Last July 13, our CFC-FFL missionaries left for Brazil to attend World Youth Day. For each of them, it was an experience of a lifetime!
Read their inspiring testimonies in this series. As they have been immensely blessed by their pilgrimage in Rio, may you be blessed by these sharings.
A World Youth Day Testimony by Teny Mardo, CFC SFL Fulltime Worker
When was the last time you were tightly embraced? In my case, it was during these past two weeks when God tightly embraced me of His awesomeness! God brought me to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and revealed these beautiful things He has in store for me. Who would ever think that I will be part of the delegation of pilgrims from the Philippines for the WYD in Brazil? With God’s grace and love, nothing really is impossible. For eighteen days, we walked, we spoke Portuguese, we danced samba, we prayed, we attended mass, we chanted, “Pe-regrinos de Filipinas (3x) Oi, oi, oi, oiiiiii!!!”, we loved churros and we rode their subways and buses. In all of these, we felt God embracing us!
EMBRACED BY GOD’S GENEROSITY
For a missionary like me, to be able to attend an international event is a huge challenge that I have to face with so much faith that the Lord will make it happen. Each missionary from CFC-FFL had to sell more than one hundred raffle tickets to raise funds. In my case, I needed to sell it online since I was in the U.S.A. for mission during the whole preparation of WYD. God was indeed generous in sending selfless people to share their blessings to us missionaries. People across the globe messaged us and long lost friends were connected because of this cause. People sharing their blessings made them indeed part of the whole pilgrimage. Going to Brazil for the WYD made us all, missionaries, more prayerful carrying all the prayer intentions of all our families, friends and those who have helped us realized this pilgrimage. It has allowed us to be bolder in our calling as well, especially when the Pope starts to say, “Go out to the real world where Christ is needed! That is your battlefield! Be not afraid!”
It is also very much worth mentioning the very generous Brazilian families who have received us in their homes. Many from the Filipino pilgrims cannot speak Portuguese. But the families who have welcomed were not bothered by this. More so, they genuinely showed their love and generosity to us selflessly. They shared with us their homes, family, care, concern after our long days and long walks, food that really filled our stomach and they gave us a love that is so Christ-like! This is God’s embrace from heaven and we received it through the many people He has sent us – from those who bought tickets from us and from our Brazilian host families, plus the parishes who adopted us led by their generous parish priests and the other pilgrims from other parts of the globe.
EMBRACED BY GOD’S ASSURANCE
God’s presence gives assurance. I wrote in my journal that I want to see the Pope in this WYD. Never in my lifetime have I seen personally any of the Popes (Blessed Pope John Paul II nor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). I would pray for it and I really squeezed my way through crowds of pilgrims and barricades of volunteers to make sure I’ll be at the right spot when the Pope passes. I saw Pope Francis thrice! And how I savored the moment of seeing Him! His presence is God’s assurance to me that He is with us. That to this time, He continues to fulfill His promises. The Pope is the successor of St. Peter. St. Peter lived with Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God! The Pope is the closest to God I can be with!
I was silent after the whole experienced of seeing the Pope. It put me to silence, realizing that this is how real my God is. This is how real Jesus can be in my life! This made me think then. How real therefore can I be responding to His calling? I used to say, I cannot respond because of uncertainties. Now I say it is God’s voice! I will heed and am definitely certain that God will be with me all the way!
EMBRACED BY GOD’S PLAN
His plan for me is to become a revolutionary in evangelizing, be a protagonist of change and for me to “Go!”. Pope Francis spoke in Spanish with a mix of some Portuguese words at the start and middle of his messages to us, youth. His language therefore was called Portoñol, with Argentine accent. To me, it was heaven! Thank God for previous mission opportunities, I can speak and understand Spanish! The last Latin American country that I served for mission was in Argentina. And to my surprise, if you know Spanish you can get by with Portuguese! How amazing to realize that I can totally understand what the Pope was saying the whole time! When everyone else would start to turn on their radio or put on their headphones, I would take off mine so I can freely hear the Pope without the help of the English translator. At that moment, it was heaven for me! It was like God orchestrating the whole thing. God wanted me to understand Him in the language I am comfortable with and I heard Him so clear through Pope Francis!
Pope Francis spoke of going out in the world and proclaiming Christ’s greatness boldly. He even assured us that Christ will be with us as we respond to this call. The Pope reminded us of our calling – that we should never be confined to our parish, community and service. It is time to go out without any fear, for God is with us!
Attending WYD allowed me and the rest of the other pilgrims to experience God’s embrace big time! God’s embrace brings boldness to our way of responding to the call. WYD made us hear what is God’s calling to us, youth of the Catholic Church. We are the present and the future of the Church! And when do we respond to this calling? Now! I am responding now! When will you?
I praise God for the gift of the community CFC-FFL. This community has taught us how to become an active member of the Catholic Church. This community has taught us to love everything about the Catholic Church. And this community has brought us to places where we can proclaim and share God. Through this community, I dreamt of going to a big Catholic event such as the World Youth Day, with the Pope. And it happened! I will forever remember this God’s embrace which I felt big time during the World Youth Day. And I will never stop from sharing that, to this time, God’s embrace can still be felt!