by Arlene Cardoza D'cruz
MUMBAI, June 19, 2018: A two-day seminar on Salesian Youth Ministry and the Family was organised by Father Glenford Lowe at the Mumbai Provincial House on June 11 and 12, with the aim of embedding a family spirit, fortifying chaste living among the youth, recognising one's self-worth, connecting to the Divine love and building lasting liaison within the family among Salesian educators and stakeholders.
Educators across the schools of the province attended the colloquium. The guest speakers were Father Francis Gustillo sdb, Professor of Theology and Spiritual director of Couples for Christ and his niece, Joanna Oliva, a Professor at the Assumption College and an ardent missionary dedicated in pastoral care.
The first day of the session began with the introduction and the traditional welcome and prayer by Father Lowe. Father Gustillo, then animated the day by unfolding an entire spectrum of Post Modern dynamics of the family, Don Bosco's pedagogy of the family, family values from the young and methods of involving the family in the school ministry.
He stated that when there is order in the family, there will be order in society. Don Bosco's Preventive System believes in the vitality of the family unit, and so it strives to create a healthy family, be it at home or at the work place.
Father Lowe stressed that relativism, consumerism, materialism and feminism have taken its toll on relationships. They have deconstructed human life. Family values have degenerated and have become shallow. Husband and wife have no time for each other. The throw-away culture has become predominant, hence abortion, divorce, pedophilia, contraception and many other issues have grappled the society at large.
Quoting the ' Amoris Laetitia' by Pope Francis, the speakers stimulated thoughts by saying, "There are no problem children but problem marriages." Marriage beautifully carves love in the Spirit of God and hence the bond sealed in the Lord's Spirit demands selfless giving with unconditional love.
While we draw inspiration from the fount of Don Bosco's pedagogy of the family, the virtue of sanctity creates a path for the youth to holy living. Don Bosco realised God's Divine Will. This tie to the Divine evoked in him a love for the young, invigorating fearless and selfless service in his mission of love. Eliciting further using the analogy of the Icon of the Trinity by the Russian painter Andrei Rublev, he impressively sketched out the relationship of God and man.
Father Gustillo stated that Salesian educators must assert the love of God within themselves, adding that it would draw them into doing fearless acts, while they shepherd the young in love.
The educators deliberated upon how the young could be animated in taking initiatives in mentoring their peers. Knowing that youth have great potential as leaders, Don Bosco encouraged his pupils to become mentors to each other. Saint Dominic Savio, Blessed Michael Rua, Cardinal Giovanni Cagliero were classmates who became exemplary young leaders by doing acts of charity and sacrifice.
"Believe in the young. Challenge them to do something for someone else. They have the capacity to carve out sustaining family values," Father Gustillo, said. During the latter half of the session, the teachers were divided into groups. The questions posed before the educators were, 'How do I communicate to the parents or guardians of my student their emotional state about home?', 'How can parents be involved in school activities?'
The teachers were of common mind that there is a need for a paradigm shift, where all the stakeholders be actively involved in the education process. The challenge lies before educators to bring together a family in the classroom. Communicating to parents, increasing interaction among the young, understanding their emotional state, assigning tasks, implementing plans with the child, accompanying the child, listening and building confidence, observing the child's behaviour in proximity could create and strengthen bonds in a school environment.
On the second day, the teacher's got a deeper understanding of pure and chaste living. Oliva animated the day with simple but influential anecdotes. "The responsibility of protecting the family is not only for the parents, but also upon the youth. In the age where media is much powerful, we are in constant war with our temptations," Olivia, said.
"The youth could be powerful evangelisers of the youth. Recognising the dignity of each one would help them to forgive and love unconditionally, " she, added. Introducing 'The Theology of the Body by Pope John Paul II', Oliva stated that, 'whatever pure you do with the body your soul will live.' Quoting Genesis 2: 21- 23, she elicited the concept of 'Original Solitude and Original Unity'.
It was a moment of introspection when she said, that, 'our freedom comes from our unity and that we must realise that we are brothers and sisters in the same humanity.' Oliva drew on several personal experiences to inspire the teachers. "God uses our brokenness to change us. Once we appreciate who we are, we will start moving to the purpose," Olivia, said.
The gathering was very excited to attempt 'The Love Language Test'. Love is expressed in words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Our acts of affection towards individuals may vary according to our love language; when we understand this fact, our relationship with our spouse, our children, at work or in the society will repair and will positively reciprocate.
The seminar taught the participants to accept and respect themselves. By allowing God to work in their lives and lifting up their shortcomings at his feet, they allow the Holy Spirit to work. It was an intimate time for the participants to spend with themselves, as they designed their 'Personal Coat of Arms'. The teacher's then tried to identify and non-verbally sketch the legacy of their family, their failings, their achievements, their contribution to the world, their plan to serve God in life.
Each educator had a takeaway from the two-day event. "The language of love would not only help teachers to understand individuals in their family, but would help build rapport with collogues and students at school," Suzanna Fernandez, a teacher, said.
Cheryl D'souza was deeply touched with the personal experiences that the speakers shared. The exercise of the Coat of Arms was a triggering experience that caused her to reason deeply.
"The basic change should start from the family. Good relationships could be built when we give time. One has to be connected to weave healthy and durable relationships, be it at home or at work," Vinodhani Satyaprakash, an educator, said.