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#RevUP: Walking the Gospel Roads

Encountering and serving the less fortunate at various worksites with youth from British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec in Toronto, Ontario from July 20-27, 2013 (Photo: Various, compiled by Jasmin Bermejo)

The Salesian Gospel Roads in Toronto was an encounter with God’s beloved sheep, the outcast.

When the Young Caglieros Outreach Movement invited high school-aged youth to the upcoming Salesian Gospel Roads mission trip, I was skeptical. Initially, I assumed that flying to Toronto with friends, or acquaintances, to an unfamiliar city was going to be an uncomfortable experience. It took me a while to let go of my discomfort. But finally, I was able to change my perception in going to this trip. I became encouraged to see things differently and realized that this experience was about more than who I went with and where I went, but about who I was doing it for. Once I got on the plane to Toronto, I looked forward with nervous excitement to this unexpected experience.

One week, seven worksites, thirty-two people, and one city; this was the outlet where God began his work. According to Father Jim Zettel, “we are all called to be saints.” I was inspired by this statement to treasure the people and opportunities that each day brought. Every day brought a unique moment where I encountered people who continued to find joy and love in their lives. Seeing the crucified and risen Christ in them, they came to hold a special place in my heart.

My perspective continued to change as I met materialistically, spiritually, and socially outcast people. In performing corporal works of mercy, I served meals and made beds at the Good Shepherd Centre. I packaged food and household items to developing countries at Canadian Food for Children, and I gave lunches to the homeless in downtown Toronto. Additionally, I performed spiritual works of mercy by visiting the elderly and also I silently advocated pro-life in front of an abortion clinic with Aid to Women. I learned about the political influence of the Campaign Life Coalition, and I made friends with young adults with various developmental and/or physical challenges at the Sara Elizabeth Centre.

These moments led to times of incredible testimonies that struck me deeply. Visiting The Good Shepherd Centre, I was introduced to a person who served the poor who had a constant faith in God’s providence. Father Ed, a priest who served there for many years, shared the love he continued to have for those in seemingly hopeless situations. He loved and longed for their return like the good shepherd, trusting fully and giving unconditionally.

On a night of reflection and prayer, My Gift to the Christ child, became an affirmation of the reason why God called me to this mission trip:

Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work.
     I give you my feet to go your way,
     I give you my eyes to see as you see,
     I give you my ears to hear as you hear,
     I give you my tongue to speak as you speak,
     I give my heart that you may love in me your Father and all mankind,
     I give you my spirit that it may be you who prays in me,
     I give you my whole self, Lord, Jesus, that it may be
     You who grows, works, loves, and prays in me. Amen.”

His call was simple: to love. To love everyone and anyone with an unconditional, faithful, and joyful heart. I was called to believe that I cannot stop loving his sheep because they deserve to be loved everyday. The end of the mission trip brought forth a new beginning of saying “yes” to walking the Gospel Road. For me, being an instrument to bring God’s lost sheep back to him became my unique declaration of the gospel. Ultimately, it is in pursuing this declaration of love and call to be saints that changing the world truly begins.

And with that, may God be forever praised!

Jasmin Bermejo, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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Pacific East: When I Grow Up…

Fred Balce (fourth from left) hosts Father Nick Meisl, Tito Dodie and Tita Rellie Dimacali, and Sisters Mary Bethany and Mary Jacinta during a talk show segment at Saint Bernadette’s Parish in Surrey, BC on March 8, 2014. (Photo: Nat Abad)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A lot of people often asked me this question during my younger years. Sometimes I said that I wanted to become a doctor and other days I wanted to become an actor. At some point I even considered becoming a marine biologist until I realized that I was deathly afraid of sharks.

As I grew older, the answer to this question kept on changing until it came to a point where it just remained unanswered. From one simple question, deeper questions started to arise:

What program should I take in university?”

“What profession should I pursue?”

“What is God’s plan for me?”

“What is my purpose in life?”

“What is my vocation?”

