A Journey of God’s Love (A WYD Sharing)

Written by Jepoy Meneses on . Posted in Sharing

Nike Micaller
CFC SFL Cubao

It’s real. I was in Brazil!

I don’t know how to start this writing. I am overwhelmed with everything that happened in Brazil, but let me just start with how God made it possible.

My first application to attend WYD was on 2010 for WYD 2011 at Madrid. Unfortunately, I was declined and up to now the reason is kept unrevealed. This year, I bargained with the Lord. I was praying for my sister to successfully go to New Zealand for studies and work. Due to some money constraints, I was hesitant to apply again for WYD but God said, “Go Nike! I have placed this desire in your heart.” And so God provided, He fixed my schedule, and the pilgrimage experience came into reality. I brought with me the following objectives: to experience pilgrimage, to see the Pope, and to witness how other youth practice their Catholic faith.

airport welcomeI avoid having expectations in trips so as to avoid frustrations and just enjoy everything, so when I left Manila, all I brought was God’s message, “I will meet you there.” After approximately 25 hours of travel, we arrived at Rio De Janeiro Airport on July 14, 2013 (around 4pm). God started welcoming us in the airport through the youth from our host parish, Paroquia Sao Nicolau. We rode the bus and stopped at some point where other parishioners welcomed us with banners, flags, and even tears in their eyes. It was grand that there were also firecrackers. There was a motorcade leading us to the Pastoral Center where we received more of their smiles and hugs and songs. I felt like I’m in a dream. What have we done that these people accommodated us this much?

I met my foster grandmother, Cleonice Motta. The first few words that crossed my mind were, “Ibang klase ka Lord!” Why? It’s been a long time when we only had one grandparent, that is, my grandmother in my mother’s side and she died last November 1, 2012. God knows how much I missed her and her warm embrace.

brazillian costumeThe story continued. Our missionary week was full of witnessing God’s greatness through the people of Surui. We heard how their church started. We had long walks and we were able to see the beauty of nature and their culture. We visited some families. We had quality time with our host families. We had daily mass. Some Filipino priests were also given the chance to preside. We experienced their Julina festival. We acquired new talent – dancing samba. We enjoyed eating misto quente (toasted hand and cheese sandwich) and their dishes with beans, sausage, batata palha. We received presents from our families. Most of the time, I felt like I entered into a Brazilian TV series and just see how people talk in Portuguese. It was fun.

The missionary week ended Friday, July 19, so the following day, we left early for Petropolis. We went up to the Shrine of Fatima, we visited the Cathedral, and the Imperial Museum all in one day. We slept at the parish with some Filipinas, Venezuelan, and Panamanians. The following day, we went to Parque Municipal. Tents were classified to different languages. Ours is English. We were able to listen to talks and have worship. We also had mass with all the delegates in Petropolis.

julina partyOn Monday, we went to Rio De Janeiro. We were so blessed because we were hosted again by families. This time, I was with 3 SFL sisters. Again, the Lord surprised me since we were assigned to a grandmother. Though she has difficulty in communicating, it was not a hindrance for us to show our gratefulness of being there. We were also touched when she showed us the calendar with the days shaded daily as if telling us she’s waiting for our arrival. Our neighbour was also generous as they welcomed us in their condo unit. Every night is like a party night. We spent time talking about Philippines and Brazil, and our daily WYD experience. We sang and danced and even celebrated our foster mother’s birthday.

On Tue, we had opening mass at Copacabana. “This is for real. We are in Rio. We are in Brazil!” We exclaimed. We saw Pope Francis from afar. The first night at Copacabana was a battle against the very cold wind and drizzle.

The next 3 days, we had catechesis every morning. I loved the talks as it reminded me of the real meaning of discipleship and how we are commissioned to be part of the great hope and God’s loving plan.

One of the memorable experiences we had was the Asian Youth Gathering. I was struck with how some of our Asian brothers and sisters strive and struggle in order to deepen their Catholic faith. I realized that we were so blessed in the Philippines that majority of the people is Catholic. It is a shame on me if I find more excuses not to strengthen my faith and not do my part in evangelization.

As days passed, I always hear God telling me, “I’m not yet done, my child.” Maybe, it’s because of all the concerns we prayed for our friends and for ourselves, or maybe, it’s because I felt that I am already contented at the fact that I was able to go to Brazil. He simply knows us. The same message still continues but as I think about it now, he simply answered my question through the gifts he allowed me to experience there. I was able to see the pope nearer, twice, as he passed the barricaded rode. Maybe, other people do not understand this seemingly crazy dream. Yes, it is crazy, but the moment we saw him represents the fulfilment of God’s promise. We felt Jesus Christ. We felt God through this man who is very close to His heart, who leads the church and who followed the footsteps of Peter. Another awesome experience was the vigil. Jesus Christ was exposed with millions of people kneeling before him. It was amazing. We slept and woke up at the long stretch of Copacabana beach.

Rio 2013After the WYD proper, our group, ECY Philippines had a re-entry session for us to digest and share our learning. We also had spare time to visit Cristo Redentor on top of Corcovado, see the Ipanema beach and pray at different churches.

I went home continuing the mission entrusted to me – my family, workplace, and service in the community. This time, re-fuelled and carrying God’s message with me.

Be the love you ought to be. This is the main message I believe God is telling me now. Since I had experienced the World Youth Day, being with people from different cultures and practices and with different attitudes, I was pruned to avoid looking at the negative side. I am an observant person, hence prone to seeing what’s missing and what should be done. God is reminding me not to use it to judge others but to continue being the love. I also remember from our catechesis, it was stated that “the greatest tragedy is not realizing that we are loved.” I don’t want seeing lonely people and maybe if I will just use my eyes to see those who are left behind and do the first move, then we might be able to prevent that greatest tragedy to happen to our neighbours.

Do not be afraid. Pope Francis summarized his message in 3 points: Go, Do not be afraid, and Serve. I have so many fears in life, I must admit. If there is also one thing I need surrendering, it is my fears. Coming from WYD, I felt I am so much loved and blessed and from this great love, God is telling me again and again, all things are possible. I realized that if I will continue to be fearful, then I might not see God’s faithfulness to me. I might be blinded and just keep on waiting when I am supposed to simply enjoy his plan being unveiled. This applies to our decisions in life, to our families, etc. He re-affirms me that he is in control.

Hope never disappoints. To have God is to have hope. These lines struck me during catechesis. The WYD experience was a dream. I can still remember how I haggled for my WYD application last 2011, how sad I was for being declined. Now, all I can say is that God is perfect. The hope did not die and he did not disappoint me. I want to be filled with his love and now he just did like what he always do. Here is another point. Every time I hear the word hope, I always relate it to my hopes for friends or people we are praying for. God is telling us to be patient as he works in every detail and aspect of our lives.

There’s one thing that crossed my mind right now. It was told that we are part of God’s loving plan and great hope. If we are to be the hope, then we are called to not disappointing people and God.

It was my first out of the country. During our stay in Brazil, we were able to talk to some old Filipinas living at US, who joined the WYD. It was their 3rd WYD. They told me that we should continue attending WYD because each has its own beauty, learning, and unique experience. They might not be considered youth today, but their hope and enthusiasm is something that we should imitate.

Some people might not understand the trade-off for this kind of experience, but it is more than what I hoped for. I missed my lola, but God allowed me to feel again her embrace through 2 avos. My sister just finished her first semester at school in New Zealand and I just came from an awesome experience in Brazil. He knows our desires and he responds to it in ways beyond what we can imagine. God’s love is real.

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