Ministry of youth, poverty

By 
  • April 18, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Redemptorists have made a home for themselves in downtown Toronto — a location ideal for the many youth projects they lead on poverty and justice.

Not only that, but beginning this summer, the order’s Redeemer House will also serve as a discernment house, and in the fall, as the Redemptorists’ central formation home in Canada.

“We’ve got a lot of flexibility for space if God surprises us (with many applicants),” said Fr. Santo Arrigo, co-ordinator of Redemptorist vocation ministry.

Redeemer House was opened in December as the new location for the Redemptorist Youth Vocation Ministry (RYVM).

The semi-detached house, located beside St. Patrick’s Church, has offices and gathering rooms on one side and the discernment/formation home on the other.

The combination of the formation house and the youth ministry office give them extra room, especially with St. Patrick’s next door. It also helps them offer more to their formation applicants, who until now would have been placed at Holy Redeemer Church in Sudbury, Ont.

They will officially start their Toronto-based formation program in September.

“If (the applicants) need to do their philosophy requirements, there’s a little bit more flexibility academically in Toronto than in Sudbury,” Arrigo said. “We also saw a need to have the young guys discerning Redemptorist life be involved in the ministries.”

One of those ministries is high school retreats held throughout the school year.

Currently, the eight retreats are organized by RYVM and a group of young adult volunteers, which will be joined by those in formation next year.

Each four-hour retreat hosts a maximum of 60 high school students who learn about poverty and justice through different hands-on activities and a prayer walk through the downtown core.

“It’s a project to help them learn the differences between justice and charity, and it’s a mutual enrichment for both the young adults who receive leadership training and the youth who receive formation,” he said.

Arrigo has been directing the retreats for the past three years, but before this year, he would give presentations in different locations chosen by the schools.

With the fixed location downtown, he can bring his prayer walk to life as he leads retreat groups through five meaningful stations: 52 Division police station, City Hall, the Toronto Homeless Memorial, Dundas Square and the steps of St. Patrick’s.

Here they reflect on different topics such as the importance of just laws, good and bad policy making, the nameless poor, opulence and places of peace. 

“Because we wanted to focus more intentionally on poverty and justice, we asked them how they felt about coming downtown,” Arrigo said. “It’s more real and we ask the teachers to get the students to collect donations for the Out of the Cold program.”

The teen retreats are not the only thing in the works. In conjunction with Faith Connections, Redeemer House was to host a “house party” on April 24, a mix and mingle with priests and sisters for youth to learn more about religious vocations in a relaxed setting.

Arrigo is also busy organizing a pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in June. However, to continue along the vein of social issues, Arrigo hopes to start a regular youth group that would focus on engaging in service, either in poverty or justice.

The group would not only go out and help the poor, but regular meetings would offer the chance to give input and talk about the experiences.

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