Rome, March 2019
WORLD CONSULTA on the MISSION FOR/ AMONG THE MARGINALIZED YOUTH
REFLECTION – one month later (FIN – Fr. Javines)
Contribution form the EAO Region:
Fr. Ronilo Javines (FIN)
Fr. Peter Kim (KOR)
World Consulta participants
Salesian Youth Ministry Frame of Reference (p. 241-255)
Chapter 7: ACTIVITIES AND WORKS
2.5 WORKS AND SOCIAL SERVICES FOR YOUTH-AT-RISK
2.5.1 The original nature of works and services for youth-at-risk
As he went through Turin’s streets, Don Bosco saw the dangers faced by needy youth and responded to their difﬁ culties and poverty by opening new types of pastoral services. As soon as he entered the Convitto, Fr Cafasso entrusted him with the task of visiting the prisons where, for the ﬁ rst time, he encountered and witnessed the alarming and the unfortunate conditions of many young prisoners. His encounter with these young prisoners had a deep impact on him – it touched him, disturbed him and moved him to reﬂ ect on what needed to be done.
He considered himself sent by God to respond to the cries of the poor and the young. His insight told him that it was important to give an immediate response to their problems and above all to prevent the causes through a holistic educational approach. This is why he ﬁrst of all sought to take upon himself the care of orphaned and abandoned youth who came to Turin in search of work, their parents being unable, or uninterested in caring for them.
We too encounter children, teenagers and older youth living in conditions of social exclusion, and we do so with Don Bosco’s zeal. Social exclusion is to be understood in the broader sense which goes beyond the mere economic meaning usually intended by the traditional concept of poverty. It also refers to limited access to education, culture, housing, work, lack of recognition and achievement of human dignity and the fact that they are often disbarred from exercising real citizenship. We believe that the most effective form of response to this difﬁ culty would be preventive action in its many forms.
The option for poor youth and those abandoned and at risk, has been at the heart of the Salesian Family and its life from the time of Don Bosco till today. A great variety of projects, services and facilities for poor youth, with the choice of education as inspired by the Salesian preventive criteria, has sprung from this.
Urged on by our awareness that social exclusion is on the increase, we acknowledge the need to ensure that Don Bosco’s system of education is practised, so that young people can overcome difﬁ culties and marginalisation, imbibe an ethical understanding of education and personal development and be socially and politically involved as active citizens. We want to see young people educated and the rights of the minors defended in the struggle against injustice and for building up peace.
Poverty and exclusion are on the rise day by day even to the extent of tragic dimensions. It is a poverty that harms the individual and the community and especially the young to the point where it becomes a structural reality and global way of life. Our model is the Good Samaritan, “the heart that sees” and saves.
“With Don Bosco we afﬁrm our preference for the young who are poor, abandoned and in danger, those who have greater need of love and evangelization, and we work especially in areas of greatest poverty” (C. 26)
Situations of poverty and social exclusion have a strong social impact and, unfortunately, they tend to persist. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of all this. It urges us to put immediate short and medium term responses in place (cf. GC21, no.158; GC22, nos.6, 72; GC23, nos.203-214), so that by overcoming injustice and social inequality, we will be able to give the young opportunities to build their life in a positive way and be able to ﬁ t themselves responsibly into society.
Many of these works and services offer a new pedagogical and Salesian model and, therefore, require professional competence, specialised programs and collaboration with civil and religious institutions. An overview of these works is offered here:
◗ works for street children: school-home, day care centres, family homes. Along with these are residential resources for young homeless people. There are reception centres for refugees and displaced persons, young drifters living on the streets, on city outskirts, youngsters who have “no one”, abandoned or orphaned;
◗ services for young people with special needs: minors under protection orders or in the penal system; prisoners; child soldiers; children exploited by sex tourism and abuse; young people who need special education due to physical and mental disabilities;
◗ attention to immigrants: literacy; psycho-pedagogical support at school; legal advice to regularise their situation; contributions to social and professional skills; participation and integration in context;
◗ reception and accompaniment for recovery and rehabilitation: drug addicts, kids with behavioural problems, HIV-AIDS;
◗ alternative educational services for coping with the problem of school failures: socio-educational projects; professional training workshops for pre-employment; additional classes for scholastic reinforcement; socio-professional workshops; courses for training the unemployed; educational support programs;
◗ integration in poor neighbourhoods and cultural activities in fringe areas; activities which take in and accompany victims of violence, war and religious fanaticism;
◗ centres which give attention and support to education by the family; services addressed to young people who suffer because they come from dysfunctional families, families without a home or in non-standard accommodation;
◗ speciﬁc services for promotion of women: literacy, responsible parenthood, health education and hygiene.
