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Touching the Hearts of Young People
"HOW THE LORD USES ME AS HIS INSTRUMENT IN TOUCHING THE
HEARTS OF YOUNG PEOPLE
At the end of March 2007, the Beatitudes Youth Ministry (BYM) after five days of prayer and discernment using the TLIG prayer meeting guide accepted the call to lead young people to Jesus through TLIGY meaning, the messages of True Life in God adapted for the Youth. In 1991 a group of graduates from three city high schools of slum-congested Pasay City founded the all-male BYM aimed at giving Values Formation Seminars to the 19 sections of senior hi students in each school. In 2005 I was surprised to see the group still standing strong when I returned to them two years ago.
The first TLIGY evangelization experience they organized was last Holy Week 2007. They dubbed it TABAKAYA KAMPBARYO which is inspired by youthful PASCHAL CAMPS organized in some Catholic countries.
TLIG in the Filipino language is translated as "Totoong Buhay sa Diyos" or TBSD for short. Since the GOD referred to here is Yahweh, we substituted Diyos with Yahweh so we have the Totoong Buhay Kay (as a personal pronoun) Yahweh. So if we pronounced only the letters in the Filipino way we say: TA-BA-KA-YA, a phrase which can mean "You can make yourself healthy and fattened?" It can entice the Filipino youth to ask: "How can I become healthy and fattened?" To which we can resound saying:" Come and join us and become healthy and fattened the TLIG way!"
To complete the name, we added "KAMPBARYO" which means camping in the barrio, attracting the urban youths. It also sounds like Kalbaryo which spells out the PASCHAL camping with Jesus in His last footprints on earth.
By Holy Wednesday evening we reached the Beth Miriam of Dasmarinas Cavite, the camping area here we will stay until Holy Saturday. One of our vehicles drove by Bro. Francis, the BM care-giver, experienced the same fate which the American car Vassula rode when she first came to BM Dasmarinas when it was blessed by Bishop Antonio Tagle of Imus, Cavite. An 11 pm dinner for the 32 participants after a long wait was enough penance to start with the Paschal camp.
Holy Thursday saw the youths trying to walk four of Jesus' footsteps: His Last Supper, His Washing of the Apostles' Feet, His Agony in the Garden and His Arrest. After their workshop with Fr. Jesus Richie Santos, sdb, the BYM big brothers as talk-ministers and group-shepherds guided them to meditate on the corresponding Gospel passages, to share each one's "word that strikes you and why" in their group or flock and to choose a group's tagline that captures their common Gospel experience. Touching personal discoveries and realizations were being shared. Before each Jesus' footstep ended a sharing on the relevant TLIG reading is rendered by a BYM talk-minister. Here are Taglines of the whole assembly after tackling The Last Supper was: "United in Heart"; the Washing, "Humbling oneself in Sacrifice;" the Agony, "Compassionating with the stray;" and the Arrest, "Willing to accept humiliation." The youths themselves chose them and were determined to live by them emulating Jesus' footsteps. Before the session on Jesus' Agony there was a moving foot washing by the BYM big-brothers of the group-members ending with Fr. Jesus Richie himself washing the big-brothers. By the afternoon, we all attended the Holy Thursday evening service the La Sallette Shrine nearby which ended with our Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Rosary while some of us went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During the joyful night prayers of thanksgiving at the end of the day Jose Rodriguez, 18 from Taguig, MetroManila & who studies Chemical Engineering said: "What I enjoyed learning today is that I can willingly want to sacrifice for others in a spirit of compassion instead of desiring most of the times to step on others in a spirit of competition."
