Jesus Youth is an international Catholic youth movement with a charismatic spirituality. It had its beginnings in Kerala (India), but is now active in nearly 25 different countries around the world.
Jesus Youth is an initiative of young people themselves, who, filled with the Holy Spirit try to reach out to other young people. The strength of the movement is its special focus on a life centered on the Lord Jesus Christ: beginning with an experience of God nourished by prayer, the Word of God, the sacraments and fellowship, and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.
Though not an actual community, Jesus Youth is a network of small but vibrant groups of young people. In their own life situations, they strive to give time to the Lord, responding to the challenges of today’s world in the power of the Holy Spirit.
History & Evolution
Jesus Youth, an initiative of young people, is all about Spirit-filled youth reaching out to other youth and building a network for the Lord. It all began in Kerala, India. This is a special place, the picturesque coastal state in the southern most tip of India, with its rich cultural backdrop and Christian tradition of three different Catholic rites and numerous other churches.
The Charismatic Renewal swept through the churches of Kerala in the late 1970s, touching the hearts of young people, leading to the formation of youth groups. In the early 80s, these groups grew rapidly and in 1985, the International Year for Youth, these groups came together with a single name: Jesus Youth, seeking a clearer vision for themselves and for the wider participation of young people in the Church.
The growth of these young people came through commitment to ministries. An eagerness to share and serve children, college students (Campus Ministry), those in parishes (Parish Ministry) and the poor and suffering (Outreach) and the like.
By the 90’s, the movement started to spread to different parts of India. Jesus Youth leaders who were active in Kerala reached different places outside the state for their job/studies. Their eagerness and zeal to take initiatives for the Lord and bring young people closer to Christ resulted in the formation of prayer groups in different parts of the country. Slowly these prayer groups became an active Jesus Youth presence in that region.
The necessity of a team to co-ordinate all these new areas resulted in the formation of the first Jesus Youth National Team in 1998. Gradually the movement began to take root in the interior places and villages of India and simultaneously spread to different parts of the world.
Jesus Youth members seek to grow as faithful disciples of Christ, through the six pillars of the movement.
Daily Prayer: A daily ‘quiet time’ with the Lord leading to an experience of the companionship of Jesus, enables one to have a joyful attitude in daily life.
Word of God: A regular time for a meditative reading of the Sacred Scripture helps one to seek God’s guidance and shape his life according to God’s will.
Sacraments: Frequent and active participation in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation contributes to a life of wholeness and strength and are integral to a person’s growth in holiness.
Fellowship: Christian life, a call to live the life of the Trinity in communion with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ through mutual support, encouragement and gentle correction, is an important element in the movement. Cells, small groups, prayer groups, service teams and friendship circles help to make Jesus Youth a family.
Service: Following the footsteps of the Master who brought the Good News to the poor, Jesus Youth stretches out a helping hand to those burdened with poverty and deprivation.
Evangelisation: Personal renewal in Jesus leads to a commitment to share the person and message of Jesus with others. This commitment to evangelisation is central to the life of every Jesus Youth.
Individual spiritual direction and various Jesus Youth Formation Programmes also contribute to a member’s faithful discipleship and growth in holiness.
Distinguishing characteristics of the Movement
1. Youth reaching out to youth: As witnesses of the joy of a life in Christ and in service of the Church.
2. Ongoing faith and human formation: Through Jesus Youth groups and training programmes, encouraged by the six pillars.
3. Using the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit: For growth in personal holiness, service in the community and proclamation of the Good News.
4. Forming youth for missionary commitment: In response to the divine mandate and the call of the Church.
5. Witnessing to the Lord in the rapidly changing modern context: Among children, students, those in parishes, the poor and the suffering, working professionals, young married couples and families, aided by the use of technology and modern mass media.
6. Participation in Fellowship groups: In many places, small cells and prayer groups are gradually evolving into committed communities.
7. Rooted in the Church and committed to ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue: While incorporating effectively into ecclesiastical structures and pastoral plans.
8. Close interaction, collaboration and networking among individuals, ministries and fellowship groups: Modern means of travel, media and communication establish Jesus Youth as a close-knit ecclesial family.
9. Becoming a Jesus Youth: Not by a formal enrolment, but by a step by step interiorisation of the Jesus Youth lifestyle and participation in fellowship and mission.