I was brought up a in a very religious, Catholic family. We lived in the U.S. when I was young, and I served my church youth group in South San Francisco for about 4 years. I had a good relationship with God, although my prayers were mostly about asking Him for things I wanted and needed. God in His goodness would provide me these things, yet I felt something was missing in my life that I could not explain.
When we returned to the Philippines I continued to attend daily Mass and visit the Blessed Sacrament regularly. God continued to answer my prayers. Still, it did not seem like this was enough. Then one day, God suddenly stopped giving me what I asked for. Huh? But why, I thought. I pray and go to Mass. What is happening, God? It was during this time of uncertainty when I met my mama’s friend who told me, instead of asking God for things that I want, I should ask God for things He wants me to do for Him. So I attended the Single Young Adults (SYA) Weekend and there I found many ways I could serve God.
In SYA, I learned to serve God through our visits to Makati City Jail (MCJ). I didn’t really want to go to MCJ at first; I mean who wants to go to jail? I really did not understand why we had to visit a jail, but I still went. We arranged a recollection for the inmates on Black Saturday, and it was there that I saw God in each of the prisoners in my group. God made me sit with a group of five women who were all in jail for drugs. I remembered my relative, an addict whom I had pretty much given up on. One of the inmates shared about how her mother fell from a high staircase and while falling she prayed to God to just take care of her grandchildren because she knew she wouldn’t survive the fall. Her mother survived unscathed. It was her prayer that saved her. After hearing that I didn’t give up on praying for my relative’s healing.
I used to feel depressed about small things. Sometimes I feel I don’t have money or maybe I don’t earn as much as other people. Spending time with the inmates has made me realize many things about my life. I am so blessed! God loves me so much & I have so many blessings! I have a roof over my head, food on the table and so many other things I take for granted. The inmates go through problems just as we do, but they really have nothing. No house, no food. The inmates are human beings like you and me. It is because of extreme poverty that they end up doing the things they do. I am more compassionate about their situation. They make mistakes and they also need forgiveness & love.
Matthew 25:35-36: 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ I’ve heard this passage through out my life but it seems this phrase always escapes me. “I was in prison and you came to me.”
Now I know why we go to prison. To share God’s love to every prisoner we encounter.
A few weeks ago we had an MCJ activity. We celebrated Mass with the prisoners and watched a Filipino Indie Film with them. As we were giving out popcorn and juice a lady prisoner called me by my name and was very excited to see me. “Ma’am Caron bumalik ka ulit. Magturo ka ulit,” she said. This encounter made me realize that I could bring so much joy just by being there. Our mere presence in MCJ makes a difference. Sometimes we think we need to do amazing things, but all I did was eat popcorn and watch the movie from behind. Just being there brought smiles to this woman who called me by name but whose name I could not even remember.
Now I serve God through the many outreach activities of SYA and still keep my daily schedule of attending Mass and holy hour. In the past I would feel so bad if I failed to keep my schedule. Through SYA I’ve learned to offer my work as prayer; so if I can’t do all my prayers because of the work I need to do for God, I just say a little prayer while doing God’s work as my prayer and offering to Him.
In SYA, I found a family or a “faith family” as they call it. I have found sisters & brothers in Christ who have helped me become a better person & a better Christian serving God. It may seem like we have known each other all our lives, but I’ve only been in the community for 2 years. I have learned to look beyond my needs & priorities in life and put somebody else’s needs in front of my own. And as our faith lead, Jolly Gomez, always says, “”Do not worry God will always provide,” and God always does.
The 28th Single Young Adults weekend will be from September 12 – 14, 2014 (Friday evening to Sunday) at the 2nd floor of the Santuario de San Antonio Parish Center. Registration Fee is P1,000. Informational brochures are available at the Parish Office. You may also contact Jonathan at 09178367374 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.