I graduated from high school ready to take on the next step in pursuing my calling when I realized that I didn’t even know where to begin. In each day since I graduated, I have felt—even if it’s just for a fleeting moment—completely lost and confused.

My heart’s shiftiness was neck-breaking. I’d watch the Winter Olympics and think I needed to be a figure skater. I haven’t skated in 3 years. I’d set up a surprise party for friend and think I needed to be an event planner. I dislike logistics. I’d read a book about the Marianas trench and think I needed to be a diver. Like I said, I’m deathly afraid of sharks.

With a lack of motivation and no direction to go, I tried to distract myself. I figured that if I’m meant to be something, someone—that if that Lord truly has plans for me—then I’ll get there at some point. Eventually.

Three years later, a seemingly simple question brought me back to this very same dilemma. Fittingly enough, it was asked during the first session of Pacific East Cluster’s Vocation Recollection:

What are your 3 simple joys?”

The sound of the question resonated back with a quiet indifference at my superficially deep reflection. This question was important. And how I answered it was equally important.

Except, the answer just wouldn’t come, I don’t know what my simple joys are. I’m an openly joyful person but I couldn’t even define what brings me joy. I don’t know much about myself to be honest. I don’t know what I’m meant for. I don’t know what the Lord is calling me to be. I’m back to where I started 3 years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure I never even left. Buried underneath layers of distraction and insecurity, my soul was still desperately trying to find truth and answers to the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

For the rest of the event, I may have seemed calm on the outside but inwardly, I was in the midst of a quarter-life crisis! I was in the core of a very big wake-up call. I realized that the reason why I have not made any progress in pursuing my vocation is because I have been too idle, too indecisive, too fearing. For the longest time, I’d start saying the words, “When I grow up,” out loud, and left it like that, relying on the Lord to finish the rest of the sentence. Trusting the Lord is not a bad thing, but assuming that He will drop an answer on my lap as lay in bed all day doing and accomplishing nothing is the wrong attitude in pursuing my vocation. I’ve mistakenly thought that I could find an answer by passively waiting instead of actively seeking.

I knew that God has a special purpose for me. He wrote my name in the very palm of His hands! He has a beautiful, unique, and specific plan for me from the very beginning. I still don’t know what my vocation is, but I do know that faith and action go hand in hand. I’ve been living in the state of passivity of the longest time and this must change. My vocation will remain unknown until I actively and purposely seek it. The Lord has already provided the wind and set the sails; when to start the journey in achieving His plan is up to me. No more “When I grow up…”. I am grown up, and the time to fulfill God’s call is now.

Lorryzel Badajos, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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Pacific Tri-Cities: Holding Hands, Eyes Closed, and Hearts Open

New members of CFC-Youth pose with the Camp Fidelis service team at the end of camp at the Stave Lake Lodge in Mission, BC on March 16, 2014. (Photo: Nat Abad)

From Camp Oasis last year to Camp Fidelis this past weekend, CFC-Youth Tri-Cities just has a knack for touching my heart. I’ve only been in CFC-Youth Tri-Cities for one year yet I can’t imagine my life without them!

Entering into the “pre-camp” phase with the service team was truly an accurate foreshadowing of the moving events that happened during our fun, faith-filled weekend. Not a single member was lacking enthusiasm in their service. From the Household Leaders Training, service team meetings to camp empowerment, I met such a passionate, inspiring group of people.

After months of preparation, we all arrived at Stave Lake Lodge for the first day of camp. The participants filed in, the music was flowing, and I smiled a little as I thought about how the new members thought they were being taught when, in truth, they were teaching me even more.

As a CFC-Youth member serving for camp for the first time, it was quite intimidating to be serving with my fellow brothers and sisters who are experienced and spiritually mature. But the entire camp went so smoothly that by the time Sunday morning came around I could only smile through the tears and praise God for the blessing of such a rewarding, love-filled experience with my old and new brothers and sisters in Christ.

With all the amazing talks, shares, songs, and people, Camp Fidelis truly surpassed my expectations.

