Salesians and Youth
Makati City, the Philippines, 25 February 2019 -- On this memorial of the two Salesian Martyrs, St. Luigi Versigla and St. Callistus Caravario, the Salesians of Don Bosco of the FIN Province and around 2,700 young people from the different Salesian settings gathered together in Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati City for a whole day of activities as the FIN Province celebrates SYNODO in this Year of the Youth in the Philippines.
“SYNODO” is a Greek word which literally means ‘being together’ or an ‘assembly’. And looking at it in a more Salesian way, the letter ‘S’ stands for ‘Salesian’ while the letter ‘Y’ stands for ‘Youth’. And together with the word ‘Nodo’ which means ‘together’ as in a knot, SYNODO takes another meaning – Salesian and Youth Together (in a Journey) or simply put: Salesians & Youth Walking Together.
SYNODO is what the Salesians of Don Bosco and the rest of the Salesian Family wish to renew and deepen together the young people: their fidelity to the Salesian vocation they have received from God, that is, to be witnesses of His Good News to the young people with the heart of the Good Shepherd. They journey with the youth in knowing, loving, and serving God. And just like St. John Bosco, they walk with the youth in realizing that they are beloved, gifted, and empowered by God Himself.
The day opened with the Morning Praises at 8:30am. Reverend Deacon Jerome Quinto, SDB led the assembly in praying the Lauds.
After the morning praises, TED TALKS (Technology, Entertainment, Design Talks) on Youth immediately followed. There were four guest speakers from various youth movements in the country who were given only 15 minutes to address the assembly that are predominantly young: Mr. Jan Carlo Silan of the FEAST Movement, Mr. Juan Carlo Javier and Ms. Sabrina Gasconia of the LIVE PURE Movement, Mr. Brian Paolo Castillo of CORE PH, and Ms. April Lyn Ibardaloza of ASIN AT ILAW.
They all talked about their respective movements with one common aim, that is, to let the young people realize who they are and inspire them to make the most of their gifts and potentials in more meaningful ways and means. They all shared their life story especially about their struggles when they were young and how they allow themselves to be inspired by individuals and by movements that made them discover how rich and beautiful life can be if only it is spent in God’s love. They let the young people realize that have the power to make right choices that are deeply rooted in Christian values. It doesn’t matter if one may have a dark past. What matters is the choice and the determination to make a bright present towards a more promising future. They challenge their young audience to be youth ministers in the Church and in society by joining Church and Civic youth movements and volunteer groups and make the most of their energies and talents in praiseworthy and noble endeavors and tasks.
During the morning break, the general assembly was divided into two: The Youth Conference (YC) and The Salesian Youth Movement Festival (SYM Festival). Those who belong to the YC are the Salesians of Don Bosco, Salesian Educators, and some Salesian Youth Leaders. While the rest of the 2,500 young people are in the SYM Festival.
The YC proceeded to the different classrooms assigned to them for the Focused Group Discussion (FGD) while those for the SYM Festival remained in the Magone Dome for more interactive and formative experiences.
In the FGD, facilitators asked every participant to reflect and write about the beautiful experiences they received from Salesians, Youth Ministers, and from the Salesian Youth Ministry to whom they are thankful. At the same time, they were also asked to see what more they wish to ask or hope for from the Salesians, Youth Ministers, and the Salesian Youth Ministry as a way to move forward. Group sharing followed where every participant was given the chance to share what he/she wrote.
While this was going on in the different 50 FGD Clusters, the young people gathered for the SYM Festival were at the Magone Dome. Fr. Toto Cerada, SDB spoke to them about how they are Beloved even amidst all the trials and difficulties of life.
After Fr. Toto’s talk on Being Beloved, some young people from the different Don Bosco schools shared their talents in music to celebrate their Being Gifted.
After lunch, the YC participants proceeded to the Braga Theater for the Panel Presentation of the Youth Situation by Social Scientists. There were four invited experts for this afternoon’s input: Dr. Chester Cabalza, an Anthropologist, Dr. Manuel Victor Sapitula, a Sociologist, Dr. Madelene Sta. Maria, a Psychologist in Human Development, and Dr. Lualhati Cruz, a Clinical Psychologist. Fr. Renato De Guzman, SDB facilitated this afternoon’s forum.
They were given each only 12 minutes to address the YC participants and present a synthesis about the Youth of Today from their own respective lines of expertise. Their common points in defining the youth of today were the following: self-centeredness, unconventional thinkers, more driven and ambitious, more materialistic, and quite detached from the community. They also agreed that the youth of today seek belongingness even if they are more often perceived as individualistic and impersonal. They look for spiritual experiences even if they seem to be less religious. They still see the value of social relationships, fulfilling roles and functions, and appreciate discipline. But they value these things more with peers rather than with families and community.
While this was going on at the Braga Theater, the SYM Festival participants were in their respective workshop groups (sports, cultural, arts, media, etc) to celebrate their Being Gifted.
At 4:00pm, the Blessed Sacrament Adoration began simultaneously in both groups. The youth leaders who were at the YC left the Braga Theater and joined the rest of their fellow youth at the Savio Dome for the Eucharistic Adoration. The adoration at the Savio Dome focused on the theme: I am the Vine, you are the branches; while the one at the Braga Theater focused on the theme: I am the Good Shepherd.
For the Salesians of Don Bosco gathered at the Braga Theater, the Letter of Don Bosco from Rome was read. Reflecting on the message of Don Bosco to his Salesians then, they were all invited to write their personal commitment to the Lord to be his apostles to the young.
For the young people at the Savio Dome, Mr. Jude Liao, a youth Servant-Leader of the Diocese of Cubao, gave an inspirational talk on Being Empowered. After listening to his talk and after some moments of silent adoration, the young people symbolically renewed their relationship with the Lord Jesus by tying their respective wristbands to the ‘vines’ around the Blessed Sacrament. It is from the Lord, the real vine, that each of them gets empowered.
After a short afternoon break at 5:30pm, everybody gathered again at the Magone Dome for the 6:00pm Mass with Bishop Leopoldo C. Jaucina, DD, Bishop of Abra, and the present Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Youth, as the Presider.
The highlight of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the receiving of the Good Shepherd Cross of every Salesian of Don Bosco from the hands of young people whom they commit to serve with the heart of the Good Shepherd. This was done right after the homily.
Six Salesians, headed by Fr. Ditto Gueco, SDB, the acting FIN Provincial Superior, went up the stage together with the young people who would give them the Good Shepherd Cross. The six Salesians read in public their personal commitments one by one. After reading, the youth put around their necks the Good Shepherd Cross. After this ceremony, the rest of the Salesians did the same thing simultaneously in their respective places while the youth beside them give them their respective Good Shepherd Cross.
Before the end of the Holy Mass, everybody enjoyed watching two video presentations that highlighted the whole day’s activities.
Looking forward to the next SYNODO in May 2019, everybody ended the day with so much enthusiasm and optimism in Being Beloved, Being Gifted, and Being Empowered by the good and gracious Lord Jesus.