Care of Youth: One
Incorporated into the Jesuit vow formula which is also the vow formula I professed as a young member of my own congregation is a particular focus which is of vital significance in the mission of both religious bodies. It is what we call the ‘care of youth’.
Ignatius in his humanity, and his awareness of all that members of the order could find themselves involved in far and wide, still wanted his members to particularly attend to young people.
This laid the foundation for the Jesuit education network in schools and universities throughout the world where young people are educated according to what has come to be called the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm.
It is about forming the whole person to be “men and women for others”. The Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm is a model for teaching and learning in a Jesuit school.
The model identifies three key components of Jesuit teaching and learning: (a) drawing on experience, (b) reflecting on that experience, and (c) the action that follows from learning. It also talks about the importance of understanding the context in which teaching and learning take place, and the need constantly to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of education.
These same principles derived from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius have informed Jesuit involvement in all ministries amongst young people. Ignatius was aware of the importance of forming future generations. Mary Ward – my own foundress – was attentive to the same dynamic reality.
This care for youth also recognises the deep desires and aspirations of young people. Ignatius and Mary Ward were both believers in the positive potentiality of young people. In our contemporary culture, young people are often cited as being unable to make permanent commitments either in careers, marriage or religious life. The only kind of commitment that is recognized and denigrated is that of violence following radicalization.
Such a lack of faith in young people is not shared by Pope Francis and he has indicated the importance of the young in focusing the attention of the next Synod of Bishops in 2018 on the theme of ‘Young People the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.
This has prompted me to offer a brief mini-series on the blog looking at young people from my perspective as a university professor who teaches young people; a member of a family with young people of all ages; and the member of a religious congregation with young members in different parts of the world.
It is my aim to share something of the passionate, prophetic, and persevering qualities that characterize young people, alongside the challenges that they face today. Pope Francis recently urged young people not to let others rob them of their hope. Hope is something to be shared across generations the hope of a future that is not utopian idealism but that is also not grey recidivism.
As Christians the heart of our hope lies in our living loving and merciful God made known to us in Christ Jesus. Let us be open to learning from our young people as we embrace our future