Taking up our charismatic and preferential option for the poor and needy is something that runs through the entire systematic animation of the Salesian Family. The Provincial Salesian Educative and Pastoral Plans should guarantee this commitment in all our works and presences. Our main work is to prevent and address possible situations and needs of young people in any situation or context, especially through works and services which give speciﬁc attention to poverty and social exclusion. This is a typical feature of Salesian Youth Ministry.
2.5.2 The Educative and Pastoral Community in youth-at-risk presences
- The importance of the EPC in youth-at-risk presences
Don Bosco offered abandoned youngsters a true family in the Oratory where they could grow and prepare for life; therefore he considers the community experience as very important.
In works and services which respond to youth problems the EPC takes its own particular shape and our understanding of this has grown. The Congregation has accumulated criteria over recent years which need to be considered if we wish to consolidate this institutional commitment. This well-ordered and complete educational service is a real missionary option of acceptance and family presence among young people at risk. Attentive to the individual, it accompanies them as they try to be part of the community by supporting their rights and helping them be committed to justice and the renewal of society. It promotes a culture of solidarity according to values inspired by Church’s social teaching (cf. C. 33).
- Members of the EPC in youth-at-risk presences
The educators share a close and friendly relationship with the young, through familiarity and loving Salesian presence (loving-kindness). The educator not only works for poor youth but in communion and solidarity with them. This is expressed through strict but ﬂexible interdependency an educational ‘agreement’ based on mutual consent.
The team of educators is chieﬂ y responsible for drawing up, implementing and evaluating the local SEPP. The joint responsibility of educators and young people in this project is an essential feature and one which is characteristic of Salesian pedagogy. This community experience becomes a school of experience for the young people themselves. They see themselves as helping to educate their peers, with whom they share the same development processes. It prepares them gradually for future roles of service as educators in the work itself, in their families and in society.
Insight, personal experience and personal good will are not enough to carry out a pastoral and educative activity of a certain quality. The people involved need to be ready to:
◗ ensure strategies and interventions in the SEPP that continuously strengthen the motivations and values guiding institutional choices and those of every educator;
◗ have the necessary preparation for carrying out a project which is professionally competent and of quality, faced with the complexity of the situation;
◗ ensure professionalism based on seeing this as a vocation, even more so in the case of educators dedicated to this service, who need to be experts in education and in humanity;
◗ cultivate a profound understanding of the youth situation and the cultural processes generated by social exclusion and marginalisation;
◗ further their study of the Preventive System in relation to everyday life, through ongoing formation in the social dimension of charity;
◗ adopt the viewpoint of the Church’s social teaching and Human Rights;
◗ manage lengthy educational and recovery processes in an efﬁ-cient way, at the same time seeing to good organisation and management, as well as seeking and managing resources.
The enterprising involvement of educators and young people on a daily basis requires cooperation from professionals: sociologists, psychologists, doctors, lawyers, pedagogues, social educators. These kinds of works are developing the very best kinds of volunteer service experiences. Equally important are connections and regular dealings with family members and other institutions or groups in the area working in the same ﬁeld.
Living with young people in such a precarious and fragile situation requires a personal as well as an institutional conversion on the part of the Salesians and the lay people with them. Situations of need, the many faces of suffering, vulnerability, hardship and exploitation are a challenge for the Salesian educator and can question his or her ordinary activities, the profound sense of gestures which are usually taken for granted. These faces and stories urge us to be concrete and immediate, and bring to bear all our expertise and passion, creativity, spirituality and hope and without seeking recompense.
The Salesians, on the one hand, offer an austere witness of solid presence and education among the young people, who feel accompanied and sustained by such a profound faith in God the Father who wants everyone “to have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10), while at the same time they acquire ever deeper understanding of their surrounding circumstances and its mechanisms. Lay educators, on the other hand, represent a model of life for the young people, centred around the nuclear family lived in a responsible manner. They are professional in their educational interventions and are witnesses to a life inspired by the Gospel of Christ.
2.5.3 The educative and pastoral proposal for youth-at-risk presences
The speciﬁc educative and pastoral project for these presences and social services on behalf of young people at risk determines the identity of the proposal and serves as a guide to the service offered by the educators, which responds to the requirements and need for professional quality and the awareness they have that theirs is a vocation as spelt out in the Salesian pedagogical model.