In addition to the diligent, inspiring service team, I couldn’t have been happier with the group of brothers and sisters that I had the honor to help in evangelizing. At first, I was a bit intimidated because many of the new members were pretty shy but seeing how fervently everyone had worked to make this camp a success really inspired all the facilitators to step up to the challenge. THREE DAYS. It was an amazing feeling and privilege to watch as my new brothers and sisters opened themselves to Christ and blossomed in such a short span of time. To think that we had a hand in helping them come closer to God is mind blowing. My life was changed by the Camp Oasis service team when I joined as a member less than a year ago, and I feel so blessed to be part of the Camp Fidelis service team where I can help my brothers and sisters grow in Christ. Wow.

God truly does grant miracles. I witnessed several, as my quietest household member opened up and laughed for the first time during Anna Kendrick’s “Cup Song” performed by the sisters at the talent show. I also saw God’s miraculous work as my brothers and sisters from the service team bared their souls for everyone to see in the heart-wrenching, soul-uplifting, tear-jerking empowerment session. And, especially in the last worship, the participants stepped away from their reservations and truly opened themselves up to Jesus: holding hands, eyes closed, and hearts open. No one was unaffected.

So… Camp Fidelis, wuaw! Pwede! CFC-Youth Tri-Cities is an amazingly passionate chapter and this camp has only added to the number of God-loving people in the CFC-Youth community. I am truly excited to see what happens next. “This is only the beginning,” as our Tri-Cities chapter head, Miguel Legaspi would say.

Mary Clarin, CFC-Youth Pacific

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Pacific East: A ROCK Solid Foundation

Martin Pagcaliwagan, Kids for Christ Program Head, teaches at Tri-Cities’ March Chapter Assembly on March 7, 2014 at Saint Luke’s in Maple Ridge, BC. (Photo: Pauline Macapagal)

Tri-Cities’ March Chapter Assembly was truly a refreshing experience due the teachings of special guests, the Kids for Christ ROCK ministry. Standing for “Reaching Out Christ to Kids,” the ROCK heads welcomed us into the  St. Luke’s portables with an upbeat Kids For Christ worship song called “Move.” Not a single youth stood unaffected by the contagious melody and fun filled dance. Although the lyrics were so simple, the thematic idea of “(proclaiming) the greatness of our God” is universal to any age group. This song is easily the most exciting, energetic, and tiring gather that I have experienced.

The joyous atmosphere lingered as the night continued. The ROCK heads of the event Martin Pagcaliwagan, Gillian Cortes, and Erlyn Boongaling educated the Tri-Cities chapter of the vision and heart of their mission. They also revealed the main anchor verse which encompassed the central theme of creating a strong foundation on God.

After that brief introduction, we were asked to step into the shoes of an actual Kids For Christ member. Each person was given a party hat and a cue card to jot down personal traits, talents, and dreams. The pink, blue, silver, and green cones divided us into 4 groups. Of course, the concept of “teams,” in the mind of a child, would automatically connect to competition. To put this in perspective, the cue card tower building challenge involved excessive amounts of screaming and questionable breezes. As relaxing and enjoyable it was to adopt the essence of a child, the reality was that the party hats were way too small to wrap the elastic around our heads. We are not children. There must have been more insightful lessons that we can take out of this besides how to structure the perfect cue card building.

Indeed, much can be analyzed about or built upon the ROCK teachings. However, when towers were knocked down or fell apart, only one thought remained. If it is so simple for a pile of cue cards to falter, so must we be vulnerable to our own spiritual death if we do not create a deeply rooted foundation upon Christ Jesus. For example, we were told to cross off every aspect about ourselves that would not exist on our cue card after we entered post-secondary or adulthood and the majority of people only had “Catholic” or “I believe in God” as the only points. Sometimes dancing, singing, and playing in the shoes of child allows us to see the main lesson that God want to illustrate.

