The Men at Stand 71 - Jesuit Vocation promotion at WYD
Hundreds of thousands of young people gathered in Cracow for the World Youth Day celebrations last week. A surprisingly large number took time to visit the vocations stands that occupied the marquee at the north end of the Cracovia football stadium, on the edge of the city centre. Very evidently many were not there simply to take shelter from the rain before heading over to the adjacent park for one or other of the major liturgical gatherings. They were there because they were curious and open. As one young man said to me, ‘I want to be sure that I am being as open as possible to the Lord’.
Stand 71, the Jesuit stand, was rarely quiet. Some young people approached us telling us that they were Jesuit alumni or that their fathers were. Others who stopped to talk were participants from MAGIS, the Jesuit sponsored pre-World Youth Day programme. It was great to sense in them an identification with the Jesuits, and an at-home-ness with us all.
‘Hi, how are you? Where are you from?’ Often it was our taking the first step that led to a conversation, that or the attraction of the wrist ties, cloth bracelets, which were on offer at our stand! Amazing how the availability of something attractive like that opens up a space for a good chat.
All of us on the team were grateful for those encounters. The young people we were meeting were open, interested, and in many instances seriously searching. Hopefully they left feeling encouraged by their meeting with us, and resourced too in some small way – flyers for ‘Pray-As-You-Go’ in different languages were given out, our own ‘12 Jesuit Lives’ booklet was appreciated too, and many went away with some general information about the Jesuits.
If worthwhile for the young people, it was certainly worthwhile for us as a Jesuit team. The core group comprised of a Jesuit from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Britain. Additional help came from a US, an Australian, a Kenyan, a German, a Swiss and a variety of Polish Jesuits – a good international endeavour that left us all grateful for this particular experience of the ministry of the Word.