Bringing the Good News to "the cloud" is one of the challenges identified by some 130 young Asian Catholics who gathered in Manila from 13 countries to celebrate the first ever encounter of the Claretian Family and the youth of Asia East from 3 to 8 August.
|The Hong Kong Delegation at the AEYG + CF 2015|
"Our young people are called to be evangelizers of a new continent — the Internet continent," said Father Eduardo Apungan, director for apostolate of the Claretian congregation in the Philippines, which hosted the event. "Young people in Asia have a lot to share to the world," he said, adding that the youth are the "multipliers of evangelization."
|Fr. Bobin (Taiwan) - Director, Youth Ministry with Fr. Julio (Japan) and Fr. Jose (Hong Kong) - |
Youth Coordinators of East Asia Delegation
Father Leo Dalmao, Claretian provincial superior in the Philippines, said the gathering in Manila is an attempt to consolidate young people in Asia to become "evangelizers to other parts of the world." The Gathering in Manila is our response to the challenge to use new media in evangelization, he added.
|Claretian Seminarians performing during the "Vocation Night"|
The activities during the weeklong event included multimedia productions and discussions about the use of social media as tools "to evangelize the youth in the context of information technology, and hence the theme: 'Meeting Christ in the Cloud,'" Fr. Dalmao said.
|Presentation from Taiwan during the "Claretian Family Night"|
But young Catholics in Asia also are facing a lot of challenges, especially in non-Christian countries. In Japan, for example, "there are many young people who do not know or do not believe in God," said Shimizu Ayaka, from Osaka, Japan. "It is very challenging to be a Christian in my country," she said. "There are a lot of challenges in spreading the Good News."
|Fr. Julio leads the performance from Japan during the "Claretian Family Night"|
Gemma Doromal, a member of the Kaulo tribe in the southern Philippines, said the entry of modern technology to the hinterlands has "brought problems, immorality, and vices." "We lost some of our young tribal leaders who were lured to the cities," the girl said in her local language. Doromal said she joined the gathering in Manila "to learn how to deepen our experience with other young people." "What we will learn here, we will also share back to our tribe," she said.
A performance by the animation team
For Ayaka of Japan, "the keyword is joy". "Christian life is a happy life," she said. "People ask me why I am happy, and I tell them because I am a Christian." She said young Asian Catholics should not only be activists but become "happy witnesses of the Gospel". "People find us attractive, and I think this is an opportunity for us to introduce God to them, whether in the streets or on the Internet," said Ayaka.
|Shimizu Ayaka (centre) with a few kids from the Street|
There were nine youth from Hong Kong to participate in the five day event. "AEYG was a great opportunity for youths in Asia to get together and know each other", said Lucia Tam from Hong Kong. She narrated an interesting anecdote that touched her: "Although not part of the event, some of us had a chance to visit the people living in the slum one afternoon with MC Sisters (Missionary Sisteres of St. Antony Mary Claret). These people lived in places with piles of rubbish and their houses were small and dark. I guess that was why they preferred sitting outside their houses. We didn’t get off the van, as it was a bit dangerous. As the van drove through the village, a lot of faces looked at me. I thought I needed to do something, so I smiled at them. They smiled back. At that moment, I understand why people said possessions will never bring you happiness. Those smiles from these people were simple and true. They were truly happy to see us. Some of them even followed the van and cried out, “Sister! Sister!” The MC sisters must have done a lot of work for them to gain their friendship. For me, it was even more meaningful to see the work of the Claretian family".
|Lucia Tam (left) anchoring the "Claretian Family Night"|
"After the visit, I kept reflecting on their smiles", recalls Lucia. "You don’t see this kind of smile from metropolis very often. Honestly, I can’t imagine myself smiling like them if I live in places where they are living. However, this is exactly what I find amazing. Living in a materialistic world, I learnt to weigh everything in terms of wealth. I compared with others and was sadden to see what I didn’t have. Seldom have I thanked for what I have and give praise to the Lord. Only people who are content with what they have will have happiness and true smiles. I have heard this for a lot of times but it shed some light on me when I saw the smile myself. And I thank God for it".
|Ophelia with Fr. Paulus, Youth Director, Indonesia|
Ophelia, another participant from Hong Kong was thankful for the opportunity for "praying in such an unusual way, which I have never expected; singing and dancing for God is fun and joyful. I can feel the joy in praising the Lord with the local Filipino, and have really enjoyed a lot". "It was hard not to get involved in all the activities. Thanks a lot for being so welcoming and approachable to me and the Hong Kong team".
She was moved by the scenes of "children begging right in front of me and poor people sleeping alongside the road...I have seen it for real". Voicing her sense of commitment she added that "Injustice is everywhere, and as Catholics we must stand with them and help them".
The AEYG experience must be a wake-up call for the Missionary commitment to the youth who possess the passion and energy to take the message of the Lord to the masses.
The following video is prepared by Sandra Tenguan, presenting the life of the Church and the missionaries' involvement in the Youth Ministry in Hong Kong.