The much awaited and ardently prepared for 14th Marian Youth Congress was held last September 10-11, 2011 at the Seat of the Archdiocese of Caceres, the Pilgrim City of Naga. Represented by six Dioceses, the gathering was attended by 12,000 youth united in serving and following Jesus Christ. The Congress started at nine-thirty in the morning with an Opening Para-Liturgy. Rev. Fr. Rex Hidalgo, Spiritual Director of the Caceres Youth Ministry, welcomed all participants thereafter. He said that all those present were devotees of Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Without an intense affection and fidelity towards her, no one would be standing at the Naga City Coliseum withstanding the heat just to keep the devotion alive and present. His brief welcome address was succeeded by a talk on devotion by Fr. Jessel Gonzales of the Society of Jesus. His talk, through various examples of falling in love and different animation activities, focused on three aspects of devotion, namely, devotion itself, desire and death. "Devotion is the experience of God. It is to find God in all things." It involves commitment and character. Like falling in love, devotion must be visibly expressed. Desire, on the other hand, breeds what is important to man. It brings to the forefront the choices man makes in his daily life. "You will never know what is important to you and what will give you fulfillment if you do not desire." Lastly, death is important as it will transcend growth. Death spoken here is not physical absence but rather the denying of oneself in order to follow Christ, the commitment to walk alongside Christ and change the world for the better. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mk. 8:34) Fr. Jessel's very much enlightening and lively talk was succeeded by the distribution of the Holy Rosary, which in turn, would be given to a fellow youth upon one's return to his home. A meditation on the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary followed thereafter and preceded the pilgrimage from the Naga City Coliseum to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.
At eight o'clock in the evening, a concelebrated mass was officiated by Most Rev. Leonardo Legaspi, O.P. D.D., Archbishop of Caceres. The homily, for a change, consisted of a dialogue between the Archbishop and the representatives of five Dioceses, the Dioceses of Sorsogon, Libmanan, Masbate, Legazpi, and Daet. In a nutshell, the Archbishop emphasized the role of the youth today, most especially in the devotion to Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The questions asked revolved around the essence of being a youth and on whom should one anchor himself/herself in times of difficulties. In his answers, the Archbishop brought to the forefront these following key points. First, the youth is a source of hope. "For you belong to the future, just as the future belongs to you. To you belongs the responsibility for what will one day become reality but which still lies in the future." Second, "ask not what society has given you, but above all, ask what you have done for society". Third, be committed in building a society of good morals. And fourth, anchor yourself on Ina, who has never failed to come and aid anyone in need. To end his homily, the Archbishop prayed, "For so many generations, for so many centuries, Christ has been passing along the streets of the earth, of the Philippines, of the streets of Naga City. May he not pass in vain! May those of your own age meet him, in ever large numbers! May you yourselves be able to show them the way that leads to Christ!"
A short procession of the image of Ina succeeded the lively celebration of the Holy Eucharist. After which, the Taizé Hour of Prayer was observed. Little children led the youth in the solemn hour of prayer. The Hataw- a term coined for dancing- followed thereafter. Bands that performed in the wee hours of the morning included the Unibersidad de Sta. Isabel (USI) Showband, 4K Barrel and the Brownman Revival. The ever vibrant gathering of the Youth, in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Year of the Youth, ended at about three-thirty in the morning.
NATALIE HAZEL P. QUIMLAT
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