“We were never their age” was the title of a two-day symposium (24-25 June 2015), hosted by the Salesians and Salesian Sisters in Salesian House, Milford, Limerick to mark the bicentenary of the birth of St John Bosco in 1815. It was an occasion to celebrate, highlight and strive to keep alive the charism of John Bosco.
This charism (grace) was given to him by the Holy Spirit as a gift to the universal church and to the world. A charism highlights a particular aspect of the Gospel. It is a lens through which a group reads the Gospel in order to address a particular need. For Don Bosco (and for us Salesians) that lens was focused on the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, as it applied to the young, especially the poorest of them.
One of Don Bosco’s memorable maxims was: “is not enough to love the young, the must know that they are loved.” He was dealing with youngsters, many of whom were living rough, and felt unloved and abandoned. Love was the only way to break through the shell of indifference around their hearts. He went so far as to bring his own mother from her rural homestead to the city of Turin to look after the boys for whom he was creating a home. There they would have some first had experience of a mother’s love.
Today we live in a period of very rapid change. This change, especially since the late 1990s, has been fuelled by the extraordinarily rapid advances in media technology. Internet with its myriad of inter active tools, sophisticated mobile phones etc. all have led us to a new place. The young now have access to knowledge, theories and ideas, good and bad, which were never available past generations. They are in a new place.
What is that new place? That’s what our symposium was teasing out.
It was about the world of young people today. The cultural changes that have occurred. The new ways of thinking that have arisen. The influence of the digital mass media. The changes that have taken place towards religion and the resistance and disaffection towards institutional religion.
With expert inputs from Dr Finola Cunnane and Bro Richard Hendrick we explored the challenges facing our Salesian Charism today and indeed the challenges facing all those who work with young people in our times.
We were enriched and challenged by the whole experienced and re-energised to find new ways, new language, to make the GOOD NEWS central to the world of the young today.