As the school year begins anew, many Grupos de Jóvenes commence their annual journey by planning their annual Retiro. In my experience, many Grupos work tirelessly to raise funds so they can provide this experience to as many Jóvenes as possible. This endeavor usually requires a lot of hours of planning and fundraising, as well as many tears. I have participated in many “Retiros” throughout my pastoral life. I have found them to be energizing and renewing for my personal life as well as a powerful experience of conversion for those attending. Some of them have included 80-100 participants, while others have been a small group of 10-20. All in all, the experience has been the same. Through music, prayer, skits and powerful witness-based talks many lives are transformed for the better. In addition, many Jóvenes become members of the group after living this experience.  They join the group full of faith and enthusiasm ready to live out the commitments made during the retreat.

young personWhile visiting many different groups, I have found that many of them suffer a great decline in their membership as the year progresses. They start strong after the retreat and then as the months pass, participation begins to dwindle. Many Líderes have told me, “people just don’t want to commit.” There is a lot of truth to that assertion.  Young adults today find it very hard to commit to long-term programs, especially ones of faith. On the other hand, that is the main reason why our pastoral response needs to be structured to develop a long term commitment of faith, one that is always in motion, yet responding to the needs of its members.

Everyone in the Mesa Directiva or core leadership group needs to be on the same page as to the purpose of the group. Most importantly, the core group members need to make a commitment to leadership. I have found that in many groups that I have visited, there is no difference between El Liderazgo and the Jóvenes attending the group. There is a lack of commitment by the leadership to know Jesus, and therefore there is no growth in faith. As leaders, we have a monumental responsibility towards those attending the Grupo. It is through our reflection and how we live our faith that others will come to believe or not believe in Jesus Christ.

I would like to propose the following points that Pope Francis made in his Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium as points of growth for the leadership and those participating in the Grupo:

  • A full experience of Salvation urges us towards a greater love for Christ. It is an awakening.
  • It should lead us to seek Him in prayer and to develop a life of contemplation- i.e. savoring his words, reading scripture.
  • The result of this intimate relationship with Christ should be outward- love of self and neighbor.
  • This love of others should motivate us to be of service to others. What do the Jóvenes around me need? What do all those around me need?
  • This is the discipleship that will enable us to constantly keep him in the deepest level of our hearts.
  • It will keep the love of God constantly fresh in our lives and will in turn makes us seek his will for us and allow us to glorify him in all the actions that we take.
  • Praying always through the intercession of the communion of saints and having Our Lady as the model of deep commitment to loving and proclaiming Her Son.

I pray for all the Jóvenes in leadership position and those attending a Grupo. May this experience bring you closer to the love God our Father has for you, shown through Jesus Christ and animated in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lady of Guadalupe. Pray for us. Amen.

2014 © Alejandro Barraza.  All rights Reserved.

Photos by Pixabay.