It is about time

that I begin this testimony of my experience at the 13th CFC Youth USA National Leaders’ Conference.

I have three albums on the Youth Conference, and so I shall begin by posting a link, and then referring to those pictures in my testimony, posting the next link once I’ve gone over all the pictures in the previous one. So, here is the first link — http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=3410&l=6eb23&id=502520962

We were coming from the beach. We’d spent the morning there, and then went straight from the beach to the University. About 10 minutes away, we got a call from Tita Karri, asking where we were. Ten minutes later, we met up with them… Ah, here is the map —

rider-uni.jpg

That’s a link, btw, so click to see the full size. Anyway, we met up in front of the Alumni Gymnasium (see #3 on map). After some conversation about the rest of our group not being there yet, Tita Karri took me and Mariel to the Student Rec Center (see #2 on map) to register. It was all very confusing, at first… couple wrong tables and lots of Tagalog… but eventually, we found the right table, and Mariel and I were issued our IDs, schedules, and meal bracelets.

We re-joined our parents outside and took some pictures (pics 1 thru 4), and checked out our scheds. One of the first things that caught mum’s eye was the Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe, which was at the very top of the schedule. :D We took that as a good sign. After examining the schedules some more, and phone calls from Gabriella and the rest of our group, we all said goodbye, and Mariel and I hurried off to dinner.

What an experience!! I was… bewildered? We had to line up outside the Cafeteria (er, Daly Dining Hall, #4 on map) and wait. You see, there were so many people (1417 delegates, and that does not include the Parent Coordinators or the Service Team, etc.) that they couldn’t fit us all into the hall at once, you know? So we had to wait outside for a good… oh, 15 minutes? Frankly, that was one of the shorter lines… but then, inside, we had to wait ANOTHER 15 minutes in the line for food, and bwaha, I felt somewhat ridiculous, when, after we’d eaten and were on our way out (pic 5), we met up with Kuya Mark, and guess what? HE didn’t have to wait 15 minutes in line.. because he was smart enough to get pasta, which there was NO line for, and everyone was overlooking it. (Take note of the pasta, because it’s important later. Trust me.)

ANYWAY. So, we met up with Kuya Mark. HAHA. THAT was hilarious. We go up to him and say his name, and then he turns and look at us, and stares. Oh, yes. He just stares. And then, after a bit, he goes, “Wait a sec…Ohio???” and then he gives us both hugs, and we chat for a bit…

And then Mariel and I headed back to the Student Rec Center for Mass. Student Rec Center was PACKED. Well, it might’ve had something to do with some Youth jamming Now That You’re Near right in front of the registration table, and as the Rec Center filled up, they crowded around this one group and sang along, and so eventually… we filled up the hall. As in, we couldn’t move for being packed so tightly together. (See pic 6.) But it wasn’t an annoying experience; on the contrary, it was quite an uplifting one, despite the heat and general being-packed discomfort.

Once the song was done, though, the Parent Coordinators ushered everyone outside, saying that we needed to make room for the people who still hadn’t registered yet. Most people went out, but Mariel and I stood there feeling undecided… It would’ve been awesome to join the others and sing, but in the end, our hesitance was for the better. Guess who we bumped into, as they came in the doors, and we stood in front of them wondering if we ought to go out? ATE MARY!!!!!!! along with her group, and so we got to meet Carmela (oh, yes. She and Mariel clicked. :D), Macy, and Christian.

Eventually, after some picture/movie taking, and general confusion all around, someone with a megaphone told the sisters and brothers to split up into two lines. The sisters entered the gym, first. We were required to hold up our IDs and meal bracelets as we entered, and that became standard procedure. (Well… supposedly, anyway. Most of the time. Hahahaha.)

WOW. It was an eye-opener to see that gym fill up. Absolutely amazing. (Pics 7 thru 13.) We got seats, and saved seats, chatted, drank the scene in… Check out pics 14 and 15 of the Mass prep. We took more pictures… pics 16 and 17. Not that many; figured we’d take plenty during the weekend. (And we did.)

