This year, on the 40th anniversary of our Diocese, many felt this was the appropriate time. The different Asian Pacific ethnic communities, bound together by a strong camaraderie, respect, and appreciation of each other, supported the goal of this event. After all, the Asian Pacific youth have their distinct challenges in learning and living their faith. There was also a recognition that our youth are exposed to very real troubling times that made them susceptible to bullying, thoughts of suicide and depression, and other social challenges.
As a result of planning meetings and prayers for this event, “Filling Lives with Hope” emerged as the theme.
On October 20, more than 100 youth ages 13-18 years old made their way to the Diocesan Pastoral Center to spend the day and get energized in their faith. After checking in, all the youth participants were greeted with upbeat worship songs led by the diocesan music minister Chris Estrella.
To set the tone, a special Opening Prayer was presented through a silent interpretation of real life challenges as five young people carried parts of a large wooden cross to the front of the room. The room was hushed as everyone was transfixed on the short vignettes. As the cross was finally assembled into a whole, it featured the face of Christ at the center. Everyone was asked to put their special intentions on a piece of “post it” paper and affix it to the cross. Throughout the day, everyone was reminded of their intentions and that they needed to pray for that intention.
The two discussion topics were carefully selected by the Asian Pacific Ministry Advisory Board headed by Sister Maria Jennifer Nguyen, L.H.C.. The first talk was entitlede “Got Hope?” by Sister Christen Thanh Nguyen. It was a powerful presentation based on personal sharing by Sr. Christen of her struggles when she was young and new to this country. It was her hope that her experiences as a Catholic Asian woman would touch her listeners. The second presentation was by Carrell Jaramillo on “Planting the Seed of Hope.” Her message was loud and clear that sometimes we don’t realize that all our bad or sad experiences in life have a purpose, and that Christ is in control of our lives. We must trust Him.
A Taize prayer session led by Sister Theresa Tran started the afternoon. This helped the participants focus on the messages given earlier in the day, and of course, to prepare them for a very special part of the day.
It was Bishop Barnes’ invitation to have time with the youth that day. So at 2:30 p.m. he gamely answered a wide range of questions: from what is his favorite food to his thoughts about LGBTQ. He grouped all the questions that were filled out and submitted ahead of time. That one hour he spent with the youth gave them a good idea of his challenges, his successes, and his inspiring words.
To cap the day, a special Mass was celebrated by Bishop Barnes. It encapsulated the intentions and hopes of the Asian Pacific youth, in their own words and native languages. It was a day filled with hope through Christ.
Cynthia Ronquillo-Francisco is the Chairperson of the Diocesan Filipino Ministry.