Brother Javier Hansen, FSC was one of three representatives from the United States who participated in the Pre-Synod Gathering in Rome. The Pre-Synod Gathering is a preparatory step for the 2018 Ordinary Synod, Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, a meeting of the Synod of Bishops to be held in October, 2018 at the Vatican.
Currently, Brother Javier, lives and ministers in El Paso, Texas at Cathedral High School, where he teaches religion.
How did you discover and discern your vocation?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher first. Then, in high school (I didn’t go to a Lasallian school), inklings of religious life started. When I met the Brothers, at Saint Mary’s College, who were both teachers and religious, I thought that was the perfect fit.
At the beginning of my discernment I had curiosity, then through experiencing community and being a teacher, the curiosity wore off and I really liked what I was doing. And I thought, why would you quit doing something you love doing?
How did being a Brother shape your experience at the Pre-Synod Gathering?
Being young and working daily with young people in the classroom, the interactions with my students I was able to carry with me and think about, as Brother we are called to actively listen to young people and take to heart what they say.
Having delegates with different vocation journeys (one married with kids, one single, and myself as religious Brother) I recognized the need to speak for religious vocations. We expressed vocation broadly and also needed to make sure the religious vocation which is valued and significant did not get compromised.
We have a responsibility to advocate for youth issues in the Church and listen to young people.
I am blessed and grateful for this opportunity. A year ago, I couldn’t have anticipated any of this would have happened and I’ve learned so much. It’s inspired me and been an incredible opportunity, one I want to pass on and continue to share.
What stands out to you from your experience and the document you created?
I didn’t know what to expect when I went to Rome. I was genuinely interested. Young people shared they wanted to be active members of the Church. They wish the Church to better explain its difficult teachings. They expressed a desire that they need a better answer than “it’s always been done this way.”
As a Brother I’ve had the opportunity to travel to internationally and one of my observations is that the Brothers in those places, despite different cultural contexts, were the same as my experience with Brothers in the U.S. The same was true of this gathering in regards to how much we have in common as Catholics.
We are all part of the Catholic faith even though we grew up in different contexts. For the most part it seemed we understood each other and the faith issues we were facing. I felt like I was part of a community with the 300 plus other people there. Even though seas and deserts separate us, it was a true unveiling that Catholic does mean universal.
Why are you hopeful about religious life today?
There is a quote, “God always provides enough vocations for any an epoch of time.” Education continues to remain a relevant topic in society, and our work is needed. I find that young people are open and appreciate the invitation to consider religious life. I believe religious values and vocations are on the rise. I am hopeful to see what happens in my lifetime.
What’s a message young people discerning God’s call in their life need to hear?
Don’t be afraid to contribute. I am hopeful the synod’s focus on the youth is not just a one-time thing. Young people need to continue to be involved and aspire to leadership and participate. We need to be involved and have the courage to participate and be involved.