NYD 2017: Counting Our Blessings and Looking Beyond
To the Peripheries and Beyond.
The euphoria of the recent National Youth Day in Zamboanga City will soon fade away. The pilgrims have returned to their own respective dioceses with beautiful memories and learnings. The Zamboangueño volunteers and host families will surely miss the 2,500 pilgrims who become their friends. The afterglow will fade away, but the five-day gathering has left a deep mark in everybody’s heart: friendships, blessings, and a calling. All of us were challenged to follow Mary’s footsteps: TO RUN IN HASTE AND MEET OUR ELIZABETH … to go to the peripheries and beyond!
SIMPLY AWESOME. Truly, the NYD 2017 is a hallmark of God’s greatness, goodness, and generosity. We felt God’s concrete unfailing love, protection and, accompaniment in our midst. When I saw the multitudes of pilgrims literally dancing and singing on the streets, I felt their energy, spontaneity and youthfulness. At that point, I knew that the five-day gathering will be a spirit-fun-energy-filled affair! Coming from different parts of the country, nobody felt alone, marginalized, or a stranger. The bonding and friendship were so spontaneous! It was like a reunion of old friends in the Lord! Like the shepherds in Bethlehem (Luke 2:15), they came to Zamboanga for one goal: to worship God and affirm their commitment to the Savior. They came TO LISTEN, LEARN AND BE TRANSFORMED. Like Mary, the pilgrims knew their heart’s greatest desire – to know, love, and serve God (Luke 2:19).
YOUTH POWER. The whole City of Zamboanga felt the intensity of the national celebration. The pilgrims’ singing, dancing, listening, and sharing were so natural, honest, and consoling. Their energy was simply infectious, overflowing, and overwhelming. Looking at them at a distance in awe, I immediately understand why Pope Francis is insisting on the urgency of YOUTH FORMATION. The youth are indeed the MISSING LINK in the Church’s evangelization efforts. They are the LIFE OF THE CHURCH, but they need to be guided and formed to embrace their forgotten role as evangelizers of the modern world.
A WAKE UP CALL. It is indeed high time for those in youth ministry to take the challenge of closing the gaps between the Church, the youth and the mission. The youth should be more engaged in the Church’s evangelization efforts. We need to challenge millennials to leave their comfort zones and to inspire them to GO TO THE PERIPHERIES of our society. Let them feel the urgency of the issues and challenges of our society, and use their energy and youthfulness to create a positive environment.
THE FORMATION. The NYD 2017 was designed to immerse our youth in the different issues and challenges of society. Diverse topics ranging from the environment, inter-religious dialogue, evangelization, millennials, Taizé, prayer, human-trafficking, history appreciation, film and advocacy, BECs for millennials, leadership in politics, AIDS-HIV, chastity, sports for peace, volunteerism, and others were discussed and reflected upon.
Some pilgrims, in a break-away session called the NYD RUN, immersed themselves in different activities such as mangrove planting, bird watching, visiting housing projects for the poor, conversations with the Carmelites nuns, river trekking, dialogue with the City Mayor Beng Climaco, an interaction with Councilor Myra Abubakar, laughter yoga, social jam, acoustics on love, value of education, and many others. With more than 50 break-away activities happening simultaneously in the afternoons, the pilgrims’ capacity to see inwardly, pray, reflect, judge, and act were put to practice.
AGENTS OF CHANGE. Yes, the youth is the UNDERUSED FORCE IN THE CHURCH. Some of the youth are already engaged in the church ministry, but we need more of them! We need more of them to dirty their feet and hands in the peripheries. They have the energy, talent, and youthfulness to create ripples of changes in their parishes! They are the ignored AGENTS OF CHANGE. Pope Francis wants the Church to fully immerse in the peripheries, but he needs more people with big hearts to go there. He needs the big YES of the youth – ever ready to venture into the unknown.
THE CHALLENGE. I am a believer that the laborers are not few. They are simply untouched and uninvited. Pope Francis has recognized the crucial role of the youth in the Church’s evangelization efforts. But do we feel the urgency of evangelizing the youth? Where do we put our time, energy, and resources in our evangelization efforts? The youth are simply unguided or misguided. They need clear directions and dreams; they need to hear it from us.
THE YOUTH NEEDS US. As Archbishop Quevedo would say, “The youth is not only the future Church, but they should be part of present Church as well.” There are thousands of youth waiting to be tapped. It is not true that the youth are WALANG PAKIALAM SA MUNDO. Like anyone of us, they have a passion for life, justice, and truth. They dream of happiness, unity, and progress for humanity. Sad to say, many of them are misguided. Only few adults are willing to guide them.
Young people are deeply personal, they need a personal touch from someone to transform their hearts. They need our quality time, accompaniment, and example to ignite their fire for the mission. They need to be loved and cared for. Thus, it is our duty to fully activate the YOUTH MINISTRY in our parishes. The church is aging too fast. We need young leaders to lead our church, city, and country. We need the youth’s fresh blood, oozing energy, and alternative perspective to face the different challenges of our society.
CLOSING THE GAP. Are we willing to accompany and form our youth today? Are we willing to set aside our old learnings and immerse ourselves in the culture of the millennials, of werpa, lodi, and petmalu? Let’s enter through their doors and bring them out of our windows. We can close any existing gaps between the youth, the church and mission, if only we can learn to understand, dialogue, and walk with the millennials. We need to remind ourselves that the quality of our youth formation today will determine what kind of Church we shall have in the future.
THE FORCE. The youth is a force to be reckoned with. So never get tired of guiding them in discovering their goodness, giftedness, and mission. It’s a fact that the youth are blessed with energy, youthfulness, creativity, and spontaneity. But the adults of the Church, the present leaders, and ordained ministers, are blessed with experience and wisdom.
The Archdiocese of Zamboanga City, the local government units, and the NYD 2017 organizers are deeply grateful to the CBCP-Episcpal Youth Commission for allowing the NYD 2017 to be held in Zamboanga City. We have witnessed countless miracles during the course of hosting NYD 2017. We have proven to the nation that Zamboanga is a safe place to stay. We are so blessed that even the weather cooperated with us. No heavy downpour happened during the NYD days, but lots of tears fell from our eyes, both from pilgrims and volunteers, for we have felt God’s love in each one of us. Truly, everybody could say, “The Almighty One has done great things for us, Holy is His name.”
Like the shepherds who returned home glorifying God, the NYD pilgrims have returned home glorifying God. Hopefully, not only through their words BUT THROUGH THEIR LIFE-GIVING ACTIONS.
Calling all youth! Let’s go to the peripheries and beyond!