In 2015, the Pope John Paul II Youth Pastoral Center was first established in Sarajevo, the capital of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is open to all young people, without distinction as to faith or ethnic origin. It was formally blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II, for whom young people were especially important and who introduced many lasting initiatives for the young, most notably the World Youth Days.
The center has been a great success. Every year some 10,000 young people aged 10 and over have taken part in the pastoral meetings, training sessions and leisure activities held there. The slogan of the center is “Encounter and Reconciliation – Shaping Peace and a Future Together.” The center has 20 full-time staff, working together with around 300 volunteers on the many pastoral activities offered. The foundation of the center was supported by ACN with a contribution of over half a million dollars.
The young people who become involved with the Saint John Paul II center are often also very active in their own home parishes, further proof that it is possible to live together peaceably in this country, to find work, establish a family and build up a happy life. Part of the goal is also to promote interaction and cooperation among all the different ethnic groups and religions in the country, thereby building bridges for a peaceful future.
Such youth work is important not only for a better future but also for the survival of the Church herself. As a result of the war in Bosnia (from 1992 to 1995), around half of all the 500,000 Catholic Croats living there were either expelled or voluntarily emigrated. Even today, some 10,000 people are leaving the country each year, among them many Catholics, because they find themselves discriminated against in the workplace, the schools and social life generally and can therefore see little future for themselves. But those young people who are deeply involved in their parish life tend to stay on and have faith in the future.
The current capacity of the center in Sarajevo is not enough to cope with the high demand, and so a new center has been opened in northern Bosnia as a sort of branch center. It can offer overnight accommodation to up to 10 people and likewise offers a wide range of activities, including such things as seminars for youth group leaders, interfaith and ecumenical initiatives and many more things besides. The grounds of the center also have a farm, with animals and an orchard where the young people can work.
The center is already up and running, but there are still a number of finishing touches remaining to be done, especially in the bathrooms and toilet blocks. Additionally, there is a plan to set up an outdoor stage, with seating for open-air performances and other events.
ACN is proposing to help with a contribution of $22,400, so that the work on the center can be quickly completed.
Can you give to support the expansion of this St. John Paul II Pastoral Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
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