IN preparation for the celebration of the 500th Year of Christianity in the Philippines, the CBCP has declared 2019 as the Year of the Youth. The occasion was officially opened last Sunday (Dec. 2), the first Sunday of Advent, and will close on Nov. 24, 2019, the feast of Christ the King. The year-long celebration will reflect on the theme “Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered”. Activities both in the national and diocesan levels are aimed on at least four objectives: youth in formation, youth in community, Church and society, youth in mission, and youth ministry and youth ministers.
In solidarity to this year-long celebration, allow me to share with you all some excerpts from the official pastoral letter of the CBCP through His Excellency, Most Rev. Romulo G. Valles, DD (CBCP President) addressed to the Youth of the Philippines:
We, your shepherds, thank you from our hearts for coming together to chart the course of our celebration of your year, the Year of the Youth … We delight in your recognition of your being vital members of the Body of Christ, the Church. As a response to your letter, the Philippine Catholic Church embraces you and your being life-given and life-giving, and with you, we affirm that:
YOU ARE BELOVED: Just like John the beloved disciple, who in his youth was called by the Lord to follow Him, the Church loves you with special affection, and we share with you the same call from the Lord. You are loved by the Father [cf. Dt 1:31; Is 40:11; 41:10; 46:4] as Jesus declared to His disciples, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you” [Jn 15:9], and He then invites you to remain in His love by following His commandments [cf. Jn 14:15]. Only then will you experience the joy that is complete [cf. Jn 15:9-11]. The Church in the Philippines seeks to show you the same love [cf. PCP II, 385; KA-LAKBAY, pp. 35-41], especially through her youth ministry, whose aspiration is to raise you up and carry you lovingly through life, with all its trials and tribulations.
YOU ARE GIFTED: The Sacrament of Baptism you received initiated you into the life of God and with God. Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, you were gifted with the Holy Spirit who inflames you with faith, passion, and courage. Like the young lay missionary catechist St. Pedro Calungsod and Richie Fernando, the young Jesuit who died shielding his students from a grenade explosion, your fresh and energetic youthfulness is also a gift, enabling you to commit yourselves in service of others, as well as renewing the Church and the world. To the countless youth volunteers and missionaries who share their gifts in the building up of God’s Reign—upholding and defending life and human dignity, the environment, justice, freedom and peace, among others—your families, the Church and our society recognize you, and need more of your willingness and dedication. You clearly remind us that a life embraced and shared wholeheartedly contributes to the ongoing work of creation and glorifies God.
YOU ARE EMPOWERED: In the face of so many problems and difficulties today affecting our Christian life, families, social relationships and communities, as well as various personal and socio-cultural concerns you raised in your letter (mental health, substance abuse, HIV-AIDS, access to education, environmental problems, human trafficking, politics, dialogue with cultures, digital community, etc.), you are able to exhibit the humility to seek the support that will lead you to discover your strengths and capabilities to live meaningful lives. Like Mary, you are humble enough to proclaim “How can this be…?” [Lk 1:34] and still give your assent in faith. This pleases not only the Lord but also your elders, because you are making us an important part of your development into mature individuals, fully aware of being persons called by God, capable of discerning decisions that positively impact your lives and those of others. We all long for a better world and society, for a renewed Church, and we see you as protagonists of this change, as the dynamic force of the Church now, when you reach out to the peripheries to bring Jesus and His message of salvation to the lost, the least and the last, including other young people like you who yearn to be loved, gifted and empowered.
YOU ARE IN MISSION. We look at you, our young people, so full of dynamism, as disciples sent on a mission to make disciples for Jesus. We pray that your discernment, choices and actions will lead you to a purposeful life—whether in the ordained ministry, consecrated life, marriage and family, or the single state—with the Spirit of the Risen Christ directing your steps in making and leaving a marked difference in the world and society [cf. Mt 28:19-20].
As we look forward to 2021, we envision that the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines will be a time to celebrate a bountiful harvest from your ranks—youth committed to families, to the Church and to the country with a renewed passion to proclaim the Word, ready to work with their communities and the Church, and willing to share in molding a just and peaceful world through missionary involvement. As the Holy Father Pope Francis challenged you, we also say: “So make a mess! But also help in cleaning it up… a mess that brings a free heart, a mess that brings solidarity, a mess that brings us hope, a mess that comes from knowing Jesus and knowing that God, once I know Him, is my strength” (from the WYD2013). Awaken the shepherds in us, your elders, and rekindle the fire of faith, hope and love in everyone in the Church so that together, we can journey and minister with you, as you serve the Church and your fellow youth.
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