Many of the youth in this part of the world feel the pressures and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, they asked to have a prayer weekend as a way to turn to God and ask for help through prayer. The Sisters, despite the pandemic, decided to put on their masks, and gather the youth from the outstation of Trinity Parish in Chole, Ethiopia, to pray together.
“Give us today our daily bread…” (Mt.6:11)
The prayer weekend was held from October 2nd to 4th. The youth gathered for prayer at the Chapel’s hall. The prayer time began with a night vigil on Friday during which the youth prayed for their own needs and in solidarity with those affected by COVID-19. On Saturday, Sisters, with the priest, travelled to meet the youth who were there waiting for them. The program started at around 10:00 a.m. with a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Although some challenges are unique to this stage in life, other challenges were related to those experienced in adolescence. Some challenges included differences related to decision –making and inadequate support. Other challenges related to major life decisions about career, going to college, whom to marry, or how to choose the right religious congregation to enter are made during the young adult stage. In their traditional ways, there was support for the youth at every development stage. Today, however, all assume that the young adult person does not need help, since he/she is already an adult. Even when they turn to the Church, they feel that there is not enough support. This means that young people often lack the necessary information and advice which could be the key that enables them to make the right decision. This is why on the first weekend of October, the pastoral team met with the youth of Trinity Parish to discuss and pray for all these issues which the youth are experiencing.
Since they asked for help, the team brought a priest so the youth could receive the sacrament of Reconciliation during their prayer time and also participate in the Eucharistic celebration. Thus, the youth took time to reflect on the challenges they are facing, especially at this time of the pandemic.
Many of the participants shared on the pressures they are facing from their parents, peers and society which can be uncomfortable to them. Some shared that expectations can negatively affect their self-esteem as they struggle to satisfy different and sometimes contradictory demands about completing a course, earning money, leaving home, getting married, support their young siblings, even the challenge of purchasing something they like.
After listening to the challenges expressed by them, the youth were asked to take some time in silence and ponder on what was shared. Two questions were given to them: (1) What do young people mean when they say: “I am not free?” and (2) What can young people do for others? Observing the group, it appeared that many of the participants were not prepared to answer these questions. Then, the team addressed some of the issues faced by young people which make them unhappy. Consequently, it was agreed that some youth need special help in dealing with issues concerning their lives. For example, a young person may need support to find a job or going back to school.
In the second half of the program, the team addressed the type of challenges faced by young people and shared that these challenges may vary from individual to individual. These challenges may affect the whole of the young person in their biological, psychological, social and spiritual make-up. Thus, an awareness of these changes and a better understanding of how to deal with the resulting challenges can be helpful to them. The youth agreed and felt grateful to listen to some of the advice given to them.
Self-control and Self-discipline
In the afternoon, the youth were advised about cultivating self-control and self-discipline, for lack of it can bring misery. “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” (Prov. 25:28) Since this is a time of struggles and uncertainties, one should not think of himself, for we are called to share and be united with all those who suffer. The youth were also made aware on how many young people in Ethiopia deal with different issues such as: poverty, drugs, alcoholic, human trafficking and challenges in the education system. Then the youth were urged to pray continuously and give thanks in all circumstances.
After the afternoon talk, the youth had Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament with the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharistic celebration then followed. After Mass, all joined in for a shared traditional meal prepared by them.
On Sunday, the Eucharistic celebration started at 11:00 a.m. during which the priest once again urged the youth to pray unceasingly. He said, “Dare to pray for great things to happen. Pray and work, using the means available to you, and in all your ways acknowledge your God and seek the Lord while he may be found. God hears and answers our prayers. Continue praying and keep asking His mercy.”
In conclusion, the youth expressed their gratitude and how the program has strengthened them to face the addressed challenges. With that the program was concluded, and all were invited for a coffee ceremony, which is a tradition in Ethiopia. Some of the invited elderly blessed the priest and Sisters and also expressed a word of thanks to the youth for their courage and perseverance during the lockdown period. We all thanked God for his protection and then went our separate ways. Thank you.
Sr. Josefa Da Natividade Felix Twapita, SSpS, is from Angola and is working in Ethiopia for 10 years with women, agricultural project, pastoral with children and youth and Non-Formal children’s Education. She studied Counselling and is a Formator and Vocational Promotor.
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