Report on the Second gathering
of the International Federation Juventutem
in Bern, Switzerland, February 21-22, 2009 (www.juventutem.org).
For the second time, representatives from Juventutem groups in various countries have met in Bern, Switzerland, on February 21st and 22nd, 2009. The schedule was similar to the one last year. Over twenty Juventutem members had travelled to Switzerland for the occasion. They came from France, England, Ireland, Slovakia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Spain, of course Switzerland, and even Russia. Like last year, the aim was not to have many people, but rather to ensure diversity of representation.
The gathering officially started with Holy Mass at 3pm at the Villa Maria. Juventutem Ecclesiastical Assistant Fr Armand de Malleray offered a votive Mass of Saint John Bosco, Patron of Catholic Youth. In English and in French Fr de Malleray drew a parallel between St John Bosco’s time and ours, reminding us that the great apostle of Turin had had to overcome all sorts of suspicion and of opposition as the government accused him of working for the Vatican against the new regime set up by the Piedmont-Savoy sacrilegious monarch. King Victor-Emmanuel of Piedmont-Savoy had indeed invaded the Pontifical States, putting all Catholic clergy loyal to the Sovereign Pontiff in a very delicate situation. Despite the most obvious value of St John Bosco’s apostolates for the education of the youth and of the clergy, shaping young men into good and trustworthy subjects when so many others were falling into illegality and vices, these worthy initiatives were often hindered by civil authorities. This did not prevent the saint from working wonders at the service of God. Fr de Malleray said that current anti Catholic prejudice could sometimes discourage us in the XXIst century. However he added, we should be certain that God’s almighty grace could help us bare abundant fruit and achieve great things for his Reign - if only union with God was our essential and constant goal. Thomas Balsis from Lithuania served the Low Mass, which was concluded by the singing of the Marian antiphon “Ave Regina Coelorum”.
After thanksgiving, we met in the refectory for coffee. The Juventutem Federation’s flag was hanging on the wall. Like last year, the Sisters had prepared everything for us on the tables and really made us all feel at home. There was an informal time for greeting each other. It was good to see again many members who had come last year. For instance, newlywed Damian Barker from Juventutem England (YCA) had come with his wife. Some of us had seen each other in between, either at the traditional pilgrimage to Chartres, or at WYD in Australia. Vassili came from Moscow, where he leads the Gregorian schola for the Old Rite Mass.
Juventutem Federation President Gregory Flash then opened the official session. Each member introduced himself or herself and shared update on his or her group’s activities. Gregory said it was important to keep the Federation informed of what we were doing as Juventutem groups. He asked whether we had seen any improvement in our situations as the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was making the Roman traditions of the Church better valued and accessible. It seemed that the multiplication of Mass centers in the Extraordinary Form could make it easier for more youths to hear about these traditions and benefit from them, but on the other hand, it also meant that each Mass center had fewer people attending, thus making the traditional setting sometimes less attractive for youths. Young people like it better when they see a sufficient number of other youths interested in the same things.
Juventutem Federation Treasurer Cosimo Marti reminded every member of last year’s decision when a €10 contribution per year and per person had been voted. He said that many had omitted to fulfill it. Gregory Flash said that it was not so much the amount of money that mattered, than the concrete manifestation of every member’s commitment it should express. Cosimo approved, saying that last year’s decision had set a €10 contribution “depending on each member’s actual resources”. He said the €10 represented less than one Coca Cola per month. Cosimo also asked for the addresses to be updated, as a fair number of the 450 Juventutem Christmas cards he had sent two months ago had been returned to him due to incorrect address.