Mass was scheduled to start at 5:30, but we were late by an hour, at least. No problemo.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING MASS. Where to begin?? In order, I suppose. Well… well, here’s what I wrote in my journal (the whole entry, so it begins at the beginning, and as you can see, from all the ‘haha’s, I was extremely hyper, even to my own private journal…) —

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ok, right now, everyone is SCREAMING!!! I’m at the Conference. We went to the beach first today, we were at Unc’s house yesterday. Today…

Got to Rider Uni. Registered with Mariel. Grabe!!! Ang daming Pinoy!!! Then the parents left… Haha. Took some pics before they left us. Mariel and I went to dinner. I had chicken and broccoli and pepsi and ice cream. We saw Kuya Mark!!! HAHA he had a hard time remembering us. LOL!! And then he finally remembered… and gave us hugs, HAHA. We left the cafe and headed back to the Rec Center. It was packed in there. A bunch of ppl were jamming Now That You’re Near. Finally, the adults said to go out, because they were blocking the entrance. Mariel and I were undecided as to whether or not to go out. And, still debating… we found Ate Mary!!!! and met Carmela and Macy. We all stuck together and got called in for Mass.

Mass… wow. Wala akong ibang masabi. Basta… wow. Hehe, ok, mas detailed — sisters filed in first. I have never seen so many Catholic Youth in one place, except for at the Vatican. We sang a couple songs… All About You… Trading My Sorrows… can’t remember what else. Mass began… that was a wow Mass. First, the homily.. Ahh… The priest gave an amazing homily. About how the Youth ought not be called the FUTURE of the Church, but that we were the PRESENT. That we were important NOW. He went on to remind us that various people in scripture were important as Youth. David, Daniel, Samuel, Mother Mary… I LOVE the emphasis he put on Mother Mary. And guess what! He quoted St. Jerome! The same quote mom read to us during Bible study in the car today! About being ignorant of Scripture is being ignorant of Christ. THAT was cool. And then… oh, I can’t really remember what order it all came in, so I’m just writing down the stuff that really hit me. Ah, he said, “Can I have my wife?” and in response, is handed… the Bible. I thought that was cool. Then he goes on about how the Church needs the Youth, and about us being the Hope and heart of the Church today. Then about there being the world, and then the Word. And he said that, basically, the Word will NOT be drowned in the world, that it was up to us to throw the Word onto the world. That scripture gave us the Ten Commandments to live by, and that if there was something in the world, in culture, that opposed the Word, that it had to Go. I love how CATHOLIC the homily was!!! He talked about us being Catholic Youth by our baptism, and that if we did not honestly strive wholeheartedly to live by the Gospel, then we were traitor to the Gospel, traitor to the Church. That really went deep.

Eucharist. WOW. Again, I love what he had to say. Sometime during the Consecration, he said “Let us not be deceived by any (something something about false, worldly teachers);” and went on to say that Christ is Truly Present in the Blessed Sacrament. He really drove that home. Oh, one thing — I was afraid that it would be like Mass at ** *******, where everyone remained standing, when they ought to be kneeling… but NO! Despite the cold gym floor, the Youth KNELT and Adored Our Lord.

After communion, when the Blessed Sacrament was being put back into the monstrance, the Youth sang Here I Am to Worship. Some remained kneeling, but most stood. That was Wow.

So, that was all I was able to write on that first day. Let me elaborate. Again, I repeat my… my awe at seeing so many Catholic Youth in one place. So, yes, the priest was telling a story, about how, he’d gotten in that day from the Caribbean, and he was at immigration, and the guy had asked what his purpose for being there was, and the priest replied that he had come to celebrate Mass with the CFC Youth. And the man said that that was great! and that he was a Catholic, etc. etc., and then he says to Fr. Celsus, “Teach them well. They are the future of the Church,” and Fr. Celsus replied, “You’re wrong.” And that was what he shared with us. That we are not the Future, but that, yes, we are the Present. That we aren’t just important tomorrow, or that we weren’t just important yesterday. Rather, that we are important in the Now.