- The evangelising inspiration
All our educational commitment is inspired by the Gospel and is oriented to open the young people to Christ, the one who “spent his life doing good” (Acts 10:38). In these works and services, at times our intervention needs to be an immediate response to basic survival needs (food, water, medical care, shelter in a family environment) so the young can grow in an independent manner, overcoming the constraints of dependence. Having achieved this ﬁrst goal, the intervention then tends to assure them of all the other resources they need to live in a digniﬁ ed and secure way. Don Bosco’s formula, “upright citizens and good Christians” means responding to all the needs of “abandoned” youth from an ordinary human perspective.
The witness of the educators and the EPC, the environment of acceptance and family, the safeguarding and promotion of personal dignity and its values are a ﬁ rst form of proclamation of Christ and fulﬁ lment of salvation in Him: liberation and fullness of life.
It is an educational activity that offers young people an invitation to interior growth by paying special attention to the religious dimension of the individual. This is a fundamental factor in prevention and becoming more human. It is also a solid support which offers hope to young people who are suffering the dramatic consequences of poverty and social exclusion.
For us, evangelisation means being close to them, sharing with them, helping them be more human, offering them an invitation. It is a process, and even when it does not become a Christian invitation of the same intensity for everyone, it is nevertheless a ﬁrst and authentic form of evangelisation. Jesus became one of us to make us more human and he calls everyone to follow him. Therefore, the SEPP of every educational community should offer young people experiences and programmes that awaken the spiritual dimension of life in them and help them discover Jesus Christ as their Saviour (cf. GC26, nos.105-106). This proposal of evangelisation should be fully integrated into the educational process through a simple, personalised pedagogy, one which is strictly and gradually connected with daily life.
“The source of our inspiration is always the pastoral charity diffused by the Spirit in baptism and in the call to the Salesian life: but the seeking out, contact with and the sharing of the life of the poor youngsters are the ‘providential circumstances’, the indispensable mediation in the beginning and practical development of our mission” (FR JUAN VECCHI, AGC 359, “NEW POVERTY, SALESIAN MISSION AND SIGNIFICANCE”)
We need to protect and develop this religious awakening in the young through patience and perseverance, helping them discover the goodness in them, be aware of their dignity and their desire to change themselves. The speciﬁ c forms of support and action that we share with the young are the following: helping them deal with the question of the meaning of life (what is the meaning of my life? what kind of person do I want to be?); being with them at celebrations and for important events in their family, social, and religious life; offering them values that will guide their religious search and promote the freedom of faith, thus presenting the Christian humanism of the Gospel of Jesus as Good News. We also invite them to experience acceptance within the Christian community and by its members. We propose simple but meaningful religious experiences and gradual acceptance of commitments and responsibilities.
- A holistic and systematic educative proposal
It is very important to help them restructure and unify their interior world through process of identiﬁ cation. We live at a time of fragmentation, and interior unity can only be achieved through vital contact with individuals and institutions with a strong sense of identity, but also respectful of diversity and freedom. Therefore we educate through conviction and motivation in personalised relationships expressed by a welcoming attitude and dialogue, respect and unconditional acceptance. Every educator is a positive role model to be identiﬁ ed with and a point of reference in the personal growth process of the young. In short, our presence “among” the young should awaken interest and identiﬁ cation in them.
This situation necessarily requires an animation which is both communal and family-like. Its nucleus, the Salesians and every lay educator, carry out this important task. Young people at risk, the majority of whom come from a far from ideal environment, need to discover a family atmosphere
“Poverty and emargination are not a phenomenon which is purely economic in nature, but a reality which touches individual consciences and challenges the mentality of society. Education is therefore a fundamental element for their prevention and suppression, and is also a more speciﬁc and original contribution which we, as Salesians, can provide” (FR JUAN VECCHI, AGC 359, “NEW POVERTY, SALESIAN MISSION AND SIGNIFICANCE”) which offers them favourable conditions for adequately restructuring and reorienting their lives. Above all, offering them a family environment where there is a chance to relate with positive adult reference points, breaks the barrier of distrust and awakens a true desire for education.
The essential element is the development of a critical attitude to self and one’s environment with renewed criteria for such analysis. Cultural and technical skills and above all acquisition of good work habits open up the way for young people to be incorporated into a family environment, work and social life.
This complete formation, which covers all their experiences and dimensions of life, places emphasis on all their resources in a continuous and systematic way. It facilitates their sense of responsibility. It is a proposal aimed at every young person, called as he or she is to develop every aspect of their life – personal, family, socio-cultural, environmental, socio-political, ethical and religious.
