Meeting the Pope, and other highlights from the Caritas Internationalis general assembly

By Selina Hunt, Youth Programs Officer, and Jeremy Laurie, Animator for British Columbia and Yukon

Caritas Internationalis held its 22nd General Assembly in Rome from May 11 to 16 under the theme, Building New Paths of Fraternity. Over 400 delegates from around the world elected a new president, secretary general, vice-president and treasurer. Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada was represented by Brenda Arakaza, president (extreme right), and Carl Hétu, executive director (second from right). Also present were Jeremy Laurie, animator for British Columbia and Yukon (extreme left), and Selina Hunt, youth programs officer (second from left), who share this account of their experience.

If we want things to change in this world, we have to work hard and network, and Caritas is a network that can bring about God’s love and care for creation all over the world.

Carl Hétu

Selina Hunt, Youth Programs Officer

From the very first day of the general assembly, a high bar was set―an audience with Pope Francis! That excitement and feeling of having the privilege to be part of a monumental assembly continued through the week.

Jeremy and I attended as youth delegates, and we were joined by 10 other youth members from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Oceania. What a wonderful opportunity to meet engaged young adults who are living out Caritas in such different ways!

As a young person who has been involved in Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada for almost 15 years (more than half my life!), I cannot think of another experience that so beautifully illustrates the strength and the “unity in diversity” of our network, the Caritas confederation. What really stands out from my experience (other than MEETING THE POPE) is getting to hear people’s stories of why they are so passionate about putting faith into action and living out Catholic Social Teaching.

The youth delegates had their own orientation session during the Caritas Internationalis general assembly.

Meeting just a fraction of the hundreds of people representing Caritas members from countries like Argentina, Tonga, Ukraine, Japan, Honduras, the Philippines and Ghana was a fascinating insight into the many ways we all seek to uplift human dignity.

Voting delegates held up placards bearing their country names, lending the proceeding the air of a United Nations assembly.

Since this was my first general assembly, I was grateful for the training offered to youth delegates by Rebecca Rathbone, the Officer Promoting Youth Leadership at Caritas Internationalis. It gave us the opportunity to get to know one another and be able to participate more fully in the assembly.

Another exciting part of the general assembly was the youth thematic session, where young adults and directors from all the regions spoke about how youths take Caritas to the next level in every strategic orientation. Our very own president, Brenda Arakaza, spoke on this panel of how engaging and empowering young people has made Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada more effective.

If you are a young adult, interested in experiences like mine, I have two tips for you:

  • Get involved in your region or community. I started out attending youth retreats in Northern Ontario, which opened up opportunities to participate in young adult and intergenerational events at the provincial, national, and international levels. Find your local animator or contact me for more information about our youth network.
  • Brush up on your language skills! Being able to communicate in English, French and Spanish opened up so many opportunities to get to know many different people!

Do check out our Instagram stories from our trip!

Jeremy Laurie, Animator for British Columbia and Yukon

The general assembly was an incredibly motivating experience. It was an opportunity to witness the strength, connection and diversity of our global Caritas family. It was sometimes overwhelming to consider just how many nations and organizations were present in one room and in solidarity with one another.

During the week, I was elected to the representative council (REPCO) of Caritas for the next four years to represent the voice of young people in the confederation. I will be joined by our new friend, Clara Sanchez Cana from Cáritas Española, who will be the second board member representing young people.

Clara and I will also be joined by our executive director, Carl Hétu, who will sit as the REPCO member for North America. We are excited and humbled to have two Canadians taking on those important positions.

We departed Rome with our hearts, minds and bellies full! We are excited to see how Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada can implement Caritas Internationalis’s strategic objectives and play our unique part in this worldwide confederation.

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