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These Parish Youth Leaders Share Their World Youth Day Experience

Dream big. God will provide.

They say when we dream according to God’s plans, He will make it happen because, with Him, nothing is impossible.

My Pope Philippines chats with two former parish youth leaders of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez, Rizal who shared how they became a delegate for the World Youth Day (WYD) in Poland and Madrid in 2011 and 2016, respectively and how God provided for their needs.

‘God will provide’

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“I am really grateful to Fr. Ric because whatever funds that will be generated from the mass’s second collection for two weeks will be given to me. I just kept on claiming that ‘God will provide’ and indeed, He provided. I didn’t know how I was able to raise the funds.” (Photo courtesy of subjects and (background) International Youth Day)

Albert Año was turning 30 years old in 2016 when he dreamt of becoming a delegate for the World Youth Day in Poland. He knew his application was a punch to the moon because he didn’t have enough savings and wasn’t earning much from his job.

“I tried borrowing money from my relatives and friends, but no one lent me. I borrowed money from the parish, but instead, they shouldered 50 percent of my airfare,” he shares.

Albert credited then newly installed parish priest, Fr. Rodrigo ‘Ric’ Eguia for his support in raising the funds. “I am really grateful to Fr. Ric because whatever funds that will be generated from the mass’s second collection for two weeks will be given to me. I just kept on claiming that “God will provide” and indeed, He provided. I didn’t know how I was able to raise the funds,” he says. (Read: 3 Prayers for Blessings and Gratitude)

During that time, Albert was working in a government office for four years on a contractual basis. His dilemma was if he leaves for Poland, he’ll be on a “No Work, No Pay” status and he will have no savings when he comes back. So, while applying for a visa, he was also looking for a regular and stable job.

“But God had been good because I wasn’t able to spend my pocket money when I was in Poland – I even came back with it. Two weeks after I came back to the Philippines, I received a call from another government office saying I need to submit the requirements so I can start with them already,” he shares. 

A student without money

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“The whole parish helped me. Of course, my parents were in full support of my ‘big’ dream.” (Photos courtesy of subject and (background) International Youth Day)

Mark “Markie” De Leon experienced the same problem. He was a 20-year-old student when he became a WYD delegate for Madrid in 2011. When asked who will finance his trip, he just answered in full confidence that ‘God will provide’.

“The diocese [Antipolo] has a strict screening process. You must be an active ministry member and you must join the different programs and workshops of the diocese. And of course, the financial aspect is included in the pre-qualification,” says Markie. (Read: Student Who Made it to PH’s Top Universities Shares Her Study Habits)

At first, Markie had a hard time raising funds because he was still studying that time. But with the help of the church community, he was able to get sponsors. His fellow youth ministry members also helped him raise funds by selling t-shirts, youth cross pendants, among many others.

“The whole parish helped me. Of course, my parents were in full support of my ‘big’ dream,” says Markie.

Lessons and most memorable experience

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Albert Año: “I learned the value of family when I went to Poland. It’s like I didn’t leave the Philippines. I felt the love, hospitality, generosity of my companions from start to finish.” (Photo courtesy of subject)

For Markie, one of his most memorable experiences was seeing the Pope up close. “I was ecstatic. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I felt chills down my spine when the Pope passed by in front of us and all the delegates were yelling, ‘Esta es la Juventud del papa’ which means ‘This is the youth of the pope, you will feel the presence of Christ, the Love of Christ,” says Markie.

Markie also visited a miraculous site in Portugal where the Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three children. They prayed there and attended mass.

“We don’t have to be afraid to face challenges and obstacles. We face many difficulties at work or school, but we don’t need to be discouraged. We need to build ourselves through Christ and be rooted in Christ,” he remarks.

For Albert, WYD is a journey that one needs to be physically fit and grounded in faith. “You’ll be tested on how you will handle the challenges and responsibility. It’s not like going on tour like a tourist. You are journeying with God like the apostles when they went to the Mt. Olives,” he emphasizes.

Albert also learned how to manage his time, exercise his leadership skills, the value of family and discipleship.

“I learned the value of family when I went to Poland. It’s like I didn’t leave the Philippines. I felt the love, hospitality, generosity of my companions from start to finish. I also felt like I was one of Christ’s disciples because that time, I was spreading the Good News to other people, how devoted and loving Filipinos are, and how to be a good Catholic,” he shares.

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Markie De Leon: “We don’t have to be afraid to face challenges and obstacles. We face many difficulties at work or school, but we don’t need to be discouraged. We need to build ourselves through Christ and be rooted in Christ.” (Photo courtesy of subject)

Advice to young people

For those who want to become a delegate for WYD, Albert advised them to just dream because this will be an unforgettable experience.

“I pray raising funds won’t hinder you to be a delegate. If you really want to achieve your dream, you’ll make it happen. Be courageous enough to accept the challenge because God is always with you,” says Albert who is now the Coordinator of the Parish Social Communications Ministry of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez, Rizal. (Read: World Youth Day 2023 Slated From August 1 to 6)

“Dream big and discern. Listen to your heart. Give yourself selflessly to others. WYD isn’t a field trip or a vacation. It is knowing oneself and your mission in life. You are a pilgrim, and you are bound to journey with the Lord,” says Markie who is also an active member of the Parish SOCOM.

Originally scheduled to be held in August 2022, World Youth Day was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be held from August 1 to 6, 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

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