“Rycon season” [Regional Youth Conference] is notorious for being one of the busiest times of the year, and maybe even considered the most hectic time. This year was no different for me. With all the last minute preparation for competitions and my service role in YCOM (Youth Communications) on the documentation team this year, I felt as though I had spread myself thin, as being a senior in high school was already giving me a difficult time.
The prior weeks leading up to Rycon were filled with service team meetings, and weekly tests and quizzes, all while trying to balance my school work, family life, extra curricular activities and all the efforts that came with being a high school senior in their last few weeks of school. I was losing motivation to do things I loved because I was overwhelmed with so many things. I was constantly having self doubts and feelings of loneliness throughout my journey to Rycon. I hurt a lot during the weeks leading up to the big event and my mind was constantly filled with things that were not bringing me closer to Christ and readying my heart for the upcoming weekend. I was too prideful to let anyone help me in my time of need and let go of things i could not handle on my own.
The last few days before Rycon were the hardest days in a while. I was struggling with being accountable for myself and those around which led to me disappointing myself over and over again. My appearance at Rycon was just to fulfill the service roles I had committed to. I really did not expect anything from this event. I thought to myself, “I have been to five of these Rycons already, I’ve seen it.” After my service role on the documentation team, I was ready to leave. When I first arrived, I was already tired. I headed to the sea of pink in the lobby of Chandos Pattison Auditorium to sign in. It brightened my day to see so many faces of my beloved cluster – East Cluster! I was able to see people from the region who I have not seen in a long time as well. After awhile of waiting, we were allowed into the venue and began with the rosary and mass. My service role had not yet started so I was able to participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist. In mass, I really asked the Lord to open my heart because I knew how closed off I was. I waited patiently throughout the event for Christ to answer me.
Opening worship and the opening remarks began after mass and so did my service role. I had always admired the service YCOM have in the community and I was pleased to be part of the “servants of servants.” I got to watch creative competitions from a different perspective – from behind a lens. It was different to be part of the background action, but it was humbling and such a joy to see each cluster fully and genuinely support their clusters. I also got to compete for East Cluster’s senior band. I had not sung in front of a crowd of people in a very long time but I was honoured to perform with such talented people who want to impress Christ just as much as I wanted to!
The night continued with our first session of the weekend. It was title “Road Map” and led by Ariel Bejer, one of my greatest inspirations. She reminded us that we are Heaven bound and our journey home to Heaven is an exciting one! We are made to meet our maker, the lover of our souls, a God who continually spoils us. To continue our journey, we must be homesick for Heaven. As I was sitting alone, I was able to give time to myself and reflect on the state of my heart. Through this session, I was inspired by Ariel’s kind words and this was where I began to open my heart to the lessons I was going to learn throughout the weekend. The session ended with a beautiful creative where the lyrics to Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” were changed to reflect the journey we are all taking to our Home, Heaven. Day 1 of Rycon ended with closing worship where I was able to experience it by myself at the back of the auditorium. I got to witness Pacific Region as a whole, worshiping the Lord with their whole beings, and it was a beautiful sight.
As I arrived for the second day of the event, I settled into the auditorium to reflect some more and ready myself for the Holy Rosary and the Eucharist. After the mass, we went into opening worship and the chant for the weekend. I was assigned to begin taking photos throughout the chant portion. I was able to witness the genuine joy and contentment of all the clusters united as one. It was a blessing being able to capture the unforgettable memories. As the chant portion came to a close, the rest of the competitions for the event were about to begin. Throughout the day, I was doing my best at taking photos of all the joyous and momentous occasions. From seeing my counterpart, Josh Leopoldo, do his long awaited poetry slam, to cheering on all the East Cluster teams I encountered, even playing basketball for the first time in forever, and meeting youth from all over Pacific Region, I was filled with immense amounts of joy. Though my heart was weary and heavy at times, I was continually being filled with the light of Christ from even the littlest things.
The day proceeded and the workshops for the day began. I was placed in the “One” workshop, which was led by Ralph Aguila, Erwin Fung and Peter Byun, and focused on the Holy Spirit. I really needed this workshop because I did not realize how little I knew about the Holy Spirit. I was reminded that I cannot reduce the Holy Spirit and He is what He is. The Holy Spirit has so much power. They had explained that our words, as humans, come with so much power, so how much more significant are the words of the Holy Spirit, God’s breath of life, the giver of my life. The workshop ended with a simple worship, of me telling God I love Him, and promising that I will be home one day!
