by LYNDSAY FREER
AUCKLAND — Logos was founded in 2000 by the Society of Mary as a Marist Youth Development organisation, and became a Charitable Trust in 2010.
I did not know a great deal about this agency that works with young people in Auckland diocese, and was amazed when I heard that their 10 fulltime staff members and their volunteers work with more than 10,000 young people each year.
To find out more, I went to talk to the director of Logos, Helen Robinson, at their premises in the historical former Josephite convent in the heart of Auckland city, which they have adapted to provide the many services they offer.
I walked into an atmosphere with lots of laughter and a heartwarming sense of joy and hospitality. It was a hive of activity, because a group of young men from Auckland’s St Paul’s College was having lunch in an adjoining room before an afternoon programme of prayer and reflection — all part of a day’s work for the Logos team.
I asked Helen first how they make contact with so many young people over the course of a year.
She said they provide personal development and faith formation programmes to young people who come from the Church, from community groups and from the Catholic colleges in the diocese.
“Our programmes are wide ranging, and include leadership development, individual and group mentoring and life skills training. We organise retreats, holiday programmes and camps, and our faith formation initiatives include sacramental programmes, special character development, social justice awareness and training, tertiary education support, and community service options,” she said.
They also provide some general social work support services.
Are these services for Catholics only, or for people from other faith traditions or no faith?
“All people at Logos are welcome,” Helen said. “We try to sow seeds of faith and hope, and to do all we can to nurture this in a real and inclusive way for all people. We seek to show that our faith is relevant and important to us, and that it gives us guidance and support in the questions and tensions of our lives.
“We are proud of our Catholic, Marist tradition and identity. We try to show by our actions that our faith is something that will truly speak into our lives.”
She said that as well as the faith formation and sacramental programmes, Logos provides for those young people who are looking for a sense of belonging, that they can come to a place where they can explore who they are, and be encouraged to reach their full potential. “And for others who have experienced poverty, violence and hopelessness in their young lives, we want them to find compassion, not condemnation. For all of us, Logos is a place where God can be acknowledged, explored and celebrated.
“In helping many young people discover God in their lives, it is first often a question of helping them see God already present. This can be hard, especially when they are struggling with difficulties in their lives. Sometimes the heart needs to be engaged before the head. The essence of the Gospel — love, compassion, forgiveness — needs to be experienced before one can begin to explore those things that constitute the doctrines and theology of our faith.”
Does the Catholic nature of your work present problems when applying to agencies that might be possible sources of funding?
“New Zealand society struggles more than ever in knowing how to deal appropriately with organsiations such as ours. This is so even though it is widely accepted that a strong spirituality helps give purpose and builds resiliency. Our Catholic faith is the basis of what we do and who we are, and is real and relevant and important to us. It is hard to get money from the agencies that could potentially be helpful, if you are perceived as offering programmes that are mostly based on your faith, even though it might be recognised that they are life changing.”
Are you an official agency of the diocese?
“No, but we are contracted by Auckland diocese to provide a range of services and programmes in Youth Ministry.
“So while we are an independent agency working in collaboration with the diocese, we are Catholic and Marist,” Helen said. “Our spirituality in the Marist tradition is based on principles of reconciliation, compassion, justice, mercy, hope, respect for all and a commitment to those who are poor and vulnerable.
“The support of the Society of Mary, both in mentoring and advising us, and the generous funding they have made available, is invaluable.”
The people on the Logos Trust Board come from a wide range of Catholic backgrounds and organisations and are helpful and affirming, she said.
“We are proud, too, to work with the Auckland Metropolitan Council of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in supporting their work with young people.”
With limited funding, it must be difficult to retain ten full time staff, who are committed to work at much less than market rates, sometimes for long hours and under less than ideal conditions?
“Perhaps it’s surprising, but we are a very committed team who work closely together,” Helen said. “Most of us are under 30, coming from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Each of us genuinely attempts to live this commitment fully in all parts of our life, not just at ‘work’,” she said. “We realise that we are role models for our young people, who can easily smell a rat if we don’t live what we proclaim, so to speak. We know that integrity and transparency in our personal lives, in our relationships and lifestyle, mean that we ourselves actually are the message. The best gift we can offer is ourselves.”
Are you worried that your funding will not be sufficient for you to continue far into the future?
“Naturally we’re very concerned and, in line with the Marist tradition, we celebrate that what we do is truly missionary. And, like all missionary work, the need is overwhelming at times. We never seem to have enough financial resource to cope with the scope of our outreach.
“Presently, we do need a considerable injection of funds to keep going. We do try to be courageous and continue to hope and pray and work hard towards ensuring that the resources we need will come. Any and all support is valued and valuable.”
More information about Logos can be found at www.logos.org.nz