In 2020-2021, 5 of the 7 schools of evangelization will undergo significant changes. Father Janez Rus, the International Youth Coordinator for the Emmanuel Community, gives us the inside scoop.
- Janez would you share with us the history of the ESM up to today?
We can say that there have been three main stages concerning the ESMs.
The first stage was in the early 1980s, when the first school was founded in Paris, which was then was moved to Paray le Monial.
The second stage was in the 1990s, when the idea of these schools spread outside of France and into Europe: Altötting (German) and Rome (English). The first three schools had a very international dimension.
Finally, the third stage saw the birth of these schools on each continent in order to make them more accessible to young people in these regions by allowing them to grow in the Faith and in closer proximity to their culture. We then had the birth of the ESM in: Manila (Philippines for Asia), Salvador de Bahia (Brazil for Latin America), Bafoussam (Cameroon for Africa), and finally New York (USA for North America).
- What was special about this spreading out and what were its fruits?
The schools were established on a unique concept: to form young missionaries for our time, capable of taking on responsibilities in the Church when they return home, and consisting of human formation, anthropological formation, and pastoral formation. The soil of these schools has not only seen many missionaries flourish in their respective churches but has also seen many vocations emerge to the consecrated life and the priesthood.
Today, many of the young people from the ESM also have positions of leadership in the Emmanuel Community. So, as we can see, these schools have been very fruitful!
So, what are the changes taking place and why?
Almost two years ago, the International Bureau and the International Council wanted to begin a study of the ESM and I was asked to implement it, together with a team, in the form of an audit, then to work on a reflection concerning the whole of the ESM so as to nourish discernment.
We observed that, in fact, while the wealth and fertility of the ESMs were not in doubt, things have changed a lot since the foundation of the first ESMs.
The vision is clear and solid: “To form apostles for our time,” but the question arose as to whether the curriculum and modalities of each school still corresponded well to the challenges of today’s young people in a changing world, and if they were to be the same everywhere. There was some competition between the different ESMs.
Finally, an ESM is a very important investment, such as in a leadership team, pastoral monitoring, and financial means, so it was important to look at and question all of these subjects.
- Where are we today?
Pope Francis’ exhortation “Christus Vivit” is a strong encouragement for us to continue this work by opening ourselves ever more to the needs of the world and the impulses of newer generations.
It is essential to involve young people as much as possible and we must be ready to let ourselves be ruffled by the young people themselves.
The Spirit moves us, and we must be ready to be surprised.
The work is in progress and even though nothing has been definitively validated yet, we are already seeing a driving force appear; we also believe, for example, that we must reinforce an axis that has already been underway for several years in promoting a direct social engagement. We also need to bring out talents, let creativity spring up, and encourage the taking up of responsibility. From this point of view, we see, for example, that the very word “school” must be reviewed because it refers to a school system where students “do” what the teachers teach them, whereas young people must be more of protagonists and actively take part in their formation.
- What are the next steps?
Out of 7 schools, 5 are in a process of study and development. Next year, those of Bafoussam and New York will continue according to the usual outline of an ESM. For different reasons, four others will experience significant changes. The ESMs in Paray and Manila will take a break for discernment and work. The ESMs in Rome and Altötting will offer a year of formation, but in a different way from what is usually offered by an ESM. The future of the ESM of Salvador is currently being studied and discerned.
We feel very confident, even if the pandemic has delayed the process. Our study and discernment are very open and specific to each ESM, which leads us to be less standardized, more flexible, and more adapted to the realities of each place, while continuing to live and transmit the graces of the Community in an ever-new way. Let us give thanks to God!