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Interview with Adrián Neira, Coordinator of the Youth Ministry for the Province of Chile-Argentina

 “Young people cannot be understood
simply as passive recipients,
but as true subject of pastoral action”


Adrián, can you please introduce yourself briefly.

I am Adrián Neira Aguilera, 39 years old. I have been married for 13 years and we have a 9 year old daughter. I am a commercial engineer with a degree in pedagogy. In my youth I had a vocational interest in SSCC, but I chose to go down the road of having a family. I see the challenge of taking on the coordination of the Provincial Youth Ministry as the perfect union between the vocational and the professional, always wanting to be at the service of the young people whom we encounter in the various works in the Province of Chile-Argentina.

As a young person, I was active in the Jesús de Nazaret Chapel in Lo Espejo, in the southern and popular sector of Santiago de Chile. There, the Brothers had a pastoral presence and through them I came to know the spirituality of the Sacred Hearts, which captivated me and allowed me to have a very Church-people of God experience, among the small, grassroots communities. In this place I also met Brothers Claudio Carrasco and Ronaldo Muñoz and with them I understood what it means to undertake theology from below, through meaningful and moving celebrations taking place in a modest church built of wood, and by participating in summer work with the children and young people of that area.

Eventually, my commitment came to focus on being an advisor to the Alameda Youth Pastoral Centre, which had emerged under the direction of the Alameda Sacred Hearts School. I dedicated myself to that centre in the afternoons once I had finished my daily work in a financial institution. I had only recently graduated. It was like that for three years in a row, until the community decided to leave. I started a family and our SSCC spirituality was then nourished by a community of young married couples and by participating in a catholic music choir and through weekly Eucharist. My inspiration for the current work in the Chile-Argentina Provincial is a phrase that came to me: "Young people cannot be understood simply as passive recipients, but as true subjects of pastoral action".

You are the coordinator for Youth Ministry in the Province of Chile-Argentina and have been working for many years in the field of youth, what does this ministry bring to you?

Since I took over as coordinator, I have encouraged the participation of young people, emphasising that they are the true protagonists of our ministry, with their successes and failures. That is why I try to be a silent companion, but present when I am needed. This requires a lot of discernment and in this the relationship with my wife has been key. She has always been very present and her support has been fundamental.

What are the challenges facing young people in the Congregation's environment in Chile and Argentina?

In our Province, and particularly in Chile, the internationally known social outbreak that took place in October 2019, and the consequences of the time of confinement during the pandemic caused by COVID, generated challenges for growth in different areas. These areas were identified in the work undertaken with young people. One such area is care for mental health - there is a perceived weakness in social skills such as empathy, effective communication, tolerance, respect, assertiveness, resilience, and leadership among others. Therefore, the challenge from the pastoral point of view is to build day by day and hand in hand with the Gospel, in synodality, creating spaces that are both safe for young people and which offer the possibility of good treatment.


Tell us about the experience of the recent Second Provincial Meeting of youth communities of the Province of Chile-Argentina.

The Second Provincial Meeting of Youth of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts that took place in the last week of December brought together about 400 young people who came from the different areas and places of our Province, and from the areas where our SSCC sisters are and work. This meeting took place at the “French Fathers School” in Viña del Mar, a city located 100 km from Santiago and close to Valparaíso. It was held over four days, with each day having a central theme, but always based on community work. The motto we followed was "From the roots we renew life".

I can assure you that the echoes of this meeting will resound in our Congregation and in the Church for a long time to come, and we hope that this will encourage the SSCC laity, brothers and sisters involved with young people to recognise the diversity among them and to help them to integrate and feel part of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary in order to live in today's world.

What do you think it has meant for young people?

Taking care not to err on the side of pride and arrogance, I can tell you that holding such a massive event - attracting 400 young people from across the country - in today's Chilean Church, in the context of the lack of confidence that the ecclesial institution is experiencing, is undoubtedly a great step that will challenge us even more. We are living in a time when the church seeks to journey in the synodal project of Pope Francis, above all in its ministry to young people.

For the young people who participated in the meeting, there was also a deep desire for relationships to continue, and they asked that we generate opportunities and periodic and short-term spaces for them to meet again. It is very significant that the generational massiveness has given them a sense of belonging that they did not have. That will mark our work.

Could it be said that it has been a meeting of joy and hope?

Undoubtedly. The images and testimonies of young people, lay people, SSCC brothers and sisters are proof of this and characterise this massive meeting because we are entering into a process where we are renewing "life from the roots".

And after the meeting, how will the life of these young people continue?

In the immediate future, in Chile during January and February there are summer holidays, so it is a time to rest and renew energies for studies and for the pastoral commitments that are coming in 2024. We hope that everyone can enjoy this time of rest. In terms of Youth Ministry, our expectations are to continue walking together and create and strengthen positive spaces for young people, recognising their diversity and their desire for continuous integration and discernment in the sense of belonging in the SSCC, themes that are at the heart of the pastoral and vocational life of our young people for the next three years. How we respond to these emerging challenges will be our concerns and occupations as a Congregation. We are on the way and have only crossed the starting line.