LATIN AMERICAThe youth festival
Under the motto “Fire,
Life and Heart ... Oblate Youth in Mission”, on 13-15 June, many youth came
together from the Mexican States of Tabasco, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla, Mexico City,
Guadalajara and Morelos to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the
founding of the Youth Association. Their faces reflected the joy of sharing the
same faith, the same charism, of belonging to a missionary family, of being
young with the same spirit. This great festival began with a welcoming ceremony
in which there were presented to the youth some Oblate symbols that would help them
understand the JOMI journey: an image of young St. Eugene, the Oblate Cross,
the Immaculate Virgin, the Oblate hymn. Fr. Nicholas DOMINGUEZ, youth animator,
helped them to reflect on the letter sent from Rome by Fr Chicho ROIS to greet the
Mexican Oblate Youth, beautiful words that resonated in the hearts of all
participants. “Young people, thanks for being part of our Oblate family. The
world needs young people with a heart on fire ... young people willing to give
their lives, who are not afraid, young people who want to embrace the mission
of Jesus, giving their lives in order to give life to the most abandoned.”
The youth were delighted when they saw entering St. Eugene de Mazenod (Brother Dario PEREZ) to share the dream of founding a missionary family and to explain how he began his work with young people in Aix-en-Provence, 200 years ago. Accompanying him were Frs. Francis KABIKA (Zambia) and Patrick OLIVEIRA (Brazil); together they answered the questions of the youth about the Congregation and its mission with youth today. Both repeated how a joyful spirit is fundamental to a young missionary, a spirit and action that bear the “good odor” of Christ, wherever the young person is sent as missionary.
To get all the
youth involved, they worked in various teams. They reflected on how to
creatively promote the charism among youth, on expanding the mission and on vocation
promotion. To share with the community that welcomed them, they took to the
streets to pray the Missionary Rosary; the people of the Ixcatepec community
joined them in prayer. There was an opportunity to learn the traditions and
folklore of the places where the different youth groups came from. A culture night
was held with dances, skits, videos, and even “golosinas” (local sweets) from
different parts of our beautiful country. It was a time to meet and become
After nightfall, they celebrated a festival of light, with a bonfire; they wanted to set on fire their hearts for the mission “You are the light of the world”. Similar to the Easter Vigil, besides reading the story of salvation and lighting the Easter candle, each person, candle in hand, passed on the flame and came into the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, awaiting them in the church. Fr. Daniel GAGNON helped them to pray for a healing of their hurts and so that they might not be afraid of a missionary commitment.
The Vocation Fair (Expo) was an important moment to ask of God: Lord, what do you want from us? To what are you calling us? Some religious congregations, all of them missionary, told about their charism and the apostolic work they do. The youth were encouraged to promote a culture of vocations in their community and to commit to fostering vocations in the places where they live, work or study...
The climax of the meeting was the celebration of the Eucharist presided by Fr. Vicente LÓPEZ, provincial. On the feast of the Holy Trinity, he encouraged the youth to continue to respond generously and collaborate in the mission, in extending the Kingdom. During this celebration, two brothers in formation, Dario PEREZ (Guatemala) and Julio Edgar HERNANDEZ (Oaxaca, Mexico), were sent symbolically to mission lands, the first to Cuba and Brother Julio, to study theology in Africa. This was to encourage the young people to take risks for the mission and to desire to cross borders in order to proclaim Jesus Christ. This great moment ended with the announcement of the next gathering of JOMI in 2015. Tabasco, a place of Oblate vocations, will receive the youth in a year, when they will continue to strengthen the mission with young people and prepare for the bicentennial of the Oblate foundation. The Tabasco group was given the Oblate cross so as to evangelize young people of that region.
The Oblates in Mexico want to walk with and for young people. They want to continue the momentum that many provinces are living. Their priority is to continue promoting the mission with youth and thereby promote vocations. May the intercession of the Founder St. Eugene and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Star of evangelization in Latin America, strengthen our walk. (Celina Bernal, coordinator JOMI-2014 and Fr. Nicolás Domínguez)