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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Understanding Teens
An interview with Sonia González, leader of the team helping to draft the new ECYD Handbook, and Ruth de Jesús, a psychologist advisor.

Comment être sur la même longueur d’ondes que nos adolescents ? 2
Sonia González and Ruth de Jesús share their reflections on forming teens at a meeting in Méry-sur-Marne, France.

When Regnum Christi member Sonia González was asked in May 2008 to design an international “club model” project for ECYD, it seemed that a few months would be enough to turn in a proposal. But the work became so absorbing that she produced a fruitful reflection on how the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi work with teens and adolescents. Sonia, a mother of four children ages 4 to 16, and Ruth de Jesús, a psychologist who acted as an advisor for the project, have been sharing their insights with Legionaries, consecrated members, and lay members working in the various territories. This past April 5 and 6, they presented their work to the Legionaries and consecrated women working in France, at the apostolic school in Méry-sur-Marne.

After the presentation, Sonia and Ruth took part in the following interview with the Spanish editors of An English translation is presented below. Sonia, thank you very much for this course. Your reflections on the ECYD pedagogy and way of dealing with teens is new and can seem almost revolutionary. Do you think this would have been possible without the difficult circumstances that the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi have just undergone?

Sonia González: For any movement or congregation, the founder’s death marks a decisive stage that can lead you to question your own identity. Obviously, everything we have come to know about Fr Maciel has been very hard. In a way, it has taken the ground out from under us and has made us look at ourselves in depth and with maturity, to ask what God wants of us. It has united the urgent and the important. But I believe that this kind of questioning would have been necessary in any case. In fact, since the start of the project, we could already
Portrait Sonia
Sonia González is a mother of 4 children, 3 of whom are teens.
intuit some important points for reconsideration. What is the main novelty in the draft handbook you are proposing?

Sonia: The main question that we have asked is how to connect with teens, starting with the needs they really have, not trying to give answers when we don’t even know what their questions are. And from there, to build, accompanying the teen in his or her own process. That is our objective. I believe that ECYD is a road to walk, not just a “result” or a goal. We also try to renew our way of seeing them: Do we look at them the right way, in the way they need?  What do adolescents need to see in our eyes? And finally, we wanted not just to write something theoretical, but something deeply inspiring that would reflect the essential experience we already have in working with teens, so that it can be lived and applied in the specific apostolate of each country, region, type of work, etc. For this, everyone’s contributions are so important, including yours. It has been helpful to receive “validations” that this does indeed respond to the adolescent’s reality. Ruth, you are not a Regnum Christi member and you work outside the Movement, in the French Saint Louis school in Madrid, directed by the Notre Dame de Vie association. Could you tell us how the ECYD way of working differs from other pastoral proposals for teens?

Ruth de Jesús: What strikes me most is the apostolic concern, the constant desire to reach and connect with teens, to meet them where they are at. I also see that in ECYD there is the desire to reach the whole person, his or her whole life, so that they find the only One who can fill their lives: Christ. As psychologist, do you think that the teens of 2011 are different from those of the 80s or 90s? 

Ruth: Some manifestations are different, but at bottom they have the same kinds of concerns. The one who is evolving in her way of relating to teens is the Church, and this is very good. I see a lot of willingness to adapt in an ever-new way to what teens need.

Sonia: Yes, in fact, what we have tried to do is to make this draft of the ECYD Handbook help us to understand teens from every epoch. This is giving us the opportunity to explore the mission of the different stages of life… We also want the ECYD Handbook to be a means to accompany all dimensions of the person, to give an “integral” and at the same time, “integrating” formation. We want it to help the teen to integrate the different areas and environments of his or her life. Otherwise, the teen is internally divided, living in a different way in their ECYD club, at school, in the family, with friends… and that is very difficult to keep up. We believe that if we can achieve this integrating formation, we will have helped them form a coherent and happy personality. Ruth, what role does the ECYD Handbook draft give to parents?

Sonia: ECYD does not have the mission of forming parents. But we want to renew the way of seeing the parent-teen-ECYD relationships, looking together at the teen we are trying to reach. The teen is at the center, and the parents and ECYD formators put him or her as the priority. Sometimes it is a difficult topic because so many families are unstable or divided, going through circumstances that are very painful for all of them, also for the children. It is a challenge. We do not yet have all the answers on this point. We need to keep reflecting and working. I hope you can also send your insights on this point. What is the role of the renewal of ECYD in relation to rediscovering the charism of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi?

Sonia: For me, talking about ECYD is similar to talking about Regnum Christi; after all, ECYD is the main way that Regnum Christi members reach out to and serve youth. So, these reflections can also help to reflect on the charism: about how to draw closer to each and every person. I find it very helpful to think that God is interested in man, thirsty for his love. Love from God to attain love for God. We all want to respond to the question of our life: what does God have to do with my life, with man? Answering this existential question also means wanting to accompany ECYD… and RC as well.

Ruth: My impression of your congregation’s charism, from the outside, is that perhaps the words we use to express it do not entirely show the difference, but I do perceive a different style. I believe that ECYD offers teens a place where they can develop and grow.

Sonia: As a mother, I see that my children have challenges in adolescence and I would like to help them, but I cannot live it for them. I can only accompany them, be with them, guide them… and it is not easy to wait and accompany, without trying to control or accelerate the process of maturation. What a challenge, and sometimes… how hard! When the ECYD Handbook comes out, will it be public?

Sonia: Yes, of course! Totally. It will be a tool for those who want to know what ECYD is, for anyone. It will mainly be for our formators, but God willing, it could be a service for other groups in the Church. Sonia and Ruth, thank you very much!



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