During the Second National Mission Congress, a series of mission-related presentations were scheduled as the final activity for the Jubilee Year commemorating 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, Asia's major Catholic country, from April 17 to 20, 2022.
Stephen Borja, an officer at the Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Youth, talked about how important the youth are to the mission of the Church because they are the largest demographic group in the country.
A nine-year novena, each year dedicated to one of the church's nine pastoral priorities, was one of the first things he said at the symposium. This was part of people's preparations for the 500 (1521-2021) anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines.
From 2013 to 2016, the theme was "integral faith formation." This was in line with the church's year of Faith, Laity, Poor, Eucharist, and Family, which was also in that time.
From 2017 to 2021, the themes of Communion of Communities, Youth, and Ecumenism,
Interreligious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples in conjunction with the Year of Mission, or Year of Mission, were also looked into.
Borja said that it was then up to those who were there to tell him which of these nine pastoral priorities had become more robust and which one got the most attention.
His presentation then centered on youth as the year's primary focus.
The most common group in the Philippines is young people, he says. Youth also make up a big part of the church, he says.
However, he also said that young people are the most vulnerable to changes in a rapidly changing technology-driven world.
By talking with young people, he thinks, "We are trying to get into their world and walk with them on the way to becoming more like Christ."
It will affirm their gifts and their prodigious capacity for ideal Christian pursuit.
Such a move, he said, echoes the church's commitment made a decade earlier at the Philippines' Second Plenary Council in 1991.
He added, “We have expressed our evangelical love preference for the poor during this council, it would appear that we should now proclaim a preferential apostolate for children and youth.”
The same council said that because young people make up a large and dynamic part of the church, youth ministry should get the most attention and the highest priority from everyone in the church.
He said that the Second Vatican Council's last message, which began in 1962 and ended in 1965, was for young people.
A quote he used: "It's you, young people of the world, who will take over from your elders and live through the biggest changes the world has ever seen in its history."
Besides that, he talked about how many saints, both lay and ordained, have tried to show how much the church cares about young people.
He gave a few examples, including Pope John Paul II and his World Youth Day project.
He then discussed the 2019 Filipino Youth in Mission theme, “Beloved, Gifted, and Empowered.”
In discussing this subject, he posed the following questions: “Are our children and adolescents on a mission? Is the mission of our youth ministries clear? How can we program our youth ministries with a mission in mind so that our youth can indeed be on mission?”
He then prompted participants to consider their youth ministries. It could be your parish's youth ministry, a community youth group, or even a virtual community of young people.
He told the participants at the workshop that there are ten characteristics of being a youth missionary that ranges from being Christ-centered to not being Christian (a personal and transformative experience of the love and power of God and the living Christ).
Following that, he explained that these characters are members of a church, a community, and a group of individuals who care about youth. In addition, they care about the child's well-being and have interactions with them to help them grow.
This results in the emergence of new leaders. The meeting place and synodality make people feel like they have a lot of responsibility and want to be outward-facing and missionary.
“In light of the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, our focus on Missio ad Gentes ("To the Nations") and the global context of the Covid-19 pandemic, some things make us take a second look or pay more attention,” said Borja, a committed youth leader.
Indeed, he said, “Our guide for Catholic youth ministry in the Philippines serves as a guide for young people who want to grow in their faith.”
The becoming process is aided by beholding, which consists of three phases, the first of which is believing, during which the youth progresses from a faith of convention to faith of conviction.
The second concept is identification—from the club to the community, the connection grows.
Thirdly, there is begetting, in which youth transition from maintenance to mission.
Pope Francis, he stated, believes that it does not take much to convert young people to become missionaries.
Even the frailest, limited, and troubled individuals can serve as missionaries uniquely, he concluded. – With inputs from Christopher Ariola
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.