MANILA, July 1, 2013—How does it feel to meet the highest leader of the Roman Catholic Church in person?

This thought excites pilgrims of the Diocese of Pasig to the 28th World Youth Day (WYD) slated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 23 to 28. With only a few weeks left prior to its commencement, Filipino delegates are venturing into full-scale preparations just in time for this momentous event in the history of the universal Catholic Church.

Fr. Joeffrey Brian Catuiran, Pasig Diocesan Youth Director, said the delegates strive to prepare themselves holistically, encompassing not only physical but as well as moral, spiritual, emotional and even financial preparedness to maximize the unique experience they will acquire from the gathering.

“We prepare for the event by venturing into retreats, recollections, and other avenues for bonding among the pilgrims. We strive to wholly prepare ourselves as this event is not simply a gathering but a journey in faith,” he said.

According to him, the Diocese of Pasig will be fielding seven official delegates, and will be accompanied by a few more individuals who expressed desire to join the spiritual gathering.

Transformation to young missionaries 

Catuiran noted that the WYD, which is the brainchild of Blessed John Paul II, serves as an important avenue that makes Catholic individuals realize the true essence of living by one’s faith.

“The Blessed John Paul II had a deeper meaning for starting this noble gathering. It is not simply meant to gather millions of youth from all over the world,” he said.

“Rather, it is meant to teach Catholics the true value of their faith by means of living by the spiritual ideals they devote themselves into through helping their less fortunate brothers and sisters,” Catuiran added.

Catuiran recognized the great impact that the youth can yield in preserving Catholic ideals and virtues, considering the rapid pace of relativism and modernization hounding the church.

“The challenge of the modern times is how to create an impact. We are hoping that through the 28th WYD, we would be able to share and re-echo the lessons we will learn from the gathering,” he said.

“We are hoping that this event will yield a positive change in the life of many pilgrims, eventually transforming them into young missionaries who would take on the role of propagating the good news of the universal church worldwide,” Catuiran added, noting that participation in this event is meant for a bigger purpose and must not settle on frivolous expressions of faith.

With millions of young people expected to gather for this celebration, Catuiran calls on the youth to actively participate in fulfilling the church’s mission of being active evangelizers in the modern times.

“I am hoping that this event would bring new hope to each and every one of us, making us active missionaries of the word to heed the call for renewed evangelization,” he said.

Experience ‘living faith’ 

Among the Pasig Diocese pilgrims to the WYD are Marie Anne Alipinin, 36, Patty Mae Perpeña, 22, and Jayson Ojeda, 31.

According to Perpeña, it is the desire to experience a living faith together with millions of youth from all over the world that encouraged her to join.

“I would really like to experience this gathering with youths of different nationality to experience a living faith. Through this event, I would be able to experience that despite our racial and cultural diversity, we become united in praising one God,” she said.

Ojeda noted that this opportunity gives a chance for youth leaders to be refreshed in their ministry of bringing Christ closer to young individuals.

They also noted that aside from nourishing their spiritual lives, the opportunity to personally meet the new Supreme Pontiff fueled their desire to participate in the WYD.

Alipinin added that through this unique gathering, cultural diversity among the Catholic youth is effectively channeled toward the fulfillment of their common mission to become young missionaries in modern times.

“The WYD is relevant in propagating Christian faith as it promotes unity amid diversity and transforms differences among individuals into something that enriches cultural ties among people,” she said. “Of course, we fear the differences that we possess, but through God we can overcome.”

Echoing the relevance of the youth in participating in the mission of evangelization, Ojeda said that young individuals are tasked to continue the legacy left by others for future generations to witness and cherish.

“The youth is the hope of the church and nation. If the youth of the present times would not enrich their faith, who would pass on the Catholic ideals and virtues that we currently have to future generations?” he said.  (Jennifer M. Orillaza)