The times we are currently living through constantly cause even our best laid plans to become unpredictable; we live without certainty that they will go ahead without disruptions in one way or another.
‘Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise’ – St Francis de Sales prayer ‘Be at Peace’.
This sentiment by St Francis de Sales sits above my desk in the Youth Ministry office at the Salesian Province Centre and it serves well in reminding me, and all of us, of the hope we must sustain throughout or works, and our lives, to persevere in these ever-changing times.
Whilst still being young myself, it is often easy to look back on my younger days at school, and already feel as if that world, that time, is an incredibly distant reality – that my experience is no longer relevant to the life of today’s school yard.
This feeling of disconnect can be unsettling – particularly given my task and responsibility of coordinating the Youth Ministry efforts of the Salesian Province. St Francis de Sales words are of great service – to not embrace the fear of the many changes and ‘newness’ of young people’s world but rather, look to the world of the young with an outlook full of hope that can handle and serve the realities that arise, one step at a time.
Hope is an attitude that we must hold close to us in our ministry as Salesians. Without hope it is inevitable that we will become overwhelmed with the apprehensions and shortcomings we might identify, leaving us unsure of where or how to direct our efforts.
Salesian accompaniment is a bold way of working for what is best for young people.
Through an attitude of hope that is sustained by the love of our ministry to the young, we remain in touch with the reality of young people however foreign it may appear. The desire and hope we place in our outlook allow us to move forward with a desire to learn and understand what the needs of the young are and how we can best serve them.
We bring comfort to the young when we Salesians arm ourselves with this outlook, showing them that even amongst the depths of uncertainty and confusion we are prepared to continue this journey, motivated solely by our loving hope and desire to understand them. When their journeys lead them into uncertainty and confusion, they will remember our outlook and adopt it as their own, sharing this gift of hopeful understanding with those they interact with.
It is not only in our formalised works and ministries that this attitude serves us. I have begun teaching English to international students, and it has come as a surprise to many of them that I have taken an interest in their realities outside the classroom. When asking about their work, their living situations, their spare time, their reason for studying – these questions are often met with an apprehensive ‘…ok, what activity do I need to complete?’
As their teacher, they expect that my enquiries are to meet the means of an exercise or assessment, but rather it is to meet the needs of the classroom. Without understanding the realities of my students, my teaching would be ineffective, I would not know the encouragement and hope they require when arriving at their evening classes after a full day’s work.
It is in our uncertainties that we are called to harness our innate Salesianity – for all things, only as they arise.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of the Salesian Bulletin, which is available here!