Mona Bawagan, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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Pacific Central: Loving, Honouring, and Serving Him

Christian Arenzana shows who the perfect family is at Central Cluster’s Covenant Orientation at the CFC Office in Richmond, BC on February 22, 2014. (Photo: JC Paysan)

At Central Cluster’s most recent Covenant Orientation, members of Vancouver 1 and 2 renewed the promises they made to Christ at their Youth Camp and learned how to put their promises into action. We were taught that in order to live out our covenants with Christ, we had to “Love, Honour, and Serve” Him and that doing so requires commitment and sacrifice. Loving, honouring, and serving God means we must love, honour, and serve our families, brothers and sisters inside and outside the CFC-Youth community, and our country.

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37)

We are called to love God back by living out the principles of Christ, by uniting ourselves with him through prayer, and by being single minded for Christ in everything that we do. I learned that encountering obstacles and experiencing trials and tribulations is not a sign for me to turn away but instead a call for me to pray more and to pray harder. It is also important that we are sources of unity in our families, which means that we are to be instruments of healing and hope for other families. In order to maintain stable relationships with our families and brothers and sisters in Christ, we learned that commitment and loyalty is important and that consistency is necessary.

The same goes with our relationship with Christ. In order for us to have a strong relationship with Him we are required to be loyal by protecting His character and to commit by being consistent in our prayers. As children of God we are called to be stewards of the Earth, which means we must serve our country. This means that we shouldn’t be polluting our country by littering and breaking the law through little things such as jay-walking. This also means that we are to exercise our right to vote as by speaking out against laws that go against our faith without denouncing the government itself. Most importantly, we are called to serve the people of our country, meaning we have to answer to the cry of the poor.

When we genuinely offer ourselves to our faith community, we show how much it means for us to have Christ in our lives; it is an expression of how much we LOVE Him. When we choose to love our families, it’s our personal acknowledgement of one of the greatest gifts and blessings that He has given us; it is one of the many ways in which we HONOUR Him. When we sacrifice our time and efforts for our country in the likes of caring for those who are less fortunate, it’s a countenance of how much we long for him, and want Him at the centre of our lives. By serving in whatever capacity we can, ultimately we SERVE Him.

Pauline Suelto, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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#RevUPFebruary: To Learn and To Love

Robbie Del Val (in grey) and the Couple Coordinators of Surrey 1 serve food to the hungry youths of the Chapter at the Don Bosco Youth Centre in Surrey, BC. (Photo: Nat Abad)

February’s Surrey 1 Chapter Assembly (CA) 120 youths filled the Don Bosco Youth Centre. At times I would see a brother or sister alone and another person would go over to them to talk with them. This put a smile on my face.

This CA was lead by Frederick Balce representing RevUP (Revolution of Uplifting the Poor) for the RevUP awareness month. We started off with a fun game. We were split into brothers and sisters and two people would form a bridge with their arms. The objective was to get everyone over first without hurting themselves or the bridge. Everyone was having fun going over the bridge and finding the best ways to get over. This activity built teamwork and trust within the brotherhood and sisterhood, but also came alone with a good lesson. There are things we cannot do alone without consequences, but with others we may be able to push through. Just like the game we need someone to help us over and someone to catch us especially for those who are in need for example to poor which led to the next part.

The next part was a talk about one of the seven identities, the Champion of the Poor. This talk was shorter than others and straight to the point which made it easier for me and others to learn and not become bored.

Seeing the strong bonds within this community and the enthusiasm everyone has within CFC-Youth never fails to fill me with joy. As this community grows so does the love that we spread to others.

It is not how much you do but how much love you put into that action.” (Blessed Mother Theresa)

Jorj Cuison-Valerio, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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#RevUPFebruary: Serving the Poor with our Brothers and Sisters

Members of Pacific West Cluster gather for a group photo during their Youth Power event on September 28, 2013. (Photo: Mark William Valdez)

It’s been almost five months since I attended Pacific West Cluster’s Youth Power. I may not remember every details but I’ll never forget how it made me feel. My heart really filled up with joy and I cannot feel anything else in my heart but love for God and others. It was one of the days that is full of smiles, “Thank You-s” and love. It made me see Jesus in everyone and how beautiful life is.

