29th SYA Weekend Retreat (March 13-15, 2015) By Mara Boquiren

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People find themselves attending our retreat for different reasons. Many come to deepen or restore their relationship with God. Others are there to find respite, gain clarity, or join a faith family. Some were compelled by a friend or relative to be there.

Whatever their reason for joining, they finish the retreat consistently receiving far more than they hoped for.

Such was the case at the recent 29th SYA Weekend. 24 young adults from around Metro Manila emerged from the retreat refreshed, renewed, and riding on a spiritual high. They were led by this Weekend’s Team A, who served as facilitators and speakers: Javier Gomez, Karina Escano, Pisha Banaag, Stephen Ang, Ellen Tabios and Hani Roa. Team A gave some of the most powerful talks I’ve heard in my life. They were very brave to have shared what they did – all for the benefit of our community. SYAers and retreat participants alike were deeply moved by them.

Here’s what some participants had to say about their retreat:
I met so many wonderful people this weekend that my heart is full of joy and love and I just want to say thank you God for bringing them into my life! You guys are awesome! – Sabina Santiago

My biggest takeaway from the 29th Weekend was that I realized that I’m now in a space of being happy and grateful for what’s happening in my life now. How the topics were arranged was perfect plus the openness and vulnerability of the speakers made us share more about ourselves with complete strangers. These strangers are now good friends and I can consider them as family. I am beyond grateful for the SYA Weekend experience and for the gift of friendship and family! – Argel Tiburcio

An opportunity to reflect on scriptural passages and witness how it affects the lives of others through their sharing. The sharing of fellow participants inspired me by their strengths and reminded me of humility and understanding by their weaknesses knowing that each of us have our own crosses to bear. – Joel Tirona

The Weekend started as decision to keep a promise made to my best friend but by the time Sunday rolled around, it was so much more than that. It was one of only two transformative processes I’ve ever gone through in my life and I am so grateful that I took the leap of faith that was needed of me. Taking a leap of faith requires courage and will, trust and openness; and the people I spent my Weekend with made it easier. They also made it infinitely worthwhile. –Madi Belen

Operations were run by Team B heads Alla Raval and Brian Medina. Workshoppers were our SYA Council: Vic Rufino, Shelli Tomacruz, Marly Laraya, Caran Zuluaga, LM Zuluaga, Mike Yuson, Oskie Dolendo, Pabs Suarez, Simon Villalon, Tricia Monsod, and Voltaire Tayag. Food was provided by Melo’s catering, care of Caron and Paul Macasaet as well as the generous donations of SYA members.

What is the Weekend Retreat?
The retreat itself is beautiful.

It starts out on a Friday night with a group of strangers (ages 21-39) of different backgrounds. Most of them with no idea of what’s to come. They are eased into the rhythm of the retreat by 6 SYA leaders, whom we refer to as Team A. The participants are then led through a sequence of talks, prayers and sharing sessions that unravel their minds, hearts and spirits.

Over the next 2 days, they come to terms with who they are and all that separate them from God.

It may be hard to imagine how a retreat that lasts only a little over 2 days can have such a profound impact on a person’s life. But this truly does happen to our participants – whether or not they’ve detected it. As you can see from their responses above, they finish with a mixed bag of emotions and realizations. Filled to the brim with joy, hope, and love.For most, the effect is immediate. For others, it takes just a bit longer. This only underscores the potency of the experience.

What is a faith family?
A faith family is exactly that. A family with whom we share our faith, values, time, and love for God. Our bond as a family is forged through serving our community and ministering tothe sick, needy, and imprisoned.

Why would you want to be a part of one?
You would want to have a faith family simply because it will make you a better and happier person. This happens because of two things: 1) Spiritual Growth and 2) Community

At SYA, we attend mass and worship God together. We visit and tend to sick children at the Philippine General Hospital as well as dejected prisoners at Taguig City Jail. We also teach young children and JPIC college scholars Catechism. At any given time, we answer calls to serve and share our blessings.

Because of the strong bond we develop over time, it is common for us to find friends, mentors, significant others, or spouses within our faith family. Our faith is the foundation for our lifelong relationships with one other.

Personally, I consider SYA as an extension of my own family. We value the same things. They know me well and accept me for who I am. I can turn to them for almost anything – fantastic conversation, sensible advice, or just some company whenever I want it. They are some of the best people I know. That’s why I continue to do what I do.I fell in love with the community. And I’ve been in SYA for only a year.

Strong faith families like ours are invaluable to a healthy conscience and our general well-being. And I am certain that they make the world a better place.

With that in mind, the retreat was also designed to be a microcosm of what we do in SYA as active members – mass, prayer meetings, and Eucharistic adoration (save for our work with different ministries). It is the participants’ first taste of what life as an SYAer is like. From the moment they enter the retreat and for as long as they are active, they are enveloped in our culture of warmth, openness, love, courage and acceptance.

If any of the above resonated with you, then perhaps it is time you consider doing something for God and yourself. Taking the Weekend is a terrific way to start.

How do you join an SYA Weekend?
Anyone ages 21-39 can sign up for an SYA Weekend retreat. We are on our 15th year and our next retreat will be on September 18 to 20, 2015. To reserve a slot for yourself or a friend/loved one, please contact me, Mara Boquiren (Smart 09985467175), or Ramon Blanco (Globe 09175201025). Registration fee is at PhP1,500.00; inclusive of all meals, snacks and materials.Come with an open mind and heart.

And see you at the 30th SYA Weekend!!