The emphasis in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul on youth and young adults stems from the grassroots membership of the Society’s response to God’s call of grace and articulates the desire of Vincentians throughout the United States to engage in a process of formation, education and training our young people to advance in holiness of life and mentor our young members with the hope and skills to better serve those who are in need.
The involvement of Youth and Young Adults is an ongoing process that began with the beginning of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul with Frederic Ozanam and his friends. It is the responsibility of all people in the Society to collaborate and brainstorm with the young people who are the future of the Society. The younger generation has much to offer but they are in need of guidance and support from our senior members of the Society. The young members of the Society strive for the essential elements, personal holiness, service of the needy and friendship as all members.
ADVANTAGES OF YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULT INVOLVEMENT
A wide distribution of ages is the sign of a healthy organization, for a mixing of the young, middle-aged and older members produces the best of all worlds.
• Young members keep the Society young.
• They see with new eyes and often look far ahead.
• The young members tend to be very enthusiastic, idealistic and often very up-to-date on the latest trends.
• They find adaptation relatively easy, they are spontaneous and multitask and are very connected to each other and the world through technology.
• The senior members assume the responsibility of assisting them along their path of training, respecting their personal choices and their aspirations of Vincentian service. (Rule: Part 1, 3.7)
THE SIX MAJOR GROUPS OF YOUTH & YOUNG ADULTS
1. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Elementary Schools that have a parish conference of the Society St. Vincent de Paul are an excellent place to begin a group in the school that can possibly work with the parish conference on various activities. Elementary Schools may target the six through eighth grade students as the youth conference leaders and have younger students participate as associate members.
The key to an elementary group is to have two animated leaders who enjoy working with youth and have the skills to do so. It is helpful for the leaders to have some background about the Society and possibly partner with the parish conference.
2. MIDDLE SCHOOL
Middles Schools may follow the same procedure of Elementary Schools to form a youth conference or club. The advantage would be that fifth through eighth grade students are energetic and can take on some responsibility with some adult supervision.
3. HIGH SCHOOLS
High School Conferences may be formed as part of Campus Ministry. It is an advantage to have a faculty member as the advisor to the high school group. The faculty advisor will guide the students with the structure of the organization and supervise the service activities.
In High School Conferences there are several different approaches. They may be the core group that coordinates all service activities in the school or they may be a group of students that come together to participate in a particular service as well as grow in their own spirituality and friendship with students of common interests.
University and College Conferences may be formed under the Student Organizations which the University or College acknowledges or they may form as a Society of St. Vincent de Paul Conference at the University Parish or Newman Center.
The service activities at a university or college may stem from a wide range of opportunities to the most common conference service – home visits. The university or college conference usually has a core group of students who meet and spiritually share on a regular basis. They do engage other students who may assist in service activities or projects.
University and College Conferences follow the same rules and procedures as the traditional adult conferences with the guidance of a faculty member or campus minister to assist them.
5. YOUTH GROUPS
Youth Group Conferences are similar to high school conferences because the group is attracting the high school age group but in many cases they are formed from young people of a given parish but not exclusively to one parish but consist of a group from a geographical area.
The Youth Group Conferences will meet, plan their service activity and come together to grow spiritually by participating in formation opportunities as well as reflecting on their experience helping others.
The Youth Group participants are encouraged to work with the Adult Conference in the Parish.
6. YOUNG ADULTS
Young Adult Conferences may arise from students who had the Vincentian experience either in college, through a volunteer opportunity or they may be young people who are looking to grow in their faith through service. Many times, they will form a group of similar ages and possibly work with or alongside a traditional adult conference.
At times, a Young Adult conference will develop in parishes where no adult conference exists. The membership is widespread and does not necessarily stem from the parish that hosts the young adult conference.
There is nowhere in the rule that says that young people cannot be a part of the traditional adult conference. Young people who do not attend college but have a desire to continue to serve in their parish would be good candidates for the parish conference.