As the network of schools working in the Salesian way is developing in our Province of Great Britain, it was good to have the presence of Bart Decancq SDB, who leads the large network of Salesian schools in North Belgium, and Bart van der Smissen SDB, Coordinator of RE across the network.
After the opening prayer, led by Sr Linda Cameron FMA and Fr Bob Gardner SDB, James Kibble, Head of Salesian School Chertsey, shared experience on being a listening school. Fr Dermott Donnelly, Chair of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation and Head of Youth services for the Diosces of Hexham and Newcastle spoke about listening to young people so we can meet them where they are and journey with them. The final speaker of the morning was Danny Curtin, who outlined the findings of the 'Complex Catholicism' study of the attitudes and concerns of young Catholics, which he worked on through Camino House. Find out more
Delegates valued the opportunity to continue their discussions over a very tasty lunch, and to visit the Don Bosco Publications bookstall, where we managed to grab a photo of Fr David O'Malley SDB with his latest book, the second edition of his very popular "School Ethos and Chaplaincy".
In the afternoon, a range of workshops allowed participants to discuss aspects of listening to the young. The topics included listening as a Salesian leader, led by Prof John Lydon; the outcomes of the Synod, with Fr Dermott Donnelly, listening to disruption in young people, led by Sr Linda Cameron; Mary Mazzarello as a listening presence, with Sr Pauline Clark; listening to the challenge of transition to higher education, with Fr John Dickson SDB; and listening to the experience of digital youth, with Fr Sadu John SDB. Delegates also had the opportunity to hear how Salesian Youth Ministry and volunteering projects listen to and involve the young.
At the end of the workshops, the conference returned to the hall for Mass presided over by Fr Bob Gardner, which brought to a close what many described as "our best conference yet".
We are very grateful to Jenny McGuirk, Head of John Henry Newman Catholic College, and her team, for their wonderful welcome and hospitality.
Organiser Fr David O'Malley SDB will be taking up some of the strands of the conference in greater depth in future articles.