Paola SANTORO, COMI
“What can young people do for the Oblate Family? How can Oblates and young people walk together, trying to respond to God’s plan?”
These questions, addressed by the Superior General, Fr. Chicho to the young people, were the common thread of the days lived first in Pozuelo, as a Mediterranean Province, then in Lisbon as a global Oblate Family.
Invitation to walk together as “pilgrims of hope in communion”
Fr. Chicho’s invitation to walk together as “pilgrims of hope in communion” echoed many times and was welcomed by the visible desire of young people to make it concrete, each one in his own community. The nearly 300 young Italians and Spaniards listened attentively and in silence to the words of the Superior General in Pozuelo, who invited them not to reduce sharing to a selfie but to know how to go deeper, questioning and examining themselves: after all, each one, in his own reality, is a Superior General! But we all know very well that young people listen all the more when concrete actions and examples accompany words.
Young people need witnesses ready to accompany them
Many of them emphasized the beauty of seeing young people, Oblates, families and spouses, and Oblate Associates (COMI) walking together (literally and with backpacks on their shoulders). Fr. Chicho, who, between backpack and sleeping bag, stayed with us in the college classrooms and, with generosity, was always ready to hear confessions on a bench or in the coffee room. His invitation to walk together became concrete and did not escape the young people who, now more than ever, need witnesses ready to accompany them.
“Each one is called by name.”
The reactions did not lack: from the renewed “Here I am” during the adoration in Pozuelo to the enthusiasm shown during the meetings in Lisbon. The capacity and desire of young people to get involved and live in depth what was proposed to them was striking. Walk and, if you fall, get up again; walking with a goal […] with the desire to walk, we walk in hope. Also in Lisbon, the young people (always with backpacks!) listened to and welcomed these words of Pope Francis, who, despite health difficulties, set out on the road first, remembering that each one is called by name, with his or her own limitations and hardships.
“Encounter, witness, and fear not!”
Thus, walking together and paying attention to the other became concrete, and it was not uncommon to meet those who were willing to help those in difficulty, from children with disabilities to those who were particularly tired from the heat. It seemed that being a fellow traveler was the constant invitation both at Oblate pre-WYD and WYD! And it is true that when they encounter witnesses, young people are willing to “shine, listen, and not be afraid.”