The line, “Can I have my wife?” brought a laugh. We didn’t quite grasp what he meant when he said it… he walked towards the altar servers, and when they handed him the Bible in response, a chuckle went ’round the gym, and Fr. Celsus gave us a smile. He continued to remind us that there was a world standard and a Word standard, and that the Word would never conform to the world; that it was our job to make our lives in the world in line with the Word.

He shared that, when he had entered the Rec Center, he’d asked some Youth why they were Catholic. Some responded that it was because they had been born Catholic, or that it was because their parents were Catholic. Fr. Celsus really wanted to correct our thinking on this, I think. He explained to us that we were not Catholic because we were born Catholic; no one is born Catholic. He went on to say that it ought not be merely because our parents were Catholic. He really stressed that we are Catholic because we were baptized Catholic, and that we need to live that out.

When I wrote about people “standing when they ought to be kneeling,” I was referring to, how, I’ve attended a Mass where people remain standing during the Consecration. Isn’t that horrible??? I can overlook a great many liturgical abuses, because I am too ignorant of the majority of them to spot them, really, but, honestly, it’s the Consecration. Anyone who doesn’t know the term “liturgical abuse” ought to still be properly shocked at not kneeling during Consecration???

So, naturally, this Mass being composed mostly of Youth, and also because it was in a Gym and the altar was up on the stage in the middle of it all, of course I was a bit concerned that we mightn’t kneel. What made it all the more powerful for me when we did was the setting: Imagine, there are rows upon rows of metal chairs. There is absolutely no space between them; they are set up so that the sides are slap up against each other. The rows are so close together, that when you kneel, for your chest to be more or less slap up against the back of the chair in front of you, your feet and ankles have to be under your seat, so that you were worried about kicking the knees of the person who was up against the back of your seat. Not to mention, it’s a cold gym floor.

To put all these discomforts aside and kneel is no real great accomplishment, but it was touching, it was awe-inspiring. Considering the age range, and the rock-concert-like feeling that the stage gave, the general ignorance concerning liturgical abuses (n/o to anyone; I simply meant that, in this day and age, how many teens do you really find studying Catechism, apologetics, so on? How many people?), etc. …

I continued my journal entry on the Mass the next day —

So, to continue. The priest brought the Blessed Sacrament around and blessed all of us with it.

Ahaha, that’s all I wrote. Concerning Mass, anyway. So, yes, Fr. Celsus brought the Blessed Sacrament around in the monstrance and blessed all of us. He told us that we could do whatever we wanted, that we could stand, kneel, reach our hands out to it, and that he wanted us to remember that it truly was (Is) the same Jesus that walked the earth 2000 years ago, to remember and meditate on the Real Presence.

The Blessed Sacrament was brought to the upper level, where it remained for the weekend, for anyone who wanted to attend Adoration when they had a break.

The rest of the YFC Cinci arrived later, so Mariel and I weren’t sitting with them. I got some pics, though… Hahaha. (Pics 18 and 19 of Gabe and Kuya Mico, the only two of our group that I could see from where I was sitting.) It was funny; when they arrived, we… uhm, hissed? to them, and they turned and we were making faces and… uhm, reaching out? to each other across the four rows that separated us. It was hilarious. ANYWAY…

Pic 20 is of the full house; it’s actually the cover photo of a video, which is uploaded to Facebook, if any of you are on there… I THINK you’ll be able to view it without being my friend, but I’m not SURE. Sorry. (That goes for all the videos I uploaded. You’ll know which pics are the cover pics, because the captions say “SEE VIDEO titled “_____.”)

So… more of my journal entry —

After Mass came the band/dance competitions. I hung out there for a while. I was sitting with Ate Mary. After the first 4 groups. I went outside and hung out with Tita Doris and Tito Leo and Kuya Mico. Had some ppl sign my autograph book. Ate Hazel and Jonathan arrived. We hung out until the first talk. The first talk was AWESOME!!!!! About us being the New Jerusalem. We sang Your Love is Extravagant. We repeated the last line over and over with our eyes closed, really prayed it.

