Percival Holt, national president, Indian Catholic Youth Movement, National Youth Commission Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India (CCBI) was one of the nine delegates from India to attend the pre-synodal on youth in the Vatican from March 19-24.
Santosh Digal of Matters India talked to Holt to find more about the program.
Matters India: Please tell us how your experience was attending the pre-synod on youth in Rome last March.
Percival Holt: This meeting was indeed an enriching experience and a wonderful sharing of the realities of young people from various spheres of life across the globe, addressing concerns and the voice of young people of this millennium. I felt privileged and chosen to be able to contribute to this pre-synod at such an august gathering convoked by Pope Francis. It indeed gave me new perceptions of life and our personal mission that we are called for.
What do you say about the theme chosen for the Synod on youth?
The theme “Young people; the faith and vocational discernment” is quite apt to young people today who seem stretched between an idealistic and realistic life and mostly end up exhausted.
When talking about vocational discernment as “the mission and purpose in life”, there is an alarming need to assist us young people in coping up with this rapidly transforming world where career, education, technology and superficial relationships are taking a toll on us. Most of the young people are in tremendous personality crisis mainly due to external pressures and lack of introspection, relationship with the divine and others. Spirituality or faith is important for many as a way of life but again ambiguous for others.
In what way, the Indian delegation contributed to the formation of the draft document which was adopted at the end of the gathering?
All the delegates from India were part of different linguistic groups where “young people, vocational discernment and action plans” was the matter of discussion.
I was chosen to be a part of the document drafting committee of 12 members that spent three days and nights in preparing the Pre-Synodal meeting document which after a lot of recommendations, suggestions and discussions was presented on the final day of the meeting and approved by the participants. It was also a special privilege for me to be chosen for the International Press Conference held at the conclusion of the meeting at Vatican Press on March 24.
Also Miss Shilpa Ekka (spokesperson of ICYM – CCBI) was part of the team of 12 delegates chosen to hand over the document to Pope Francis during the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican and she also had the opportunity to read a prayer of the faithful in Hindi during the Mass.
What did you learn from the gathering?
Something amazing that I learned is through the realities of life are quite diverse for people from different corners of the world, be it Africa, Asia, America, or Europe but strangely the feelings and concerns appear to be quite similar. That gives a sense of unity and a connection that we humans share in heart and spirit.
And I must say, collating all the concerns and bringing out a document of the pre-synodal meeting was quite a herculean task but the outcome seems appealing. One thing that emerged out of the document quite crystal clear is that “the existing realities of young people today need urgent attention, not just by the church but each of us as individuals too. A question to every person “What can I do to make the world a better place?”
What are the issues, concerns, problems, and prospectives the Indian youth face in the modern time?
According to me, the challenges of young people in India today can be divided into two categories. For the urban youth, the sudden and rapid globalization in past two decades that has caused an explosion of exposure to the challenges & lifestyle of the other part of the globe which is too much for us to digest and adapt to all so soon, making us vulnerable and dependent on technology for almost everything leading to loss of employment and inner peace.
Whereas, for rural youth, inhibition of growth preventing most of them from gaining knowledge of life and an open mind, led away and suppressed by age-old ideologies, cultures, and traditions creating a conservative mindset in a world that is rapidly progressing ahead. A chaos and dilemma between their beliefs and beliefs passed on to them down the generations, without the right guidance and answers to their dilemma, leaving many stranded.
What more the Indian bishops and church at large need to do for youth?
The need of the hour is guidance for young people today to help them discern the purpose of their life and find the path to sail through, overcoming all hurdles in their way. I feel, we young people today are more practical, sensitive and objective – we are loud and clear about our feelings and expectations. Young people want guidance and accompaniment in their journey of life and not condemnation or judgment. The church needs to listen and be inspired by the Holy Spirit and not too fixed and orthodox about ancient traditions, rules, customs and ways of acting, making the life of the Church a museum piece, as also emphasized by Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate.
What has been your experience as you head the Indian Catholic Youth Movement?
In all these years, I have grown to realize young people are not bad or messed up. They are just caught up in a vicious circle and need assistance to get out of it and take off on the path of life.
The church is doing a lot. Indian cultures have contributed and made it easy for our youth to be grounded in faith and values. But with changing times, there is a need to change our methodologies, the way of looking at things and acceptance of the person as a key factor of Christianity. Because as Pope Francis recently says in his exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate “Nor can we claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there.”
And I always try to accept and accompany my fellow young people, no matter what, without judging them and correcting them when needed but with compassion and love. Only an epidemic of love can change the world is what I believe.
What are the recent activities your organization has organized?
The Youth Commission has had a couple of conferences and gatherings with different groups of people, religious, lay and youth, to survey and understand the challenges, realities, and feelings of young people of India. We had our elections recently in January, following which we had a training and orientation of newly elected leaders in preparation for the ministry and mission, following which three of us travelled to Rome for the Pre-synodal meeting – Paul Jose (secretary), Shilpa Ekka (spokesperson) and myself.
The next coming up is the animators and chaplains training programme (ACT 2018) in May to train and prepare animators and leaders from dioceses across India in youth ministry and youth animation.
On July 3 young people will travel to Thailand for BILA IV meeting that will continue the discussions of the pre-synodal meeting in preparation for the Synod in October, in the Asian context.
Since it’s just the beginning of our tenure, there are many things planned for the time to come.
What is the future of Catholic youth in India?
I would say the future is bright. We still have the chance to preserve and save our youth, unlike many other countries, with proper nurturing and guidance. This large population of young people in India can be channeled into a tremendous energy and source of change and development to make their lives better, through them the lives of others and thereby the nation.
The youth of India need to be given more opportunities to explore and bring out their full potential and not get locked up behind gadgets and technology in closed rooms.
Catholic youth, by their holistic development through the church can thus be agents and protagonists of change using Jesus and gospel values as a foundation & source of courage and hope.
And a final word.
This Synod on Youth in itself is the beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of youth. It gladdens my heart that Pope Francis was inspired to have the first ever synod on youth. That itself is the sign of a compassionate and considerate church who wants to journey with and assist young people in their lives. And I believe this synod will change the perceptions and fears towards young people and their lives, encouraging them to be protagonists of holiness, faith, and truth in life.
Young people today must believe in themselves and in the love of God even more and constantly strive to bring out their full potential and not be diminished by pressures of life or others. “Humanity” & “love for one other” is the prime virtue of life. Live not to just have a great life but also to contribute to the world and leave behind a legacy.