Bringing Jesus to a fast-changing youth world
As soon as this girl got into my car and settled down, she blurted out, “I cannot wait. Please tell me all about how Jesus Youth movement began. Everyone told me that you have been there from the beginning.” I was going to take a session for the “Jesus Youth Cultural Exchange” program and this young JY leader from Sri Lanka was traveling to the program venue with me. (For those who don’t know, Cultural Exchange is a monthlong exposure program that Jesus Youth Kerala organises every year for hundreds of young people from rural and tribal regions of India.
I am quite used to this question about the beginnings of the movement. Over the years I have developed a narrative with quick focus on a few key milestones, like 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982 and 1985. The rest of the history is a quick glossing over.
- In 1976 a group of us came together, and discovered a smiling, singing and friendly spirituality and took steps to continue it in a new youth group.
- In 1978 a challenge in the form of a letter from Fr Fio to network and bring together young people.
- In 1981 a new challenge was put forward by Fr Gino to develop a youth focused vision and also the need for a continuing search for it. This led to an informal, yet deeply committed fellowship called ‘the First Line group’.
- This group, taking up a new challenge from Pope John Paul II, prepared a very creative conference, ‘Jesus Youth 85’, giving the movement a name and a direction.
- During its keynote speech Fr Gino made the crowd chant, “I am a Jesus Youth” and in this way the name came to assume a new significance. Thus, the usual narrative goes on.
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