That day was so rainy but I was still so excited to attend. I didn’t know what God had in store for me but I was so excited to worship the Lord and learn new things.

The first activity that my group did was write letters for the West Cluster’s sponsor children. It was hard at first because I didn’t personally know them and I wondered what I could tell them that would come from the heart. A thought came to mind that had me thinking: these are people like me. They also study and have dreams. They are also people who go through life’s ups and downs. What’s different is that I have more things, more comfort. Aside from helping them through donations, I could also help them by encouraging them and by reminding them about God’s beautiful plan.

I realized that helping the poor is not only about giving money or things; it’s also about helping others through the comfort of words and by being a friend. Sometimes people just need to be reminded how loved and blessed they are, that they have a friend who can listen to them. Being a Champion of the Poor is not only lending your treasure but also lending your time to others, especially those who are poor in spirit.

The second activity was to go to the mall to do Random Acts of Kindness (RAK). My partner, Eula Chua, and I first went to go to the food court and helped the cleaning lady to clean up trays from tables. We held doors for people, folded clothes, and gave out free muffins and coffees to strangers. All the words of gratefulness and big smiles that we received gave us so much joy and they reminded me of how more awesome life would be if we do RAKs everyday.

RAK-ing can be done in so many–even small–ways. We shouldn’t miss opportunities that we have every day to do good. There are no limitations. Even a simple smile or “How are you?” can brighten up other people’s days. Mother Teresa said,

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

The last activity touched my heart the most. We gave out food and water to homeless people downtown. I’ll never forget the way they reacted. I saw the way their faces lit up as we handed food to them. It touched me because these are the people who barely have anything. They sleep in the streets while I have a house to sleep in. They barely have any food while I get three meals a day. I couldn’t help but feel so grateful and blessed, and I couldn’t help but pray to God for them.

Times like those, when I see poor people coping with the little things that they have, always make me feel that I need to share my blessings with them and that I need to help them with what I have. Those people always remind me to be selfless and giving. The Bible says,

The entire law is summed up in a single command: Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

God tells us to love each other deeply like the way He loves us. He wants us to be generous and to live a life full of love. By loving, we should think about the good of others and help as much as we can.

That day ended leaving me with so much joy and love in my heart. I was so thankful to God for that opportunity and for showing me the beauty of life through giving. It proved to me that serving the poor really equals to joy.

Let us continue to RAK the world and spread the joy!

Joy Sigua, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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#RevUPFebruary: Experiencing Jesus with the People on the Street

Christian Arenzana giving a talk about being a Champion of the Poor at the February Central Cluster Assembly on February 8, 2014 at St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver, BC. (Photo: John Ray Catingub)

Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I was very blessed to have given my first talk about being a Champion of the poor for the Rev-up Awareness month. I shared much about myself being a Champion of the Poor in my own way. Its funny because, recently, my mom has asked me to donate some of my clothes and shoes to the poor. I have a lot of clothes that doesn’t fit me anymore and I guess it would help a lot of the brothers on the street today.

Some other things I would say I do are sometimes is give money to my brothers and sisters in Downtown Vancouver. It’s sad to say there’s a lot of them on Granville Street but when heading out of Mass at the cathedral, I can’t say, “No!” I always think of the saying on my bracelet: WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? But sometimes I’m low on cash, and all you have to do is have a open heart and listen to their wisdom and many stories they have to tell! I remember getting RAK’d by them so hard, performing a Random Act of Kindness and complimenting me. I truly experience Christ in them and all you have to do is say a couple words. That’s not so hard to do.

My brothers and sisters on the street are truly a reflection of God’s love towards me and, by that, we should do the same for them. RAK every time you see someone that needs food, needs cash flow, and certainly when it looks like they’re not having a good day! GOD BLESS!

