The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines dedicates the year 2019 as Year of the Youth as part of its pastoral preparations for the year 2021 which marks the Fifth Centenary of the Arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. It is a renewed opportunity for all Catholics to notice the young, the future of the Church, and encourage them to be protagonists in the different aspects of the life of the Church and of our country.
The 500 years of the Church in the Philippines seem to be very old. The Church may have trod through the years but remains young, it is “ever ancient yet ever new”.
The Church in the Philippines is way younger than that of other countries, especially of the West. Survey shows that we have a young population in the Philippines (median age is around 24 years old), thus, even in the Church the young people are the majority. Unfortunately, the young are marginalized in the Church and most of the times neglected.
This October 2018, we have witnessed how the Church reached out more to the young through the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. From the Pontificate of Saint John Paul the Great which continues today, the young people have already been given a special place in the Church, a testimony to this are the World Youth Days in the local or international levels.
I am a witness to the fact that young as we are, we are already called for a mission. I am proud to say that what I am today is a result of the youth ministries to which I once belonged: our Diocesan Youth Commission of Laoag and the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines.
Every young people has a need to be loved and be noticed by our ecclesial communities, because it is in these venues that we can discern well the God-given talents the we already possess. Thus, having the support of the community and a clear sense of one's mission and gifts, we are empowered to accomplish the calling of God.
I am very sure that the members of Tanghalang Anluwage Inc, maker of anluwage.com, 27 years ago understood the meaning of “Young people in mission: beloved, gifted, empowered”, as they themselves experienced being loved and empowered by their parish in Gagalangin, Tondo. That seed which started in 1991 in a group of young people continues today through evangelization online.
Let us remember that the first day of the Misas de Gallo (the traditional Filipino novena for Christmas) or the Simbang Gabi is actually a day dedicated to young people. The 16th of December is National Youth Day in the Philippines. Let us be inspired by our Blessed Mother Mary, the young Virgin of Nazareth, who accepted without fear but with faith and hope the call of God to be the Mother of His Beloved Son. When the time comes that we hear God’s call, let us not harden our hearts so that we may also conceive Christ in us and share Him to the world through our good works. This Christmas, as we receive the Infant Jesus in our hearts, let us also welcome every young people in our families, in our workplaces, and in our ecclesial communities, as hope of the Church and our nation.
fra MARK VERTIDO PALAFOX, ofm
Convento San Giovanni in Montana
Ein Karem, Jerusalem
(Fra Mark is a Franciscan friar who lives in the Holy Land. A teacher by profession, he was active in the youth ministry in the Philippines and continues to do so in other ways. He currently serves at the Sanctuary of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. He is also one of our writers in God-speak.)