By Julie Ann Loong, for the North Star
Hundreds of youth and parishioners turn out for Palm Sunday outdoor Mass
For the first time since its beginning in 1984, the official celebration of World Youth Day was finally celebrated in our Diocese of Chalan Kanoa with an event that turned out to be a sign of God’s love for Saipan.
On Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019, despite it being the last day of the Flame Tree Arts Festival, 300 youth parishioners from all 9 parishes on island decided to spend three hours as one church in reflection of the feasts for the day.
The assembly began at Kristo Rai Parish with opening remarks and reflections from Vinni Orsini, Sam Santos, Sister Emma Lusterio, and Bishop Ryan P. Jimenez.
After the opening, the Stations of the Cross, a prayer emphasized during Lent to reflect on the Passion of the Lord. Led by youth members and the youth choir from St. Jude, the prayer consisted of a unique format. Each station was assigned to the various members of the group in attendance. Volunteers were asked to carry a large wooden cross on the stops from the inside of the church to across the street at the Fishing Base. Parishes joined for one station, CCD teachers, women, men, and those who were carrying the cross of the damage caused by Super Typhoon Yutu last October. This served as a reminder that no burden we carry is greater than that of the cross that Jesus Christ carried in order for us to receive salvation.
Celebration of the Holy Mass for the Feast of Palm Sunday proceeded under tents set up at the Fishing Base. The clergy from the parishes there were present and presided alongside Bishop Ryan. The gospel of The Passion was read and enabled room to think about how it applied to everyone’s lives.
During the Bishop’s homily, he referenced a document that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, had recently released for all the young people of God. “Christus Vivit” or “Christ Is Alive” composed of 9 chapters that outlined 3 messages: there is a God who is love, Christ saves you, and He is alive.
“We know that the way of the cross is also the way of love. When we reflect on the moments when Jesus fell, we think of our failures, but with us is a God who loves us. He loves us so much that He sent us His Son. Today, we welcomed Jesus when we sang and raised our palms, and He is a signing hope for us. He is God but he lowers Himself for us. He humbled Himself so that He is with us when we are sad, when we are lonely, when we are sick, when we have problems, when we have sufferings, and He is with us in our joy,” stated Bishop Ryan.
“‘He is not a distant past from 2000 years ago because that would be no use. It would leave us unchanged not set us free. If He lives there is no doubt that goodness has upper hand in your life. With him this is always possible. He is alive.’ In this Holy Week, come the Sacred Triduum, we are reminded of what Pope Francis said– that God loves us, Christ saves us, and He is alive.”
Although rain clouds rolled over the hills in the east, they brought cool pre-rain breeze and no more than a light sprinkle fell from the sky like a blessing briefly before the distribution of the Body of Christ, all while a tangerine painted sunset appeared in the west behind the altar and cross.
Edward Dela Cruz Jr., the director for the Youth Ministry and one of the main coordinators, shared insights after the event concluded. “It was an overall success that would not have been possible without the help from every parish. This was nice to have youth gather in something non mandatory. Also to have the sunset during the mass and to come out and accept nature’s surroundings. Bishop has been wanting to do this since 2017, and finally the process was put into place in January this year, 3 months after Yutu. We hope that starting from now, the diocese will have this celebration annually. This was a pilot event with a big turnout and so we’ll try to have a bigger turn out next year.”
Sister Emma Lusterio, also a coordinator for the event, said, “ Since this was the first time, there were many challenges but it was worth it because, as Bishop mentioned in his homily, we are all alive I’m happy as we face our own Jerusalem and our own mountains like those that Jesus faced, and we can live through them. It may be challenging, but there is always happiness.”
“It was my first time attending a Palm Sunday World Youth Day Event. It is good to see all the energy from young. As the Pope said and Bishop restated, God is alive, God is love, and He is a God who saves. I hope this will be our direction as we go on in life,” mentioned Father Albert, who had just arrived on Saturday the week before the event.
The Diocesan Youth Commission would like to thank all those who helped make this event possible and for the kind donations. We look forward to more events that have youth involvement within the remainder of the year and definitely in the years to come. Let us together rejoice in our risen Lord. Happy Easter to everyone and God bless!