Among its first actions, an interfaith and intercultural educational meeting in the Fall, with the support of Georgetown University.
On May 20, in a ceremony presided over by Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville and, in connection from Los Angeles, by Archbishop Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Washington DC chapter of Scholas Occurrentes was launched.
The inauguration took place at Archbichop Carroll High School, and was attended by Darius Villalobos, director of diversity and inclusion for the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry, NFCYM, and Adriana Smith, a graduate of Georgetown University, young leaders who have participated in interfaith gatherings at Georgetown University.
They were also accompanied by Martina Amengual, Scholas’ Director of Global Expansion, and some thirty young students invited by the community who had the opportunity to follow Pope Francis online, who, from the Vatican headquarters of Scholas, welcomed this new Scholas chapter in Washington, which joins the Scholas chapter in Los Angeles, the Scholas Citizenship projects undertaken in Miami, and the participation of young North Americans during the last year in Scholas’ international cyber-meetings, laying the groundwork for its expansion in the country.
One of the first actions of the Scholas Washington chapter will be the launching of an educational program, with the support of Georgetown University, in the framework of interreligious dialogue and the path marked by the Pope since his recent trip to Iraq.
This program is planned for next October and will have as a source of study and analysis the encyclicals of Pope Francis, such as the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Laudato Si’.
In the same month of October, Scholas and World ORT, the world’s largest Jewish non-governmental organization for education and professional training, will jointly organize an international meeting of young Catholics and Jews, thus opening more doors for interreligious dialogue in the states.
Scholas in the United States, present from East to West
Mgr Jose Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, opened virtually the ceremony from the city of LA with a brief address in which he celebrated the creation of new Scholas chapters within the United States and welcomed the participants to Washington.
“We are excited to start a new group in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., that will help us bring together young people from the eastern and western United States. We hope that this first step will help us to invite all the youth of the United States to share with each other and with the youth of the world, to promote peace and solidarity in these difficult times and always”.
Cardinal Gregory told Pope Francis that, in Washington, DC, and with the arrival of Scholas to the five continents, there is no doubt that the education and creativity of young people will help build a better world.
“With our new Scholas chapter, we are tremendously grateful that our young people will gain greater insight and experience in truly seeing, respecting, and assisting our sisters and brothers from various cultures, races, ethnicities, nations, religions and abilities,” said Cardinal Gregory. “This deeper understanding allows us to become a Church and a people open to genuine dialogue and authentic encounters.”
“We are attentively listening and grateful for the voices and service of our young people,” he continued. “The Church is their home, and they are at the center of our faith community. Our new chapter of Scholas will provide an additional opportunity for our young people to continue to create a new culture of meaningful and long lasting encounters.”
Young people speak up
Adrianna Smith, a graduate of Georgetown University, said she hopes Scholas will help foster dialogue so that “in every person, in every exchange of ideas, we see the face of Christ.”
Darius Villalobos, director of diversity and inclusion for the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry, noted that “we have been blessed with a lot of diversity in this country,” and young people who might participate in Scholas will bring “the gift of their diversity” to their activities.
This inauguration was part of the global event “A well where to continue to be born – Scholas and creativity”, a celebration of the creative power of young people, on the occasion of a new visit by the Pope to Scholas at its Vatican headquarters.
It was a face-to-face and virtual event marked by important announcements, such as the opening of other chapters, like the one in Sydney, Australia, the one in Valencia, Spain, and the beginning of educational experiences in the region of El Impenetrable, in the province of Chaco, Argentina.
There was also the international launch of the Fratelli Tutti Political School, in conjunction with the Fundación Liderar con Sentido Común, and the Young Leaders for the Care of the Common Home Program, with the support of several representatives of the Alliance of Spouses of Heads of State and Representatives, ALMA, in Latin America.
Scholas Occurrentes in the United States
Scholas has been developing educational experiences in North American for several years and advancing in the promotion of the culture of encounter with various social actors; in June 2019, the 5th International Congress of Scholas Chairs was held in New York, hosted by Fordham University, where 126 scholars from 26 countries met presented an agenda in the framework of the Scholas Chairs and agreed on the course of action for the coming years.
Also in June 2019, the first experience of the Scholas Citizenship Program was held in the city of Miami, in which more than a hundred young people participated with the support of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the fourth largest school system in the country, an experience from which youth initiatives emerged to curb violence and the use of weapons, and to maintain the mental health of the population.
In December of that same year, the official inauguration of the Los Angeles chapter was held with the support of Archbishop José Gómez.