- The choice of the preventive criterion
Prevention is an educational approach that surmounts problems by preventing their negative effects. It is also a systematic social form of intervention that is not reduced to short-lived assistance. It remedies exclusion by working on its causes. It is not only about direct education of the individual but also creating a new social mentality at a cultural and political level for the common good and on behalf of human rights.
Our educative proposal, even though it is often a response to an emergency, always includes assistance and social protection. The preventive criterion ensures the pedagogical conditions for rebuilding a digniﬁed life, and avoids things becoming worse. One basic element in all this is pedagogical accompaniment of the young as they grow up. It aims at making them autonomous, able to take up responsibility for themselves.
“The educational power of the Preventive System is also shown in its ability to salvage lost youngsters who have maintained points accessible to good” (GC22, NO.72)
Sometimes the personal circumstances they are in require re-education and improvement. Don Bosco offers a system which is more than satisfactory in helping to re-educate young people trapped in delinquency or who have been excluded from society. Pedagogy today recognises “resilience” as an individual’s or group’s ability to make progress, to move on in life from destabilising events or difﬁcult and traumatic life circumstances.
The Salesian project offers group pedagogy as an experience which can help young people relate spontaneously and freely with one another. These youngsters, who tend to be “gregarious” and easily led, ﬁnd the group to be a determining factor in their education and as they develop their personalities.
- The social and political perspective
The Salesian response to youth exclusion is also necessarily a social and political one. These works and services should promote a culture of the ‘other’, of moderation, peace, justice understood as respecting the right that everyone has to live a digniﬁed life.
Educational activity in these works and services helps young people to prepare themselves to engage in this ﬁ eld. At the same time, it fosters a new way of thinking which helps to transform the social situation. We need to understand the struggle against poverty and social exclusion as a structural challenge. Ongoing reﬂection on poverty and exclusion, and the inﬂuence it has on the young, especially in the family, implies that there has to be systematic collaboration among the various educational institutions working in this area. Our charism invites us to take a careful look at the cultural categories of the young, of poverty, minority groups, so we can contribute to building a new human world order, even from the fringes of history.
“What is wanted is a work of ‘social animation’ which will give rise to changes of vision and criteria through gestures and actions… It is a matter of promoting a culture of one’s neighbour, of sobriety of life… of availability and free sharing, of justice understood as attention to everyone’s right to a digniﬁed life and, more directly, to the involvement of persons and institutions in a work of broad intervention, and of acceptance and support for those who have need of it” (Fr. Juan E Vecchi, ACG 359, “New Poverty, Salesian Mission and Significance“)
This requires ongoing analysis of local situation, identifying the precise challenges to the SEPP and hence the relevant processes and speciﬁc interventions needed. There is growing awareness of our need to network with other institutions in drawing up policies which tackle education, family, youth, urban living etc, so they can help prevent and overcome structural problems. It is urgent for Provinces to strengthen their presence in competent civil platforms so they can follow up youth-related policies and offer reﬂ ections and make interventions in legislative processes.
Every EPC is carried out within the Church and in the social setting we are in. We are striving to foster a culture of solidarity according to the Gospel of Jesus. The pastoral care of children, teenagers and any young people at risk requires real participation and commitment for it to deliver justice and peace (cf. C. 33). By involving everyone responsible, we become a prophetic voice for building a society worthy of the human being.
2.5.4 Systematic pastoral animation in social work
- Principal interventions of the proposal
1 New forms of poverty among the young should ﬁ nd a response in all our works and services in the Province. Co-operation and complementarity of the various Salesian works in a given territory and our uniﬁ ed service in promoting and educating the young, strengthen and multiply forces and improve the effectiveness of each sector. Hence we need to focus on provincial and local projects dealing with youth crises and various forms of poverty and social exclusion, ensuring they have clear objectives, goals and educational approaches which are capable of preventing and overcoming these problems. It is high time for us to set up a network of information on various topics, presences, programs and activities.
2 The SEPP of a presence explicitly dedicated to social service for young people at risk plans policies and strategies which offer gradual approaches to attention and accompaniment:
- approaching, being interested in and knowledgeable about the situation of the young, sharing their interests and leisure time, welcoming them unconditionally from the outset;
- carrying out pertinent interventions of recovery/personal rehabilitation helping them to recognise their situation so we can then offer them the possibility of healing and living more positively (cultivating appropriate attitudes of healthy relationship with self and others);
- knowing what their religious beliefs are, so that religious experiences can encourage them on their spiritual journey and help them personally assimilate educative, religious and evangelical values;
- helping them discover and experience the God’s loving presence and fatherliness in their lives, creating conditions for personal, patient, trusting and conﬁdential dialogue;
- starting out with small commitments so they can move on to greater responsibilities. When young people get involved in civic events and celebrations or have group experiences of solidarity, this gradually leads them to more stable commitment.
