“Catholic young people walking together in communion, participating in life and mission of the Church” is the theme of the 5th Youth and Young Adults conference of the SACBC taking place from 7 to 11 December 2022 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Bloemfontein.
The Archbishop of the hosting diocese, Archbishop Zolile Mpambani of the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein, also the Head of the Department of Formation, Life and Apostolate of the Laity, welcomed the participants on the first evening. He took that occasion also to explain to them how the departments within the Bishops’ Conference of the SACBC work.
On the first full day of the conference, having started with a morning prayer, the participants delved into five chapters of Fratelli Tutti to try and tease out their understanding of the document. In mind afterwards was to try and see how they can respond to the challenge placed before them of what activities and projects, like a good Samaritans, are they doing in their dioceses, or wish to suggest. They also wanted to see what they can do together to promote friendships amongst themselves as young people and to be more welcoming. Participants had to also mention positive and negative things about their Diocesan Youth Ministry, also which conflicts are there amongst young people in the Church and what can be done to resolve them.
Among some suggestion to the challenge of becoming good Samaritans the young people said they plan to have ongoing projects like sanitary towels, collection of winter clothes, collection of cleaning materials, take a boy and girl child to school, toiletry drive, disadvantaged tertiary students allowance drive. Others said they would visit families that lost their loved ones during covid-19. Some thought it would be good for them if they make donations to people living with disabilities and those who are less fortunate, including tutoring to learners in primary and secondary schools.
Regarding how they can promote friendships among themselves the young people of the SACBC said things like having sports days together can help along with some spiritual activities. To others just being approachable and friendly to others is enough to help in forging friendships. There were those who thought team building exercises and outings are good for building friendships.
Since they also had to say what are the negative things they have spotted among their youth ministries, things that came up were those like lack of respect, males outgrowing the church, procrastination and poor communication, youth members not wanting to be told the truth, lack of patience and understanding from young people. On the positive they mentioned things like skills development and talents of young people, support from their local priests, multicultural communities, learning about their faith in mass gatherings.
They made suggestion too on how they can resolve conflicts among themselves with ideas like encouraging people to fight the problem of inferior complex, get rid of the materialism mentality, being aware of one’s defensiveness, having activies that will help boost one’s self-esteem, trying to socialise outside of the comfort zone, tackle the problem of jealousy and gossip, have leadership induction and avoid undue discrimination.
A whole lot of other suggestions were made as a response to a challenge posed to them by contents of Fratelli Tutti. In the evening of the 8th before they young people had a cultural evening of song and dance, among other things, there was a celebration of the Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated by Bishop Siphiwo Vanqa, the SACBC Liaison Bishop for youth.
In his homily the Bishop of Queenstown said even though there are no full details about the Blessed Virgin’s life it is known that God called the her at a particular instance so that she can fulfil the call God had called her for, “God had respect for her for she had to listen to what God was saying, God calls, doesn’t force anyone.” Bishop Vanqa said Mary listened to what God was calling her to do. And she became God’s instrument through her submission, “God called her from a small village like he calls each and everyone of us from each background so that he can use us for a specific situation.” The Bishop went on to say wherever people are God has a plan for them, “He calls each and everyone of us. Wherever we come from, He calls us to fulfil his call.” He explained that the annunciation to our Lady is a sign that this calling is happing to each and everyone. “Do we have ears to listen to what God is telling us? Do we have the eyes to see to what calling God is calling us?”, asked the Bishop saying the Virgin May collaborated with God on her calling. “God wants us to cooperate with him in our vocation. God’s call is never forced on us, we have freewill to accept God’s call and we have freewill not to accept it.”
Bishop Vanqa wanted to know if young people are ready to be the Blessed Virgin Mary and would say yes to God even if they don’t know where their yes is going to lead them to, “Are we ready as the youth to say yes to God even if the that challenge is going leave you ostracised?” He concluded by saying the church is looking at the youth and needs each one’s yes in order to fulfil its mission. “The Church needs your help so that its strength can be realised. The strength of the Church is you, you should trust that you can make it.”
The second full day of the conference started with a session by Fr. Phuti Makgabo, the Communication Officer of the SACBC, on Blessed Carlo Acutis on how his good example can help in getting the best out of communication technology. The session was followed by a contribution from Fr. Romuald Uzabumwana, of the Pontifical Gregorian University, on safeguarding. In the afternoon focus shifted to metal health and wellness presented by Ms Khadi Koneshe, an Assistant Manager at the Gauteng Health Department and Nursing Programmes Facilitator at the University of North West. Ms Koneshe is a parishner in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg where she is also a youth mentor at her parish.
Other than some other documents they looked at on how they can be implemented, like the one they dealt with on the previous day, Youth-go-Clean Project, a product of Laudato si’ and Gaudete et Exultate, focusing on environment and holiness, the SACBC youth and young adults worked on the document Christus Vivit which the have been journying with since the Synon on the youth. The final day of the conference is set aside for things like Youth Alpha, Ngome Pilgrimage, roles of mentors and young adult ministry, clarification of youth ministry executive role. After giving the inter-diocesan executive reports there will be elections for the new inter-diocesan executive committee. The evening will be closed by the world youth day presentation, gender-based violence campaign, Holy Hour with healing and reconciliation. The last act of the evening will be the closing Mass celebrated by Archbishop Zolile Mpambani with the induction of the newly elected inter-diocesan executive committee.