Christian Arenzana, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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CFC-KFC Vancouver: Let It Shine

Children celebrating the Spirit of Lord in their lives. (Photo: Natalie Abad)

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

On a cloudy Saturday morning, I arrived at Our Lady of Good Counsel’s auditorium at 9:30 am. Anticipating for the long day ahead of me, I was filled with elated nerves as I had been waiting for this day for months! I was nervous because I didn’t know if there would even be enough kids to facilitate while, simultaneously, I was filled with extreme joy and excitement for what He had in store for me that day.  That chilly Saturday morning marked Surrey 1’s first Kids Day, our first major CFC-Kids for Christ (KFC) event in over two years.

A Kids Day event shares the same components of a CFC-Youth camp such as sessions called “God made me special because He loves me”, “Jesus is my bestfriend”, and “Jesus wants me to make others happy”. The only difference is that CFC-KFC events are filled with non-stop action. From games being played after every activity, to matching choreography for our songs, to the hands on activity for every session, each moment had elements of friendship, fellowship, freedom and faith. Our Kids Day Leaders, Michael Delleva and Gillian Cortes had decided to name the event Heaven Academy with the theme of “Let it Shine”–throughout the day it was evidently clear how much God was shining through every single participant and ROCK (Reaching out Christ to Kids) volunteer.

As a servant for the event, I was constantly running around living the life of a servant, which is busy and hectic. So when I had a chance to pause and take a look around me after my session, “God made me special because He loves me”, I was taken aback. After teaching them that God loves us so much because He had made us all special, through our differences and our unique abilities, I was mesmerized by seeing Christ illuminate through our ROCK team. The love that each and every ROCK facilitator had shone, either through their patient and gentle actions, or their ability to play and horse around truly had made my heart leap for joy.

As it is written in Mathew 5:14-16:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

It is so beautiful and so remarkable that our God has made us into distinct individuals, with our own special attributes to shine and show His love to the world. Truly we cannot hide His love from the world, for it is so mighty and powerful – from giving a helping hand to those in need, to a smile given by a child.

Catherine Sim, CFC-Youth Pacific Region

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Archdiocese of Vancouver: One Faith, One Body, One Mission

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, shepherd of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, welcomes the attendees of the third annual ONE Conference on the morning of February 15, 2014. (Photo: Tony Wong of Singles for Christ Vancouver)

Last Saturday I attended the ONE Conference in the Archdiocese of Vancouver and let me tell you: I was blown away. It wasn’t just the amazing talks given by Father Spitzer, SJ, Doctor. Josephine Lombardi, and Christopher West that made it so worthwhile, but the atmosphere of simply being in such a buzzing place. It was here that the idea of “oneness” really sank into me: that the Catholic Church, with its different parts, truly shared one faith, one body, and one mission.

It reminded me of Saint Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:15-16:

If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow completely into Christ, who is the Head by whom the whole Body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each individual part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself in love.”

After scanning the booths of numerous ministries in the Archdiocese, I realized that there were MANY. Even more fascinating was how different each ministry was, catering to their own set of demographics and individual missions, yet ultimately contributing to the same mission of spreading God’s love.

The same thing could be observed on an individual basis. The conference was littered with people with different gifts and charisms. Some were excellent event planners, coordinating every detail to make this event work. Others were captivating speakers, spending years of their lives in school to educate themselves about the faith in order to impart their knowledge on others. Yet others had excellent interpersonal skills, able to greet strangers with warmth and to make the atmosphere more welcoming.

In short, Saint Paul was right: God blessed us with very DIFFERENT abilities and functions, in order to make up the different parts of His One Body.

However, we often fail to fulfill our specific God-given roles because we’re too busy working against them. One of the speakers, Dr. Josephine Lombardi, touched on this. She said that too often we get so caught up with wanting gifts that we don’t have, rather than on utilizing the gifts that already come naturally to us. The solution, according to Lombardi, is to do the opposite: “Do the possible with the gifts we have, and we might actually find ourselves doing the impossible.”

As Saint Paul writes in various parts of 1 Corinthians 12:17-20:

If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” 

It is our responsibility to do our unique “part” as members of the Body of Christ with the best of our abilities. And I believe that it has been in doing so that our Archdiocese has continued to thrive, making this event an enriching experience. God is good!

Celine Diaz, CFC-Youth Pacific Region