Ah, so, yes, the band/dance competitions. That was pretty good. The theme for the dance comp was Broadway. I remember The Lion King and Ate Mary said Grease… oh, and Annie… can’t remember what else, really. Got a couple pics and videos… (pics 21 thru 25) but we weren’t really required to stick around, so I went out and, yes, spent some time with the De Velas. (‘Cept for Gabe, he was inside with the rest of the YFC.) The “ppl” that I had sign my autograph book were Ate Mary (before Mass, actually — did I already mention that? I’m too lazy to go re-read), Kuya Mark, and Fr. Celsus. Ah, and I got a lanyard and Bible tabs, which I immediately began applying. (Something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, so I thought I’d better do it right then and there, since I had the time, anyway, while chatting with Tita Doris.)

When Ate Hazel and Jonathan arrived, Jonathan went inside almost right away, but Ate Hazel stayed outside for a bit… we just sat there for a bit, caught up with each other, etc. … Talked about what had been going on at the Conference so far… Took some random pics… (pics 26 thru 29)

Eventually, we went back inside for the first talk. (Pic 30.) The New Jerusalem… yes. I forget which brother gave that talk. I’m sure Gabriella and Kim remember his name. I honestly forget. Mah bad. Anyway, we had a geography lesson. :D The map came up on the screen, and he just talked for a bit about where Jesus came from, and about Jerusalem, so on… just to give us a bit of a background. And then he went on about Christ giving the Twelve the mission to evangelize the world, and eventually leading down to us being “The New Jerusalem,” if you will, that we are a part of God’s Chosen People… And then we sang Your Love is Extravagant, and the brother (I feel SO horrible calling him that…) invited us to keep singing the last line, and he said, “Let this be our prayer,” and told us that if we were going to sing it we better mean it… Oh, for those of you that don’t know, the last line is “Capture my heart again..” and he was saying, that, for those of us that maybe came to the Conference going through a “dry spell” if you will, meaning spiritual dryness, or maybe we just weren’t feeling excited about God at present, that now was the time to pray and ask the Lord to capture our hearts again, and get us excited and be ready and open for the Conference.

After the first talk, we sat down and waited for our buses to be called… it was VERY NEARLY CHAOS. Honestly. :D It was fun, though. Tito Miel drove Lexi and Mariel and I to the hotel, so we got there before the rest of the group. (Which was fun. We got to jump on the bed. (Pics 31 to 33.) Bwee hee hee. AND we got the keys. Muahahahahaha.) Journal —

Afterwards, we went to the hotels. Ate Hazel and I went to bed at nearly 1. Our roommates came at 2. Haha. Christy and Lizzy.

So, basically, Gabe and Jorrel and Kuya Vin and Kuya Mico were assigned to a room on the 4th floor. Us girls were on the 2nd. Lexi, Mariel, Gabriella, and Kim were in one room, and Ate Hazel and I were in another room with two girls from Florida. Mariel gave us our YFC Cinci shirts (which we all planned to wear the next day), and then we all said goodnight. When our roommates came, they were knocking on the door, because their Tito had the key (two keys per room, one went to me and Ate Hazel, the other was left at the front desk for them), and so when they came and were knocking, Ate Hazel was already asleep. Hehe, so was I, but obviously, I woke up. (Might’ve had something to do with Ate Hazel having been listening to her i-Pod when she went to bed.) I let them in, exchanged hugs and names, and then we all went to bed…

Journal —

So here I am. I got the 7 AM bus. Everyone else got the 7:45 except Lexi, who’s here. I’m gonna go chill.

