Br. Diego Diaz, SCJ, writes about his recent experience at a La RED meeting. La RED (the National Catholic Network de Pastoral Juvenil Hispana) is a network of Catholic organizations and pastoral ministers committed to the evangelization, holistic development, and ongoing support and formation of Hispanic teens and young adults in the United States. La RED promotes the concerns of youth at national and regional levels, and fosters the creation of diocesan networks. Br. Diego writes:
The recent Synod on Youth convened by Pope Francis urged the Church to listen to young people and create spaces for them to express their ideas, feelings and hopes. It was with this in mind that I attended the La RED meeting in Chicago, November 8-11.
Approximately 100 of us from around the country took part in the meeting. We were joined by the auxiliary bishop of Chicago, Bishop Alberto Rojas. It was significant for us to have a young bishop among us, one who has been active in youth ministry and who endorsed our mission to accompany and encourage Hispanic youth in the United States.
When I spoke to Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, about my mission in the US Province, he encouraged me to focus on youth ministry, an area in which I had a lot of experience in my home province of Argentina. The La RED meeting helped me to understand the reality of young Hispanics here in the United States: their concerns, their needs.
At the Chicago meeting we heard young people speak about being disciples and missionaries with other young people; we heard about the situations in which they live. In small table discussions we thoughtfully listened to each other. We concluded the first day with Eucharistic Adoration; it was touching to see how the young people prayed, taking time in silence to process everything shared during the day.
The next day we had discussion tables for particular interests such as teenage ministry, new technologies, and the National Dialogue Project. The National Dialogue is a collaborative effort of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, the USCCB National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry, the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, and La RED.
In order to serve youth, we must hear their voices. They ask us –– the Church –– to accompany them in their growth, but that accompaniment cannot be one-sided.
In January I will begin my first assignment in the US Province as a member of the SCJ community in northern Mississippi. There, I plan to listen to youth so that I can best learn how to accompany them. I will continue to be a part of the National Dialogue Project and collaborate with the Faith and Life Institute to develop materials for youth ministers. I hope to continue to bring our Dehonian spirituality to young people and those who minister to them.
RECENTLY PUBLISHED: As Br. Diego writes, he has been active in youth ministry for many years. In March, he published a book about the Argentine Province’s summer youth ministry program, a 40-year effort based in the spirituality of Fr. Leo John Dehon. “Accompaniment is a ministry within the Church that is often neglected,” wrote Br. Diego in the introduction to El Acompañamiento de los Jóvenes, una Experiencia de Misión. “My own experience of being accompanied in my first steps of discernment guided me in my decision to seek in the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus a way of living, and a way of accompanying others.” Br. Diego is currently working on an English translation of the original Spanish text.