Gregory Flash then announced his intention to have a successor elected. He said that as he was nearing 30 years of age, and after several years serving a President of the Federation, he would be glad if another member could take over. He added that he had talked already with Raphaël Waldis about that possibility. Gregory said that he would still be active in the Juventutem chapter at the Chartres pilgrimage. Raphaël Waldis is a student in Switzerland and has been involved in Juventutem since the beginning, partaking in the first international gathering in Bavaria (August 2005) and subsequent WYD in Cologne, as well as at other events like the Chartres pilgrimage every year and WYD 2008 in Australia. Gregory said that of course anyone was free to vote for whoever they wished. We then proceeded with the vote, with Raphaël being elected at the first ballot. Several groups who did not have a representative physically present had sent a proxy. Raphaël thanked the members and said he was happy to be of help. The fact he lives in Switzerland will help for collaboration with Treasurer Cosimo Marti.
We then went back into the chapel for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and adoration, served by Damian Barker, from England. It was a wonderful moment, all of us gathered before the Lord, fulfilling a very essential dimension of Juventutem’s spirituality centered on Eucharistic devotion, both through the Mass and through adoration, as depicted in our logo. After having exposed the Blessed Sacrament, Fr de Malleray recessed in the sacristy to hear confessions while we adored. He then came back and led us in praying a decade of the Rosary asking for strength and protection for the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI. He reminded us of the fact a novena was currently being prayed all over the world for the Holy Father, ending the day after, on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. We also presented to God the intentions of all Juventutem groups and supporters all over the world.
After adoration we cleaned the refectory and tidied up the chapel and sacristy, before making our way to Il Grissino, the restaurant where we were to have dinner. It was a very merry evening in a casual and convivial atmosphere. We were glad to have among us Mr Heinz Müller, an ebenist supporting Juventutem (although not a Catholic). The night was beautiful, with snow in the streets, then quieter than last year when it was carnival.
Dinner at the restaurant was a great opportunity for all to talk casually with each other and exchange news. French and English were the most commonly spoken languages. Many pictures were taken and Gregory and Raphaël suggested we changed seats after the main course, so as to allow for more opportunities to speak with everyone. After meal, everybody was free to walk around the city or just go back to their youth hostel and chat.
On Sunday morning 22 February we all met again at Holy Trinity Church for Holy Mass. Like last year the Secretary to the Papal Nunciature attended Mass in choir. Mgr Ruiz Mainardi had been assigned at the Papal Nunciature in Cuba, but his successor was equally pleased to pray with us. Unlike last year though, for want of available clerics, we had a Sung Mass and not a Solemn High Mass. It was served by male members of Juventutem from various countries, while others – boys and girls alike – joined in the schola to sing the Gregorian kyriale and proper of the Quinquagesima Sunday. Fr de Malleray offered the Mass and preached on Juventutem. He quoted Pope Benedict’s homily at Randwick on the last WYD in Sydney, and also Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos’ letter of support to the International Juventutem Federation last year. After thanksgiving we met for breakfast at the Hôtel National where Dr and Mrs Gerd Weisensee joined us. Dr Weisensee has supported Juventutem from the beginning and had given a talk on pro-life legal issues related with health insurance at the first Juventutem gathering in Bavaria, August 2005. Breakfast was followed with a projection of pictures and films (www.juventutem.org) on Juventutem activities over the past year, mainly on the Eucharistic Congress in Québec, Canada, and at WYD in Melbourne and Sydney. We then had a time for sharing our experiences and our expectations as Juventutem members. Tomas Balsis, from Juventutem Lithuania, was presented with an ancient map of his country. It was quite unique to hear such a diversity of testimonies among a rather small group of people representing very diverse cultures and languages (with members from Spain, France, England, Ireland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy and Russia).
We then met for lunch at Il Grissino where the waiters now know our group fairly well. The Nunciature’s Secretary came for lunch as well and was able to speak with Kieran, from Juventutem Ireland, his fellow citizen. Fr Arnaud Evrat, FSSP, the chaplain to Juventutem Switzerland, attended lunch as well. Some of us started departing in order to catch their trains back home, while others stayed longer. Some were shown around Bern by Cosimo Marti. That week-end has been a blessed time of fraternal gathering and it is a pleasure to see that the Federation is getting stronger through mutual friendship and prayer. We all gave thanks to God “Who giveth joy to our youth" - ad Deum qui laetificat Juventutem nostram. (www.juventutem.org)