Friday night, we had had a debate as to whether we should catch the 7 or the 7:45 bus. My argument was that considering that the majority of people would want to catch the latest one possible, due to having gone to sleep past midnight, we’d have an easier time at breakfast (and overall) if we got the 7. As it turns out, I set my alarm clock (which I had brought with me) for 6:15, got dressed and packed (meaning I packed my journal, water bottle, camera, jacket, cell phone, rosary, ID, spikes… so on) and woke no one. It was kind of funny for me… I’m walking around the room with the only light coming through a slit where the curtains don’t quite meet, rummaging through my suitcase for everything I need to put into my backpack, and I HATE making noise, but they were all just plum tuckered out and I got out of the room without so much as making any of them turn over…

I got downstairs, and felt a bit out of place, because there were mostly boys downstairs, and three Parent Coordinators — all from Florida. (Girls tend to sleep in, eh? Pssh.) So I stood around and looked at the floor… at the screen of the cell phone… at random numbers… and then… Mariel and Lexi show up, Yay!!! But Mariel goes back upstairs and back to bed. Haha. She came down to see Lexi off. :P So Lexi and I boarded the bus and watched some movies from the day before…

When we got there (the Uni, I mean), there was NO ONE. It was pretty darn cool. Breakfast was awesome compared to Friday’s dinner; the place was empty. We got a whole table to ourselves and our stuff, which we deliberately spread out. (The ‘stuff’ being our scheds, etc. Breakfast pics, 34 to 38.)

After breakfast, we went to the Student Rec Center. On our scheds, it had been set as

Saturday
7:30 – 9:00am Breakfast
9:00 – 10:00am Workshop Matrix I

but it turns out that that was changed. Worship would start at 9, and the first workshop at 10, moving everything down by an hour. So, imagine, we get to the Rec Center and into the gym. Finding it empty was… cool. That is an understatement. Muaha. Check it out… pic 39. And then we leave the gym, as no one is there, find a Kuya hanging out all alone at one of the tables, and learn from him that the sched was changed, and that it had been on the screen the night before (apparently, the bus to our hotel having been called first, the announcement hadn’t ‘stuck’ with us) and so we’re like… hmm.. what should we do now…

SO WE WENT AND GOT LOST!!!!

Kidding. But yeah, we went and explored. (Pics 40 thru 44.) We looked at our maps and simply soaked in the possibilities… eventually, we ended up going to a field. I THINK it was the football field. Or was it the soccer field? Dunno. It was a field. Period. And we took pictures. Muaha.

We arrived back at the Rec Center and found ppl getting off buses. So we called up the others and found that they were in the Cafeteria having breakfast, so we said we’d wait outside the Rec Center. While we were waiting… Ahaha, I was practicing forms, and Lexi and I were chatting about the previous day’s events, and some guy goes, “Oy! Martial Arts girl!” and I was like, “Yeah…?” and he goes, “Nothing, that’s just really cool, how you go… *low kick*” and I just said thanks… And then he said to ‘keep it up’ and he and his friends left. 

So then, Lexi’s watching these dudes who have their skateboards with them, and we meet Kuya Spencer. (21 years old, forget where he’s from, overall very easy to get along with, quite pleasant, reminds me of Ninong Alvin, and he’d always have a kind word or a pat on the shoulder for any of us whenever we bumped into each other for the rest of the weekend.) He and Lexi start talking… what shall I call it, ‘skater talk’ ? :P I continued my forms while listening. Eventually, the rest of our group show up, we hang out for a bit longer, chatting and laughing and so on, and then we all go inside for Worship and take pics while the band is warming up. (Pics 45 to 58.) 

After worship, they announced building changes for some of the Workshops, gave us all a minute to write it all down, and then we were dismissed. 

The rest of YFC Cinci went to A New Hope, while I went to Heart of a Hero. :D I just HAD to take a picture of where I was.. so, pics 59 and 60, and then I wrote in my journal while I was waiting. 

9:41 AM. At the Science & Tech center for the 1st workshop. Lexi and I met up with everyone after they had breakfast. We went exploring first. We went to the football field. Haha, I’m in a lecture hall… whee. It’s filling up pretty darn fast. I was the first one here… haha.