After this workshop, it was time for session 2, “Crossroads,” led by Diane Dimacali. She went over how the devil tries to mess with our journey. The devil wants us to get lost in him, to pursue something not of Christ and never return home to Christ. His scheme is to make us live in isolation and fear, away from the beautiful things in the world, because everything that is beautiful contains the Holy Spirit. Diane reminded us that we are made to go back to Christ, as broken as we are, because “It’s beautiful when the eyes of the lover meet the eyes of the beloved.” At the end of the session, we were to meet with our Journey Partner. Everyone who attended Rycon was paired with someone from another cluster and they would be known and one’s “Journey Partner”. My Journey Partner was a very special sister named, Camille Dansereau, from North Cluster, who would soon become a source of great encouragement in my life. I really did not expect to develop such a supportive relationship with a stranger so quickly. We did activities with our partner and became vulnerable to one another. It was so easy for me to talk to her. We had figured out how alike we are and that we were going through very similar struggles. It was through this conversation that I had realized how much support I actually have. I had been struggling in my lonesome for so long. Camille really helped open my heart and brought an immense amount of light into it. We set a common prayer time so that we would be able to pray with and for one another, despite the distance between us, we would be connected through our love for God. I am forever grateful for her.
We returned to the auditorium after our activity with our partners and settled in. Surprisingly, we were given the chance to have adoration. The Holy Spirit really filled the room and the hearts of the faithful. I have only been to adoration a few times in my life and I have never really had a very fruitful experience, until this time. I looked up to the cross and began to cry, for I was so unworthy to be in front of His majesty. I was weak and in pain and I did not want Him to see me that way. Throughout the event, the Lord answered my prayer. I asked Him to open my heart to His love but He did it little by little, rather than all at once. I heard Him tell me, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). It was here where I realized how I was the only one not letting myself be joyful and have a peace of heart and mind. During adoration, I let Christ love me. I had finally gotten the silence I needed for so long so I could hear the Holy Spirit talking to me. I decided to be joyful in all that I was going through because God is on my side! This is also where the verse “God is within her, she will not fall” (Psalm 46:5) became very important to me. This time in adoration was one of those things that I never knew I needed it until I found it, and it has been beautiful.
After adoration was over, we went straight into our third and final session of the event. It was entitled “Journey Onward” and was led by Angelo Casiano. In this session, he mentioned our continuous journey with Christ, and how incredible it is. We are all saints in the making, because God desires sainthood for us, moving forward with pure intention in the right direction. Angelo told us the story of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano where she exclaimed, “I suffered a lot but my soul was singing” and ever since I heard that, I have strove to see the joy in suffering. I am joyful because I know that God has more dreams for me than there are stars in the sky, the stars He even dreamed for me.
After the session, Sean Santos took the stage to lead the region in praise fest. I was surrounded by my household and my cluster, and though I had no room to move and it was really hot, I was so comfortable. I was comfortable because I was with my loved ones, and we are all on our way home – together! I had the chance to to pray and surrender with my life giving friends and it was one of my highlights, because no matter how different we are, we’re all working together and lifting each other up.
After praise fest was the awards ceremony and I am so honoured to be part of East Cluster, such talented beings! I am proud of all that we were able to accomplish, with and for God! I got to spend time with my households and people I have not seen in a very long time and they continually carried Christ’s light into my life. This Rycon has reminded me that God is with me until the end of age.
My name is Arden Medina, I am a unit head from the chapter of East 2, God is within me, I will not fail!
Arden Medina – East 2 Unit Head | CFC-Youth Pacific Region
We are a Catholic youth organization and the youth program of CFC (Couples for Christ) whose mission is to strengthen family life and values. CFC-Youth’s mission is described in the 4 F’s (Fun, Friendship, Freedom, and Faith) and the 7 Identities, which represent a holistic approach to following Christ and striving for excellence in all areas of life.
COUPLES FOR CHRIST CANADA MISSION CENTRE
CFC-Youth Canada has 46 chapters present in seven provinces, and is one of 127 member countries of Couples For Christ Global.