Accompanying the young as Friar Minor | Franciscans, Youth and Faith

To teach or to learn? This was the first question I asked myself in 2014, when the friars asked me to accompany YOUFRA, as their national assistant. In any pastoral experience it seems almost normal that, faced with the challenges of young people, we should immediately start worrying about games or entertainment strategies – almost as if we should only use forms of entertainment to encourage them to stay. But in my experience this sociological and pastoral paradigm changed shortly after beginning my journey with YOUFRA. While there is no doubting the importance of methodological strategies for updating and transmitting the Gospel, this cannot be the only and most important method, since in this case we would be building a pastoral plan starting from our own models or prejudices concerning young people, rather than from what young people need.

We are also discovering, through a contemplative gaze, that in young people we see God, because God is young; in history God revealed himself with vitality, in a new way, with an energy that challenges, with dreams, with joy, with passion. We can easily recognize these traits in most young people and in youth in general. This is why I came to understand that in our accompaniment of young people in their journey of faith, we are the ones accompanied, those who learn from them. In other words, we act as brothers and lesser ones to bring God to light in the life and story of every young person, open to the newness that God wants to offer to each of them.

In my current ministry as Animator for the pastoral care of vocations, I feel called, together with my fraternity, to discover the dream that God has for every young person that approaches us. Last year in our Provincial Chapter we approved the creation of a fraternity dedicated to young people. This beautiful and inspiring project requires “listening and patience”. It is about having the attitude of a brother who walks with and among his younger brothers like Jesus, with a patient and humble heart, always ready to welcome and to listen. Therefore, in these first months since the creation of the House for the Young, we have devoted ourselves, for the most part, to listening to the Holy Spirit – discerning in what direction the Spirit is blowing in the lives of young people. Only the one who contemplates God and his sisters and brothers, in this case the young, will be able to build and work among God’s own youthful realities and to allow the hidden face of God to resurface there.

Br. Luis Cisternas Aguirre, OFM
Provincial Animator Pastoral Care of Vocations

This article is part of a series profiling the work that friars are doing throughout the world to accompany young people in faith. These stories are only a sample of the ways countless friars walk with young people today.  As we Franciscans prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. May these stories inspire all who read them to an ever-deeper commitment to sharing the Joy of the Gospel with our young sisters and brothers.