Sunday, November 28, 2004
working with the youth
I was about my second year as Rector of the Cathedral in Borongan when I got a copy of the Apostolic Letter (Dilecti Amici) of the Pope John Paul II issued on the occasion of the International Youth Year in 1985. Yet so young—and restless then! Or however would you describe a 27-year old parish priest?—I did not know much where to put my feet on the dance floor of a fledgling pastoral ministry. That papal document has somehow given a blueprint to an otherwise careless idealism. In March of the following year the Holy Father launched the first World Youth Day celebration in Rome. In his message he exhorted the youth of the world not to be afraid of their youthfulness and the treasures that came with it.
As if by immediate consequence to the Pope’s exhortation, I saw the flowering of a vibrant youth apostolate in the parish. A youth group was organized. The members called themselves Youth Movement for Christ’s Service or YMCS. Two youth camps were held the next two summers. Their activities were neither dramatic nor phenomenal. But then in the faces of these youth people that I had to work with, I saw the point where the Pontiff was very determined to get through: if there is going to be any renewal in society it has to be initiated with the youth.
On TV I watched the closing mass of the Pope with the Youth Pilgrims in Ontario, Canada until early morning last Sunday (so much fulfilling than the previous weekend when I did a vigil on the depressing defeat of Django Bustamante over Earl Strickland at the World Pool Championships in Cardiff, Wales). In his homily, which was delivered plainly and with difficulty, unlike the thunderous orator that he was during his first visit to the Philippines in 1981, he was calling the youth of the world “to change and improve the ‘taste’ of human history”. “With your faith,” he said, “hope and love, with your intelligence, courage and perseverance, you have to humanize the world we live in, in the way that today's Reading from Isaiah indicates: "loose the bonds of injustice ... share your bread with the hungry ... remove the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil.... Then your light shall rise in the darkness" (Is 58,6-10).
I have not heard so much conviction as in John Paul II’s, especially when he backs up his perspectives with years of pain and suffering. Our national crisis pales in comparison with what he underwent in the then communist Poland. He testifies that “Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young.”
I am sure every parish in the three dioceses of Samar has their own parish youth ministries. Also, the sprouting faith communities: Couples for Christ, Catholic Charismatic Renewal Communities and the Neo-catechumenate, to mention a few. Even before the Second Vatican Council, we already saw the seeds of youth apostolate sown by the Catholic Action of the Philippines (CAP), which penetrated most of the parishes in Samar. These days, however, we do not hear so much youth action in our towns.
During martial law, we had this Kabataang Barangay (KB), but we all know what it was for. Now we have Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), but it only figures during election. Beyond the confines of politics, perhaps our Mayors and other civil leaders can draw up long-term programs for the youth. There are so much “resources” in our young people. All we need is a little of our imagination. But that’s too simplistic.
(Samar Times, August 2002)