IT YOUTH PH ENCOUNTERING POPE FRANCIS

by Felix la Victoria Pre-ACIT / IT Youth Minister The IT Youth Philippines was so blest to have been offered over 60-seats by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - Episcopal Commission on Youth (CBCP-ECY) for the Papal Encounter with the Youth when Pope Francis made his first Papal and Apostolic Visit to the Philippines for a week last January 15 - 19, 2015. Almost all IT Youth localities in the Philippines were well represented. The theme for the said Papal and Apostolic Visit was "Mercy and Compassion." Each delegate have different stories including anxieties to share from receiving the invitation, seeking parental consent, logistics, flight cancellations and delays, physical, financial, emotional and spiritual preparations -- but the common denominator was the eagerness and the ‘egzoitment’ of everyone to finally have the chance to see a Pope in person. A Pope labelled as the 'People's Pope'; a Pope that has been appealing to many young people after the kind of charisma of now Saint Pope John Paul II had on young people. A Pope whose constant humility, simplicity, wisdom, mercy and compassion have inspired and rippled into the hearts of today's youth. On Vocations The Teresian Association Youth Ministry and the Teresian Association Family in the Philippines in its all out support for this very special encounter has one common hope and prayer that this encounter would bring -- that IT may stir hearts and eventually lead young people to whistle on their vocation; listening and responding to God's Calling to each and everyone (be it lay or religious vocation). Spiritual Preparedness To aid the IT Youth delegates to be spiritually prepared for their Papal Encounter a short prayer vigil was held at the Chapel of St. Pedro Poveda College and with the President of the Teresian Association in the Philippines, Ms. Ria Ruiz giving 2 questions to reflect on the night before the scheduled encounter: 1. What am I here for? 2. Am I ready to receive God's message.... The Anxiety of Waiting To be able to meet Pope Francis together with thousands of other young people at the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas on the morning of January 18 was never easy even if IT Youth delegates were privileged to have official IDs. It deprived delegates , even ministers and coordinators enough sleep. The group left Poveda at 1:30 A.M. by bus and starting walking and falling in line at 2:00 AM. The group lined up to enter the university gate for a total of 7.5 hours. Everyone was finally inside the UST football field at around 7:30 A.M., just in time before the gates will be closed. The Joy of Waiting When everyone have been fully accounted to be inside the UST grounds safe and trouble-free, the youth started to unpack their packed meals and of course took out their gadgets, cameras for unlimited ‘selfies’, ‘groufies’, and photo ops to document that indeed they are waiting and will see Pope Francis. It is just that they cannot update their SNS real time as mobile network signals were jammed for the purpose of securing the Pope. The Fruit of Sacrifice All the sacrifice in waiting was worth it -- almost everyone had the chance to see Pope Francis up close and personal. It was a double blessing still that the IT Youth delegation got in late, the spot where the youth settled down was such a vantage point. Mostly all of the delegates were able to secure their respective spots  where they could visibly see Pope Francis on his Pope Mobile passed by them at a very slow speed. A Familiar Challenge and Invitation Listening to Pope Francis' unscripted, spontaneous message in Spanish translated by a very good Spanish - English translator, Fr. Mark, addressed to all young people, IT Youth delegates finds the Pope's message somehow familiar; IT was like a familiar refrain. "The world of information. Today, with so many means of communication we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? No. It is good and can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way that we accumulate information. We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. So we run the risk of becoming museums of young people who have everything but not knowing what to do with it. We don’t need young museums but we do need holy young people. You may ask me: Father, how do we become saints? This is another challenge. It is the challenge of love. What is the most important subject you have to lean at university? What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn how to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it.. But through that love let that information bear fruit. For this the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands – and to use them in harmony. What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel." - Pope Francis The IT Youth takes pride in having encountered the Holy Father under the banner of La Institucion Teresiana whose founder's words and invitation on how to conduct ourselves were re-echoed if not similarly and/or coincidentally used by no other than the Pope himself. "Whoever has God within, will think, feel, desire, speak, act, or refrain from acting, according to God's inspiration. Because your mission should be attractive, your spirit ought to be attractive. To achieve this you will have to sacrifice much and love much. If you are not self-sacrificing, you will not appear gracious. If you do not love, you will be unable to do much good." - St. Pedro Poveda (HE DWELT AMONG US; Incarnation: The Mystery of Life; 1995) Like St. Pedro Poveda, Pope Francis also talked much about love -- real love. "I'd like to ask you a question: you and your friends help others but do you allow yourselves to receive? Answer in your heart." Finally the Holy Father further talked about the poor and how to act towards the poor, "There is a challenge for the poor , to love the poor, with your bishops. Do you think of the poor? Do you feel with the poor? Do you do something for the poor? Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?" These words are parallel to Saint Pedro Poveda's words: "No one can reflect the face of Christ better than the poor... treat them with respect and protect them with love." (HE DWELT AMONG US; Incarnation: The Mystery of Life; 1995) To Bring the Message to Everyone The day after the Papal Encounter the IT Youth delegates from Visayas and Mindanao were invited by Ms. Ria Ruiz for a breakfast and post-encounter processing at La Sede de Institucion Teresiana at Bohol Ave., Quezon City. For such very rich experience, a heartfelt sharing of emotions and insights was achieved. A few of what were shared are the following: “God loves you.” - Ketch Prieto, IT Youth Cebu “...  As a youth, I didn’t experience an instant transformation through this experience but it enlightened my mind, guided my heart, and renewed my hands to do better works of mercy and compassion for the people entrusted to me…” - Josephine Manalili, IT Youth Davao Ms. Bu  Villanueva, a member of the Sector Council, posed the question, “How did the experience influence you as an IT Youth?” In sum, the youth delegates with their ministers will be going home with a resolve to "Be gentle, compassionate, understanding, loving, lenient, and kind to everyone." - St. Pedro Poveda (The Call You Have Received) The 3-day activity was adjourned with Bacolod IT Youth Coordinator and ACIT - Bacolod Chairperson Ms. Leila Magalona leading the group in singing the song "Buksan" composed by Fr. Mimo Perez and a brief community prayer. ******