Aparecida (Brazil). On 7 and 8 September 2023, the XVIII National Meeting of Youth Ministry Leaders took place in the Padre Noé Sotillo Auditorium, at the National Basilica of Aparecida, in Aparecida do Norte, São Paulo. Promoted by the Episcopal Commission for Youth of the National Episcopal Conference of Brazil (CNBB), the meeting brought together 420 participants from all the Dioceses of Brazil on the theme, “From the Synod on young people to Project At Your Side, the Magisterium of Pope Francis for the young people”.
Present at the meeting were four Daughters of Mary Help of Christians Province Coordinators of Youth Ministry, and two other FMA representing the Youth Sector of their Dioceses.
The objective was to promote the evangelization of young people through times of reflection, formation, and listening.
On the first day, Monsignor Vilsom Basso, Bishop responsible for the Youth Sector of the CNBB, welcomed and highlighted some points of the final document of the Synod on young people – Young people, faith, and vocational discernment – and of the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit. He stated that Youth Ministry is a priority of this historical time in which it is necessary to invest time, energy, and economic resources. According to the Bishop, it is necessary to use languages that attract young people, such as theatre, dance, music, and sport. Bishop Vilsom recalled that young people are attracted to helping others and committing themselves to building the common home.
Bishops Darley J. Kummer and Antonio Fontinele, of the Episcopal Commission for Youth, then underlined the five pedagogical movements of the mission in the world of youth: being fascinated by young people, approaching young people, listening to young people, discerning with young people, converting oneself/ being moved with young people.
In “Tik-Tok” style, participants explored the themes through short reflections. In small groups, they also shared the topics covered and asked questions in the plenary sessions, encouraging a good sharing of experiences.
Dario, a young man who participated in World Youth Day 2023, shared his experience in Lisbon and recalled Pope Francis’ Message to young people, “There is a rush in the air to bring the joy of the Gospel.” Friar André Tavares, Dominican, addressed the theme of “Sport, games, and culture”, underlining how sport is a strategy of evangelization. There was also a round table led by Youth Connected, from the CNBB Youth Sector, which addressed issues related to the importance of new languages for reaching new generations.
During the Eucharist in the National Shrine of Aparecida, Monsignor Vilsom highlighted once again that for it to be “a Synodal Pastoral, we must favor the language of closeness, of disinterested love that touches the heart and awakens dreams. It is the grammar of ‘Love’”.
On the second day, two round tables were held. The first had the participation of experts on the topics: “The economy of Francis and Clare”; “The global educational pact”; “Collective impact: pastoral application for children”; “The Laudato Si’ movement”. The second offered an intense moment of sharing experiences related to the evangelization of young people, with very current themes.
The participants were also able to listen to the story of a group of young indigenous people from the Guarani Kaiowá ethnic group, from the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The cry of the indigenous youth made the assembly say “NO” to the current situation, demanding a fair delimitation of indigenous lands.
Gathered in groups, the participants then wrote down their commitments, which were shared during the closing Eucharistic Celebration. At the end of the XVIII National Meeting of Youth Ministry Referents, everyone’s great desire was summed up in “being alongside young people, walking with them, listening to them in their most diverse situations, so that they may have life and life in abundance”.