Believing in Young People’s Ability

I attended the Social apostolate and JENA Annual meeting from, 6-9 August 2019, in Johannesburg, in  the Jesuit jargon, the social apostolate is the social ministries that deals with social justice to be precise social issues affecting the poor. I found myself in the South African capital with several delegates, men and women, religious and lay people, coming from several countries (Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Madagascar, Benin, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, India, etc.). The theme of the meeting was “Governance, process and actors of the implementation of the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus: the role of knowledge, collaboration and innovation”. Published in February 2019 by the Superior General of Jesuits, Father Arturo Sosa, the 4 apostolic preferences are supposed to guide the social action of all Jesuits and their collaborators. Personally, I have was asked to present on the topic social commitment in the light of apostolic preferences. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this article. I’m going to talk about what I saw in the presentation of a young student, Miss NOLUTHATANDO HONONO
Among the barely mentioned preferences, there is the support of young people to create a future full of hope. Professor at the Catholic University of Congo (UCC), Loyola University of Congo (ULC) and Director of the Center for Research and Communication on Sustainable Development, I am in contact with young people. What young people manifest in their day to day to life is quite inspiring. Many of them know that I am in Johannesburg, because I had shared with them. I try to be present in their life and I enter their lives without much difficulty through social networks. From them, I learned, for example, to post comments and reflections on my status WhatsApp and Facebook, Today Friday, August 9, 2019, my attitude towards young people seems to have changed. I think that from now on, my vision of young people will be a little different from what it was until now. In general, I am close to my students with whom, I learn a lot. I am concerned about their future. They remind me of my years of students and young people. So I am not that distant professor. On the contrary! I wonder what impact my life has on them

Allow me to describe, in a very precise and brief way, the context of the novelty of my look towards young people. This Friday, August 09, 2019 so, two girls spoke to us. I do not think I have yet heard such a poignant speech about the Church and what it is called to do. What a force of communication. What a beauty in the gesture and in the word! Professors and experts have presented lectures on the apostolic preferences of the Society of Jesus for the next 10 years, but we have failed to address the issue of youth and what the Church and Society of Jesus are called to do concretely on their behalf with so much freshness, enthusiasm and pleasure as did this two young girls this afternoon. They are young, smart, and beautiful. They carry the hope of the continent and the world. I can see their gestures, their look and their slightly mocking smile. They tried to tell us this: “Open your eyes and heart to the novelty of the enthusiasm of boys and girls in Africa and elsewhere. Listen to the message sent by their passion for social networks, their adventures, their inexperience, their disturbing questions, in short, their youth and what it carries of valiant, overflowing and hesitant. Be attentive to what we are, do and represent. You will surely find another way of being Church, Africans, and Society of Jesus. Learn to discern the presence of God who walks with his people through our disillusions and our hesitations to attend a Church that easily judges and condemns. Find the freshness that characterizes our actions and our thoughts. Find your own youth through ours.

I come back to my experience as a teacher. I am 54 years old. In other circles, they call me young. But I know that in front of me, they are younger than me. They are 18, 21, 23, 26 years old. They are in the prime of life and help me remember my own youth, my own mistakes, even nonsense.
What can be done so that their presence helps the Church and the Society, indeed the whole continent, to rejuvenate? What should I do now for them and with them? The Center for Research and Communication in Sustainable Development (CERED) of which I am the initiator and the current director offers me a place where I learn to change my outlook towards young people. Ecology School Monsignor Christophe Munzihirwa de Mongata that we start on September 2nd in a peasant environment (165 kms from Kinshasa) is a great opportunity to be taught by the innocence, the enthusiasm and the truth of the children. May this magical place, simple and beautiful, be the place of youth, their temple, where young people give their best and from where they get the best? They need to be excited to give the best of themselves. They need to be left free to make mistakes. They need a place where they flourish and where the attention of older people helps them to get rid of poorly lit zeal, rushed decisions, laziness and easy gain. I would like to learn not to be one of those who think to bring knowledge to young people. But rather become those who let themselves be taught by young people. May God, through the intercession of Bishop Christophe Munzihirwa, patron of our school, help us

Ghislain TSHIKENDWA MATADI, SJ
Directeur du Centre de Recherche et de Communication en Développement durabe (CERED)
Université Loyola du Congo (ULC)
Kimwenza Mission, Saint Pierre Canisius