As you can tell by the weak “haha”s, I was not quite so hyper as I had been the day before. It might have had something to do with being all alone… 

ANYWAY. I was THE VERY FIRST PERSON at the lecture hall, besides the service team. So there was no crowd to follow, and I got lost inside the Science & Tech Center. Oh, don’t worry, I was only on one floor, but the whole place was dark, there was NO ONE, and I had no idea where in the building I was supposed to be going… Ewww; so, I’d been exploring, right, and then I found another entrance, and there are at least 7 bluebottle flies on the windows… Blech, and I thought I’d escaped them… *cough* Anyway, I waited for the crowd to arrive, and still no one was sure where we were supposed to be, so they went outside, found a parent coordinator who was somewhere in the middle of the whole crowd, and he told us what room we were supposed to be in, and I walked along with a guy and three girls from I don’t know where, and we finally found the room, and got the best seats since we were the first ones in, and… yeah.

So it’s all over, and I nearly got lost on my way over to the BLC.

The talk was good. Started and ended with a prayer. We watched a short video on Mother Teresa.

The lecture hall was not that big, really, and so there were people sitting on the stairs, standing up against the back wall, and sitting on the floor in front of the platform. Seriously, there was NO moving room. The talk was focused on the work of GK. We watched some slideshows, and the talk was given by a full-time worker, and two people shared… Brother Justin was one… I forget who else.

They asked some questions… I answered one, but I’ve forgotten what it was about. Oh, no, wait, something on… something on why we thought Jesus preferred the poor to the rich? I think… or why he chose to put them first… There were some tears during this talk. The point our Sister was trying to make was that there is no feeling in the world worse than loneliness. As in Real loneliness, as in feeling that even GOD is not there for you. And she said that many of the poor and homeless experience this, and that this, for them, is the worst… that they can endure hunger, the cold, whatever, but when it comes to loneliness… And so the main focus of the talk overall was that people really need Love most. They just need Love. And that went into Jesus Is Love, etc. … And then we talked about the things we can do, within and without GK. She said that we had to be DOING something, that we couldn’t simply feel sorry for people, you know, and think “Oh, those kids in Africa, I’m so sorry for them” and simply leave it at that. What good does that do them? So she outlined for us little ways, little things that we can do. 

The Sister that was giving the talk was telling us a story about someone she’d worked with at a summer camp, and she was working with the special needs students and there was one 18 year old girl in a wheelchair that she grew very attached to, and this girl had no friends. She didn’t like boys especially because they teased her and stuff. But there was one boy that she called her friend, and when asked why he was her friend, her simple answer was, “He says hi to me.” There was a moment of silence after that. 

I really enjoyed that workshop. Oh, we also talked about genuine Love, and one example was that when we see pictures of the poor all over the world, we have to see beyond their face, beyond the dirt they might have to live in, beyond their surroundings, beyond everything on the outside, and that when we look at them, we should be seeing Jesus in them, and that that should be our #1 motivation. ‘Course the Bible came in and what Jesus said about how when we help people, we’re helping him, and when we turn them away, we turn Him away. 

After the talk, I left for the Bart Luedeke Center (referred to as the BLC) where it was planned that the YFC would meet up for the Ministers of Music Workshop and then all go to lunch. I got there before them, and I gather that my talk made a somewhat more interesting impact on me than theirs did on them (Kim: How was yours? Me: It was awesome! How was yours? Kim: Eh… it was ok… I guess…)… When we got to the BLC, we had to be ushered into an empty lecture hall to wait, so that we could make room for the people who were still coming out of the previous workshop. (There were 6 workshops, each workship ran twice, except for the Theology of the Body workshop which ran four times, and there was time for everyone to go to four of the workshops, whichever ones we chose. Those people we were making room for were coming out of the first session of the Ministers of Music workshop; we were waiting to attend the second.) 

AT PRESENT my testimony ends here. I’m breaking it up into three parts according to my albums. As I’ve said, I have three albums. So to keep you from getting confused as to which album I’m referring to, I mean to post the link to an album at the start of a post, and refer ONLY TO THAT LINK during the entire post, SO. As I’ve covered the first album, this post ends here. :D I’ll have the second part covering the second album posted, hopefully, by the end of this week. (Are you bored, yet? Muaha.)  

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