- Prevention, as we have seen, is not only a method of healing problems and preventing their consequences, but also of creating the conditions that ensure each young person can develop to full potential. It is important to offer open areas with a wide range of possibilities and initiatives, especially social activities like music, theatre, sports, art, outings, ITC (information technology and communication), and where individuals are valued for their innate qualities. These are signiﬁ cant approaches to recovery and preventive action and in the context of an overall project, they encourage personal accompaniment of every young person.
4.The struggle to overcome social exclusion implies planned, mutually supportive teamwork, helping a variety of social agents to converge on the issue: the neighbourhood or surrounding area, institutions, entities or groups and wherever there is acknowledgement that situations of exclusion or crisis exist. The aim is to create a new mentality, a culture of solidarity in society where all the actors involved work together on education, family, youth policies that have an impact on the life and conditions of the young.
- Structures of participation and responsibility
To tackle the speed of fundamental change in our society, the entire EPC needs to commit to searching for an effective response to situations of youth poverty around us and creatively implement rapid processes of coordination so particular projects can be carried out.
In every community of the Province and its works, attention to young people in difﬁ culty needs to be developed via an analysis of the culture and mentality proposed in its SEPP. The local community should include pointers to this need in developing its SEPP: openness to the local situation and the young; reinforcing a systematic planning mentality which includes the criteria and requirements of educative and pastoral work for those most in need; attention to dynamics and approaches in the work that can avoid exclusion; group and activities which get young people involved; quality process in education and other programs, taking into consideration the circumstances of those intended to beneﬁ t from them.
Speciﬁc works aimed at educating young people at risk have acquired a large number of criteria and interventions speciﬁ c to their management. As for every Salesian work, it requires an educative and pastoral presence with proper management and administration of ﬁ nancial resources.
The project needs to be sustainable in terms of human, administrative, pedagogical and ﬁ nancial resources. It is important for all sectors to seek legal advice through appropriate channels. This latter point needs greater study involving all the works and services of the Province and in collaboration with other institutions in the area.
Young people play an active part in these structures and leadership bodies too – they play an active part in their own formation in view of their inclusion within family and society.
Provincial / national animation
There is increased awareness and sensitivity in Provinces, as well as reﬂ ection on and commitment to young people on the fringes of society. It is no longer an isolated sector identiﬁ ed with just one or two works or individual initiatives. Our focus on the very poor is becoming an institutional sensitivity expressed in the provincial SEPP on the basis of which each EPC encourages particular attention to poverty and exclusion while gearing its speciﬁ c services towards work for young people at risk. The SEPP, consistent with its choices, policies and strategies in favour of the poor, should see that its work leans towards systematic animation and networking, collaborating at all levels with the Salesian Family and other Church and civil bodies.
The basic principles guiding Provincial leadership and animation should emphasise formation and systematic pastoral animation:
◗ the social and political formation of Salesian educators, religious and lay, and of the EPC as a body, so they can all appreciate the complex reality of poverty and exclusion in which the young ﬁ nd themselves. This helps them draw up approaches and programmes appropriate for the young and for the educators (consecrated/lay, reference people/family members);
◗ only through reﬂection and systematic evaluation can the work be consolidated; planning, evaluation and renewed planning of processes leads to better quality.
The Provincial Coordinator of works and services for young people at risk should be a member of the Provincial Youth Ministry team. In some countries or provinces there is a provincial or national commission accompanying the development of Salesian works in this area as a preferred charismatic option for the entire mission. In other places this coordination is taken up by one of the Salesian civil organisations (an association, federation or other) that plans and implements activity on behalf of the young, especially fringe youth, those at risk and/or socially excluded.
For animation and coordination of this sector special emphasis and particular importance should be given to the Provincial Planning and Developmental Ofﬁce (PDO). This ofﬁce helps the Province in its strategic planning as it seeks to ﬁ nance these projects. It is very important that this be a joint effort with the Provincial Youth Ministry Delegate so that these projects are seen to be part of the Provincial SEPP and at the same time encouraging systematic planning and evaluation of objectives of the local SEPP.
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