Asia and Africa; and to the participants. The closing prayer led by the MOHTIW Women’s Technical Institute concluded the event.