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Rome from 24 February to 2 March 2018

Positive Youth Development

OWLS. First Meeting

Last update: 24 April 2024



Different stories but one common project
We are different, we come from different countries and live in different communities. Notwithstanding this, we have a lot in common: we are starting this Erasmus+ project together, we are leaders in our national associations, we are young and above all, we are Europeans. This European identity we share is an invitation to engage ourselves in improving the context in which we spend our time. “As Catholic young people, we should be aware of our role in the European Union, take action and plan the ideal European city, in which we can spread peace and development” Michele D’Avino, the Director of the Toniolo Institute in Rome stated.

Positive Youth development
Every participant is committed in his/her local groups and communities. However, sometimes we walk our educational path without having a strong methodological background which can sustain our work. Learning about positive youth development let us understand that we are on the right path, but at the same time we also identified aspects which can improve in the service we provide locally.

The monastery and the history of Catholic Action
One morning we visited the Monastery in Vitorchiano and in the afternoon we went to Viterbo, to explore the place where the Catholic Action made the first steps. At the Monastery we had a meeting with Sister Francesca, who told us about her experience. On the contrary to what many think, the life inside the community is extremely open to the world. They give a lot of attention to the way they live, making sure it is a sustainable way, producing their own food and selling some products in order to self-sustain themselves. Even though they do not go out (except for emergencies or for very special occasions), they have an eye on what happens outside, aware of the latest news and about the different situations all over the world. Our commitment as youth should be accompanied by a very strong impact of our actions outside our parishes and dioceses. This clearly indicates that by staying inside we will not be able to help or improve our society. The visit we had in Viterbo, the place where Mario Fani (one of CA founders) lived, was very interesting. No one can move forward and grow without being conscious about his story.

Youth Synod
“Being responsible for youth does not mean that we are allowed to forget that we are young people ourselves” Don Tony Drazza stated. Therefore, this OWLS project is just the beginning of the work that should see us not only as organizers, but also as protagonists. The upcoming Synod asks us to be fully engaged in the discussion on youth, faith and discernment. How can we promote dialogue between the Church and Young people? What are the main topics that are at the centre of the discussion amongst young people and that Church should tackle?
The days spent together in Rome were just the first steps in asking these questions, and fostering the collaboration and the unity between different national experiences of the Catholic Action.

Comments from a Maltese Participant in the OWLS Project:
This was my second international experience with ŻAK. I can say that thanks to this experience I understood how other organisations work and that we always have something to learn from each other. It is these activities that motivate us to continue to strengthen us in teaching and formation so that we can be beneficial for others.  We focused on positive youth development and social justice. We also discussed the Synod on Youth where several interesting points emerged on how this Synod can be helpful to other young people.  (Chanel)

Comments from a Romanian Participant in the OWLS Project:
Participating in the OWLS project was a very important experience for me because; I met beautiful people who became my friends. All the activities which we have done contributed to create a link between us.  Being together youths from 3 countries was very helpful because we learned one from each other.  This seminar made me to find a lot of new activities to put in practice in my local group.  The Catholic Action from Italia is a very good example for me. With 150 years’ experience behind and a very good organization at national level they made me to be more confident about our national groups. The youths from Malta gave me their great enthusiasm, as well. Also, the communication with others helped me to improve my English skills and helped me to practice how to work in a team. I learned how to perceive youths better and how to approach them.  The moments of communion during the Holly Mass and the prayers were very deep and powerful.  Through them we understood that the most important thing is being together to create a better world.  I am very happy that OWSL Project didn’t stop here and I look forward for the next meetings.  (Marius)

CONSTRUCTIVE is the key-word with which we define the entire experiences. Some of our reason are these:

  • We understood better that ‘We are Europe’ and the UE concept is not only an abstract idea. We remembered with the JPII’s words that ‘we are the sentinels of the morning’ and an European citizenship becomes contagious when it is lived daily. The speech Michele D’Avino had was stimulative to take into account the personal European identity and recall for our mission as youth. The certainty we are ‘agents of change’ calls for proposals that start with ourselves.
  • As ‘new-entries’, the initiative helped us to understand better what Catholic Action means through the shared experiences of Italian young people from ACI, the visit to FIAC hystorical center on Via della Conciliazione and the trip to Viterbo. All of them re-confirmed us the invitation that Pope Francisc addressed to ACI, that we are called to “Life up to (y)our story”.
  • Working on national groups and each own presentation stimulate us to realize the weaknesses of some aspects in Romania, like: the lack of communication between youth and Church due to an aberrant hierarchical cooperation that doesn’t works at all, the lake of cooperation between local catholic groups of ACRO or between latin/greek-catholic in general and the lack of a strong connection between lay and civil authority at a national level in grade to create a specific AC identity in the Romanian social contexts.
  • The last, but not the least, the ‘6C’ model of positive youth development was the “bomb” of our meeting and it still have so much to “trigger” in our future activities. We added for it the point of ‘COHERENCE’ trained out from the Social Teaching of the Church which is necessary to take into account more and more. The actual themes of justice mean that our social mission as catholic leaders or youth is ‘constitutive’ for a better COMMUNITY that we attend to.

‘The change starts with me, you, us, right now’ this is the conclusion we brought home after this first step of our meetings, which ‘energize’ us with a lot of positive thinking and ideas for future. And don’t wait for do not wait for life to surprise you, it can snow also at Rome! With a great gratitude for what we lived together these days and waiting so much to see you soon. (Mihaela, Ștefan and… Clarissa)


Comments from a Italian Participant in the OWLS Project:
During these days I had the opportunity to live a unique experience in Rome, walking through the corridors of the headquarters where Italian Catholic Action is conceived and organised from 25 to 2 March, there was a different air, you could hear speeches in different languages: a group of Italian, Romanian and Maltese young people who spent six days together sharing their experiences. There were several activities during these days and moments that I carry in my heart upon returning from this project. It is not often that we have the opportunity to meet other young people from other countries and share our personal life experiences and our experience in Catholic Action together.

Europe was one of the topics discussed during these days, also thanks to the discussion with Michele D’Avino, Director of the Giuseppe Toniolo Institute of International Peace Law, who emphasised the importance of youth participation in European life, not only culturally and socially, but also politically. Another meeting that marked us was the one with some young members of the AC in Rome, who told us about their projects, their actions and their challenges in a city that is as big as it is diverse, trying to live Catholic Action among the people, paying particular attention to the large number of out-of-town university students that Rome hosts and to the city’s suburbs, where young people and children all too often live most of the day on the streets. We have thought about our future, the future of this project and the future of our associations, but we have done so looking back over our shoulders, thinking back to the 150 years of Italian Catholic Action in a place that is symbolic of our association: Viterbo, where 150 years ago Mario Fani, then little more than 20 years old, formed the first circle of Catholic Action.

I have learnt a lot in these days through this Erasmus plus project and I believe that each of us participants will return to our own country not only with 11 more friends but with a heart full of beautiful experiences and a head full of ideas and ideas for our own country, diocese and parish. (Matteo)

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