The SYA Weekend helped me to trust and understand God more.
by Mary Anne Rose Silagpo

The 31st weekend was my second retreat as an adult. The first one was around 2004. I learned a lot from it, but I did not become an active member of the group due to my lack of interest in their activities.

I found out about the SYA Weekend from my sister, Veron. She told me stories about her own weekend. Honestly, there were times when I was just pretending to listen, but there were also stories that really got my attention. Stories which made me realize that my problems in life are too simple compared to others. Before the 31st SYA Weekend came, my sister told me to free my schedule. She even registered for me. I was hesitant at first, but when she told me that her friend, whom I already knew, will be there also, I was convinced.

I went to the retreat because I was a bit of curious on what it really is. Being an introvert, I had a hard time opening up to people during the weekend. But I’m grateful that other people listened without judging me. I was truly blessed by the realizations I had that weekend.

I thought that everything ends when the weekend ends, but that wasn’t the case.. The Team A, and my sister also, invited me to attend different kinds of activites. Personally, I liked Payday Prayers the most.

Through SYA, I was also able to volunteer for a Prison Ministry outreach. It made me realize that I should be more grateful and prayerful. I was also inspired to help others more.

There are many SYAers whom I truly admire for being committed to the activities and the parish ministries. With the help of SYA, I want to be just like them and be able to serve others.

Trust in the magic of new beginnings.
by Criselle S. Mendoza

My weekend retreat at SYA last March 2016 was truly the mark of a new beginning for me.

I was invited by my college friend to join the September 2015 retreat but admittedly, I didn’t have enough courage to join then. So I promised myself that no matter what happens, I would join the very next scheduled retreat. Just a week before March 2016 retreat, I knew in myself that I was feeling lost and desperately needed guidance so I registered and just trusted God and His will.

I didn’t have any expectations of what the retreat would be. I didn’t know a single soul from SYA (aside from my friend who invited me) which I especially liked that so I could be myself, meet new people and gain new learnings from them.

I made friends quickly during the first night though I have to be honest that I was having doubts on joining the succeeding days. Maybe because I thought that SYA wouldn’t really be of much help to me. Maybe I thought it was just another retreat where you will be asked about general questions of life and forced to share sappy stories with people you hardly know. I had a lot of ‘maybes’ but I still went on the second day and I was actually grateful for that decision.

Few months before SYA retreat, I was already asking myself where my life is going and how do I even get THERE, wherever-whatever that is. It’s funny that the more I plunged myself into the SYA experience, it got clearer to me that the questions I have been asking myself for months already are roughly the same ones contained in the exercises. It was mind-blowing. But the harder part is where the questions or struggles I tried so hard to run away from are also there, forcing me to face it all with no escape. Well, I could choose not to take the exercises seriously, but then I knew I would just be fooling myself. It was extremely hard for me to open up. I am naturally friendly but I’ve always struggled in trusting people with the innermost ME. But the SYA exercises felt like it was drilling into my being that I just had to let everything flow out from me and simply trust the people around me in the retreat. With God’s grace and support from my fellow SYA-ers, facing these struggles and frustrations became less frightful.

Slowly I realized that it was comforting and heartwarming to feel NOT alone in facing life’s challenges. During the SYA, I realized that despite of our differences, we are all the same. We all have our own struggles and frustrations but we are ALL loved so much by the same God who not once did leave our side. In fact, I felt God and His love in every soul I met in SYA. I felt so privileged and humbled to have the chance to hear stories of hope and faith of my fellow SYA-ers. It was a gift that I was allowed to peek into their worlds and learn so much from their experiences. In the same way, I felt so appreciated when they would sincerely listen to my experiences and really connect with me. It made me feel that I matter and maybe they gain wisdom too from my mistakes and regrets. In sharing myself, I gained so much more back. I learned empathy, I gained strength and I took with me peace.

At the end of the retreat, I still have no clear picture of where I am going. And that’s fine, nothing wrong with that. But I can say that I have greater faith now; faith that tells me that I should not worry because all is in the hands of GOD. I just have to take my time and bravely follow His directions. But no matter where that is, I know it would entail me not letting anyone leave my side without feeling happier. It’s what really matters to me now, using my blessings and gifts in making others happy.

As published in the September11 issue of the Parish Bulletin.