“The joy of the Gospel fills the whole heart and life of those who meet Jesus.” 1
Dear Religious Family, by God’s grace and with the joy that the Gospel gives us, we held the first International Youth Gathering from Friday June 13th to Sunday June 15th in the Province of Northern Europe which took place in our convent in Brussum (The Netherlands). The presentations and talks were in English and Dutch, since many young people came from other countries. The joy and good spirit was seen in all religious, both in the days before and throughout the gathering. There were present 16 sisters of different nationalities: Brazilian, American, Dutch, Argentinian, and three postulants: one Belgian and two Dutch, and six priests: Dutch, Argentinian, Chilean, and three seminarians: one Dutch, one Irish and one Italian. The young people -although they came from four different countries belonging to our province- were of multiple nationalities! Many people helped us with their prayers for the spiritual fruits of the event, especially our contemplative sisters from the Netherlands and Luxembourg. We also had the great support of many people who helped us with their work in the preparation for the Gathering, and many benefactors who helped with donations.
On Wednesday, June 11 the youth from Iceland arrived with a sister who accompanied them. On Thursday, June 12 young people came from Ireland with the mother of two of them, and two sisters. On Friday afternoon youth from different parts of the Netherlands started coming: Den Haag, Maastricht, Brunssum, and Heiloo. Also a young woman came from Denmark. Finally at night, the Luxembourgish arrived! Our Nordic reality is really “multi-coloured”. We had the room that served as a dining room decorated with flags everywhere – a very festive atmosphere!
Three priests from Italy were invited to help for the occasion and we are extremely grateful to them: Fr. Marcelo Lattanzio, IVE, Fr. Guido and Fr. Marc Kessels, IVE, and three IVE seminarians. Also the missionary priests from Holland – Fr. Tristran, IVE, Fr. Mario, IVE, and Fr. Ismael, IVE., were present in different moments of the event.
The gathering began on Friday evening with coffee; while some young people continued getting registered, we took advantage to talk to the others who, from the beginning, were very enthusiastic. After the welcome and explanation of the program for the weekend we went to pray Vespers with them and had dinner afterwards. For recreation, we had some games, singing, and a little sketch acted by the sisters, which the youth enjoyed very much.
On Saturday morning, we prayed Lauds together, had breakfast and attended the first plenary talk in English given by Fr. Marcelo Lattanzio. Father explained the theme we chose for this gathering taken from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”.
He started with a question: Why is the Gospel (Evangelium) a source of joy (Gaudium)? And the answer was: because the Gospel announces the greatest gifts God has given us:
1-His Beloved Son our Lord.
2-Grace, since God wants to transform us in His children, abiding in us as Father and friend.
3-Eternal life, Heaven, because what God wants to give us is not a created treasure, but He himself.
At the end of the plenary talk the youth were separated into groups to discuss the topic presented by Father and answer some questions. The young people were very happy to hear truths so close to them, and to reflect on how they are applied to their own lives. Then we had several workshops during the morning and afternoon. Some topics were: Volunteer work in our Congregation; Vocation to the priesthood and religious life; Pro-life talk given by Mr. Kris Duvivier who travelled from Belgium for the occasion; Catholicism and Protestantism given by one of the Dutch priests; Marriage, given by Mrs. Lisette van Aken who works in the department of “Marriage and Family” of the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam, and a presentation on the life of John Paul II, prepared by one of the sisters.
After the workshops, we had Mass with a very solemn liturgy celebrated by Fr Tristan and concelebrated by the other priests. The Mass was followed by lunch, songs, games, and sketch performed by the priests and two young people who joined them. After lunch we went to play sports to a club near the convent. When we returned we continued with the afternoon workshops, dinner, recreation and songs. Then we went to the chapel where we started the procession with candles around the streets of Brunssum praying the Rosary in different languages, while the image of the Virgin Mary was carried by several young people. When we returned to the convent we had Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, during which the youth could go to the priest to make their confession; and finally we had Benediction.
Then we had a campfire in the garden accompanied by dancing and singing in different languages, and with marshmallows toasted on the fire! Some of the young people told us they were very happy and that it was their first experience around a real “campfire”.
On Sunday morning after the sung Lauds with the youth and after breakfast, we had Fr. Lattanzio’s second plenary talk which in continuation with the first one explained the way of reaching the benefits announced by the Gospel. God reveals us the secrets of the goods through which we can be happy. And we will find the answers in the reading of the Holy Scriptures, in the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, in our daily crosses, in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the New Eve, source of our hope. After discussing the topic in groups, we got ready for Mass, the day of the Holy Trinity, celebrated by Fr.Guido Kessels, IVE, in which the youth participated actively doing the readings, bringing the gifts, and serving as altar boys.
After the Mass we had the closing lunch with songs in different languages presented by groups from different countries, together with the sisters and priests, and a little sketch. At the end Mother Caridad gave presents to the priests and each of the young people who were very edified and pleased by everything they had lived during these days.
When the gathering finished, we interviewed some of the young people and they explained what they liked the most, many expressed a great desire to return next year and said they would invite their friends to come. Some said in their testimony that they liked participating … “especially for having deepened into the faith we profess, for being able to enjoy the joy of the testimony of the other youth, the joy of having met young religious, for being able, after participating in the workshops, to answer questions we to which we didn´t have the answers before… ultimately for singing, talking, praying, and having fun in a healthy way “. May the Lord grant us the privilege of a true friendship with Christ, a deep union with Him: the only source of our joy.
Sr. Maria de Czestochowa, SSVM