During our morning Praise before the breakfast of Good Friday, the majority of youths commented that even if they went late to sleep: "I slept so soundly last night!" Our sessions today were preparation for the special Stations of the Cross which would be prayerful pilgrimage hike through a forested area, a scenic riverbank and an inhabited mango grove. We divided the 14 stations into 3 led by each of the four groups of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the 2 others led by the talk-ministers. Each group after reflecting on Jesus' footstep in it decide on whether to re-enact what happened to Jesus or make a skit based on their life-situation applying the lesson Jesus taught them in that station. They even make their own prayers regarding what Jesus is teaching them and how they can apply that in life. Icons relevant to the stations were carried. St. Francis of Assisi's powerful "Holy Name of Jesus" was inserted into their ID cards after being blessed to make them feel His Presence. Secular songs relating to the life situations in each Station were sung while walking in between the Stations. There were kneeling portions in each Station when they put their left hand in the "JHS" Card and prayed heart to heart - with eyes closed - to Jesus. From 10:30 am - 2:00 pm, they felt no boredom, hunger or annoyance except being with Jesus in His passion, crucifixion and dying. Joy Elaine Melmon, 19, Bro. Francis' daughter who's taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management wrote later on after this experience: "It made me see and feel that God is always present for me... Jesus always forgives me no matter how heavy or big the sins I committed are. He is always open to forgive me." We missed the 3 pm Good Friday service at the La Sallette Shrine because of the late lunch and the physical strain they felt. But the whole afternoon was a sharing of the overflowing joy they had upon personally experiencing Jesus ' tremendous love for each of us during the Stations of the Cross. They sung, cried, laughed, embraced and prayed from their heart.
On Holy Saturday after Morning Praise and Breakfast, we all had a session on just one question: "What did Jesus Teach me which I am willing to make my own and live by?" They each answered orally to everybody and they attentively listened and noisily clapped. One Protestant youth, Jon Jon Leonardo, 17, shared: "For the first time in my life I have enjoyed reading the Bible passages on the Love of Jesus who died on the Cross for us all. Now I will read often the Gospels." The whole group had a surprise when an hour later they found themselves fellowshipping while swimming in a river resort in Indang Cavite where the spring of water was so flowing freely. They were full of disciplined shouts and laughter as they threw water to each other and had ballgames in the shallow portions. Only the brave dove and dared the deep. That was the Resurrection portion of the TABAKAYA KAMPBARYO. A heart-warming afternoon session of writing in each one's notebook - after all the times and moments we had together - regarding "What is I believe Jesus' encouraging word for you this Easter so you may have a happier, a fuller life?" With either a teary eye or a dreamy look they took to heart this farewell session. A souvenir holy picture was given to each before boarding the track that would bring us all home. Promising each other to bring our family to the traditional Easter Midnight Mass hugs and handshakes and last photos were done emotionally. Reflecting on the whole experience, Azenith Arines, 17, a fresh high school graduate from Paranaque learned: "Life is so precious. We can always change for the better and give hope to each other’s lives. Now I know that my life has meaning when I get closer to God and to my fellowman."
Would you imagine that 90% of the BYM big-brothers come from squatter families and due to their God-given talents and their desire to evangelize their peers they were able to organize this Paschal Camp on their own with little spiritual direction from yours truly. Aged between 16-20 they are taking up college courses under the scholarship program of BYM relying only on Divine Providence. Their group has teamed up Beth Myriam where they brought their parents last 22 April to learn of the TLIG messages presented by Bro Francis Melmon and his wife Beth. I consider this a miracle.
Fr. Jesus Richie R. Santos,sdb
A Testimony from TLIG Youth at the 2007 True Life in God Pilgrimage
After we've spent ten days with people we have never met - and at the same time felt like we have known them for ages, as if from long before the pilgrimage - how could we now separate? After being able to share with everyone our deepest thirst for God, how could we return home where so few can understand us? After praising God and singing day and night, how could we return back home where we are absorbed by our daily duties? After we have ALL been ONE under the name of God yet among those who before the pilgrimage were strangers, how could we return home and be alone now among our own?
Those were ten refreshing days I will never forget. The bonds between the members of the TLIG family are tightened. The youth group was amazing! The songs were inspiring! The praising was powerful! The faces were happy, joyful and luminous! Every mass, every prayer, every song commended a deep spiritual experience! The presence of God was noticeable! A foretaste of the Kingdom To Come!
Now we are back. The pilgrimage has ended but the effect it produced in our hearts and our spirit remains. We received a fire in our hearts, and we are to show this fire of love to the world! It is up to us to keep this fire burning, by being open to the Holy Spirit, through prayers and action!
Thanasis Ioannidis, TLIG Youth