Canadian Jesuits International is partnered with St. Anne’s Primary School in Kingston, Jamaica. A new program is connecting Toronto students with CJI projects in the Global South. Photo by J. Webb

Jesuit program connects students with Global South

  • May 5, 2013

TORONTO - Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) is bringing social justice teachings to high school students as part of its new Youth for Others program.

About 70 youth from the Greater Toronto Area were invited to an April 30 event to learn about the call to be “youth for others,” a term organizers hope will catch on. The concept was inspired by the former Jesuit Superior General, the late Fr. Pedro Arrupe, who called people to be “men and women for others.”

“I believe our long-term goals are to engage as many young people as possible across Canada in reflecting about social justice and becoming youth for others.

In other words, young people who will live their life for the common good and will make choices in their lives to support international justice,” said Jenny Cafiso, CJI director. “Maybe some of them will go overseas... Our goal is that we will have a network of people who identify themselves as youth for others and will make those kinds of life choices.”

CJI supports projects in the Global South while raising awareness across Canada. One of the initiatives that forms “this education program in Canada on international justice is this youth program, which just started a few months ago,” said Cafiso.

“I believe that young people are open to and have a tendency to look at justice and peace issues with a more open mind and heart... Because of that openness we are more likely to be engaged with those issues and that will affect the choices we make as adults.”

The youth and outreach coordinator position was created at CJI six months ago, with Kirsti Tasala filling the position. With education as a key area of Jesuit work, Tasala has been visiting high school classrooms and connecting students to the Jesuit mission.

One of her duties is “sharing with youth that the work of Jesuits and their work of social justice is part of their heritage as Catholic students,” and “engaging them on the types of work the Jesuits and our partners are doing overseas... in regard to international social justice issues,” she said.

The youth for others event was the first big event, said Tasala, adding that CJI kept the number in attendance small so youth would have a better opportunity to interact with guest speakers and workshop leaders, whether they were Jesuits or laity. Five high schools and youth associated with the Jesuit-run Camp Ekon were invited.

“We’re building our relationship with them and wanted to give them a little bit of an intimate opportunity to meet some Jesuits and some lay partners that have been working on an international social justice project,” said Tasala.

“To be men and women for others means creating people... who don’t live for themselves, but live for God and who can’t even really conceive of this love for God without being a loving person to their neighbour and serving their neighbour for justice... The most important thing of being a person for others is to serve others and to be actively striving for justice.”

Minerva Vitti was the keynote speaker at the event. She is a young journalist from Venezuela who has travelled across Latin America and the Caribbean. She told the students how to be youth for others and spoke about being in solidarity with refugees and displaced peoples, speaking from her experience working with Jesuit Refugee Services. Vitti attended a Jesuit Catholic high school.

“Jesuit schools strive to form a people at the intellectual, emotional and spiritual level,” said Cafiso. “We do that both in schools, but also in all kinds of educational work that we do.”

In a couple years, CJI hopes to expand its youth outreach program outside of Ontario.

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