09/05/2018, 14.56
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Fr Joe Pereira: Mother Teresa saw the thirst of God in young people

by Joe Pereira

Mother Teresa was the inspiration for the creation and modus operandi of one of India’s largest NGOs, the Kripa Foundation, which is dedicated to rehabilitating young addicts. Most addictions come from frustration, caused by economic problems, and the spiritual emptiness that comes with affluence. Yoga and eastern disciplines can help young people recover. Some suggestions are offered for the Youth Synod.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Mother Teresa "saw the thirst of God in the youth", who were "frustrated, turning to all kinds of addictions", says Fr Joe Pereira. Writing for the feast day of the Mother of the poor, he describes her testimony and wisdom in welcoming young people, both the economically poor as well as the spiritually poor.

Fr Pereira is a member of the Kripa Foundation, one of India’s largest NGOs, whose focus is rehabilitating young people from all kinds of addictions. With 51 offices in 11 Indian states, the organisation has collaborated with Mother Teresa and her sisters in the past. The clergyman’s reflection is also meant as a suggestion for the upcoming Youth Synod (3-28 October 2018).

Mother Teresa is a beacon of hope for modern youth. Since the early 1980s, Mother Teresa has been our inspiration and model of caring by serving in variety of ways to attract the youth to Jesus. She was pained knowing that most of the poor hit rock bottom owing to all kinds of addictions in their youth.

She humbly consulted me and asked me to train her sisters. After that training she set up an addiction recovery centre in Tengra, Kolkata. It was especially for girls. She gave Kripa her numerous orphans turned addicts at Gangarampur and today the same Boy's Town is one of Kripa's largest rehabs in the country.

She saw in the youth a thirst for God and love and also saw that they were frustrated, turning to all kinds of addictions. She saw two types of youth. First the kind of frustrated youth owing to lack of opportunities to work and the other youth who, in spite of having material wealth, were spiritually bankrupt.

She recognized that these young people were searching for God and deep down they were very spiritual. She received many frustrated youths from abroad – Europe and America – and getting them involved in the service of the poorest of the poor won them over to a new form of spirituality. "[W]hatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," (Mt 25:40).

She encouraged the work of Kripa by directing many lost in the world of addiction to the healing presence of Jesus in Kripa communities.

Building new communities with this concept of "Wounded Healers", many youths came back to the Church and got actively involved in works of love and mercy. Together with Mother Teresa's close associate Brother Roger of Taizé, these youth communities have created a new image of the Church. Youth bodies as Pueri Cantores took this message to several countries.

These youth have created a new image of the Catholic Church as a Church that has taken an initiative to bring back those who walked away like the flower children and now have seen the rich heritage of spirituality in eastern disciplines like the practice of yoga for Christian Meditation (an initiative that has spread in over 120 countries!) and the use of eastern disciplines in the recovery programme in more than forty countries. The recent entrance of Kripa in China has given us a unique way to evangelize the youth as they are introduced to Jesus as the Supreme Yogi.

However, the efforts of bishops for the synod of youth needs a much broader vision to include the disillusioned youth and open the practice of faith and love beyond the boundaries of religions. I truly feel this vision is still wanting in the diocesan commissions. If the vision of Pope Francis is not included in our diocesan bodies we will again put old wine in new wine-shins and have it burst into wasted labour.

We need to create for our youth a community of love and faith that transcends these "churchy" boundaries and make Pope Francis's Church a truly Catholic Church without walls.

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