TWO TESTIMONIALS FROM THE SYA WEEKEND

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.

Single Young Adults (SYA) By Rosy Adriano

yh
As published in the July 24 issue of the Parish Bulletin.

Single Young Adults, or SYA, is a parish-based group that caters to the needs of single adults between the ages of 21-35 years old, bringing Jesus into the hectic lifestyles of today’s young Catholics. In SYA we aim to strengthen one’s relationship with Jesus through a sense of community. It is where conversion and training leaders for ministry takes place.

Last March 11-13, 2016, SYA had its 31st Weekend Retreat welcoming 28 new single young adults to the community. This 3-day stay-out weekend retreat provided an avenue for busy professionals who wish to pause from their hectic lifestyle and discover or rediscover their relationship with Jesus. This was done through a series of talks and exercises catered to the needs of single young adults. What makes this retreat special is that the talks are given by single young adults themselves, so the participants will really feel that they are in the presense of peers instead of experts. It creates a more open environment, which leads to a more meaningful experience.

The week after the SYA 31st Weekend Retreat, the community began its Holy Week celebrations by visiting beautiful churches around Antipolo for our yearly Bisita Iglesia. This event was attended by various member of the parish, and served as a great avenue for parishioners to mingle. Aside from the Bisita Iglesia, SYA actively participated in the parish various Holy Week activities such as 7 Last Words and the Holy Thursday Vigil. SYA was also there to witness the 6am Chrism Mass in Manila Cathedral on Holy Thursday, which is a very moving experience as the mass was for the priest and an avenue to thank them for their many contributions. It was wonderful to be cheering on our parish priest, Fr. Reu, as he is always there to cheer us on.

Aside from the bi-yearly weekend retreat and Holy Week activities, we kick off the month by celebrating mass as a community every first Thursday. We call this our Birthday Mass, as the SYAers who are celebrating their birthdays are in charge of this gathering. The mass usually ends with a blessing of the celebrants, and a fun night filled with tons of food and laughter.

Every second and fourth Fridays, SYAers gather at the Adoration Chapel for our Pay Day Prayer session. The easiest way to describe this is like a “Holy Hour” wherein we look back on what The Lord has done for us these past few weeks. We do this through songs, hymns, meditation time, and prayers. This is a very relaxing activtiy, and you will leave the Adoration Chapel feeling renewed and ready to face next 15 days.

Every third Thursday of the month is our Prayer Meetings. This is an avenue for a chosen SYAer to give a talk on a topic relevant to today’s society and our Catholic faith, especially in the context of being a single young adult. This is a great avenue to meet the rest of the community on a more personal level, as group sharings are very much encouraged.

After these activities, SYAers are usually fond of hanging out at board game cafes, karaoke places, and newest must try restaurants – another way to show the bond of community. We also make our own events to foster community bonding. To welcome the latest batch of SYAers, we had a Welcome Party for them in the beginning of April in a restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. It was attended by the new and current SYAers, and was a night filled with music and dance offs! We also organized a Star Wars themed Summer Party, as a way for the community to geek out together as well as to just come together to bond.

As part of the Santuario de San Antonio Parish, SYAers are usually found helping out with the various ministries of the parish as well us with other activities of the Youth of San Antonio (YSA). An example is the 6pm Youth Mass at the Main Church, sponsored by the Youth of San Antonio, every third Saturday of the month. SYA is also looking forward to spending time with the rest of YSA for our upcoming Sports Meet, Game Night, and Youth Concerts! We have a lot of things planned for the rest of 2016, and we cannot wait to share it with everyone in the community.

SYA is here to remind single young adults that their time can be very fulfilling, especially if one shares one’s time, treasures, and talents to do God’s mission of helping out others. A faith family is not just a community that helps you pray, it is also a community that helps you be a better Catholic to other Catholics around you.

If you wish to part of the Single Young Adults community, you can contact Marly Laraya or any of the SYA Council and Team members. Our next retreat is on September 16-18, 2016.

PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING, FORGIVENESS AND LOVE, Black Saturday at Taguig City Jail By LC Fernandez and Ria Campos

Photo 1_Group photo

Photos by: Victor Roman and Rocky Chan

As part of the recent Lenten celebration on Black Saturday, a group of more than 30 volunteers of the Single Young Adults (SYA) joined together to answer the call to share God’s love to a hundred selected residents of the Taguig City Jail (TCJ).

LC: It was my first time to go to the jail and spend time with the residents inside. I was actually excited because it was one of the first few SYA activities that I attended after joining the recent 29th SYA Weekend Retreat. I decided to join the activity because I was moved by the note in the SYA invitation to “spend some time with the least, the last, and the lost.”I thought I would get nervous around the inmates residents but I actually felt safe as I know my faith family is there with me and that we were there to share a moment, listen, talk to them, and most importantly, to commemorate Jesus’ suffering and death until his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

RIA: This was my second time in TCJ but have been attending prison ministry events for the last three years. I always come in a little nervous, because I don’t know what to say and am very challenged in Tagalog. We were tasked to talk about the Stations of the Cross and how the different stations were relevant to the residents and then to finally reflect and write a prayer on the station assigned to us.
It’s always a bit stressful and nerve wracking – what will I say? I may say the wrong thing? What if they ask me something about our faith that I cannot answer? However, when we broke into share groups and started explaining the stations, I felt like the Holy Spirit had given me the right words to say for each station and sufficient taglish to be able to communicate.


Two SYA volunteers were assigned to each group of TCJ residents in order to facilitate the discussions and sharing of reflections on each of the 14 stations of the Cross assigned to them, after which a prayer will be prepared. We started asking them how they spend their Holy Week when they were still outside of prison. They were hesitant at first but eventually some of them shared how they did the Way of the Cross. Most of them joined the “Alay Lakad” walked all the way from various places until they reached their destination in Antipolo. Another one was active in the Passion play, and one of them reminisced how she enjoyed cooking suman for her children and spent the quiet time with her family. With their stories, one would think how normal their lives were at that time, it seemed they had no worries, nor problems, and for a brief moment, I forgot we were actually inside an institution where their activities were very limited.

The reflections they shared about the stations were very moving. When the residents started sharing their reactions and their stories, you could see that their reflections were truly coming from the heart and not just words that they were saying that we might like to hear. They expressed how they related themselves to Christ’s sufferings: how they felt humiliated and gave humiliation to their families for the grave mistakes they did, how they tried to stand up and change only to fall back to their previous faults, how they see their families too share the cross they carry by taking care of their children instead of them doing that responsibility, how some of them felt alone, neglected, and forgotten. It was evident how they felt remorse for the reasons they were in jail. Yet when we shared on the station assigned to our group, the 12th station, when Jesus died on the cross, we all felt humbled of God’s love for giving up His life for our salvation from sins; that there is always hope and a new day to live a new life with Him.
Photo 4_Way of the cross
It was almost noon, and amidst the scorching heat, all of us did the Way of the Cross and recited the prayers made by the residents. We truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in the share groups as their reflections became evident in the prayers they made. Somehow, Ria and I felt proud that our share group was able to come up with a heartfelt and truly reflective prayer for our 12th station:
Lord, unang-una po, nagpapasalamat kami sa lahat ng biyaya at gabay na binibigay ninyo sa amin. Humihingi po kami ng tawad sa lahat ng kasalanan na aming ginawa na siyang dumagdag sa bigat ng krus na inyong dinadala. Panginoon namin, narito kami sa inyong harapan, humihingi ng katatagan upang malampasan ang lahat ng pagsubok na dumarating at darating pa sa aming buhay. Gabayan po kami ng iyong Banal na Espiritu. Hindi rin po kami nawawalan ng pag-asa upang magbagong buhay. Alam po naming hindi ninyo kami pababayaan at may mga tao kayong ginagamit bilang instrumento upang mabuksan an gaming isipan tungo sa pagbabago. Panginoon, hinihingi po namin ang kalayaan ng bawat isa sa lugar na ito. Amen.
Photo 5_Station 12
RIA: I think the residents felt that although they have committed grave mistakes, they are not abandoned by God. They may not have their families visit them but there are strangers who took the time to sit with them and listen to them. I feel like this was God’s way of reminding them that He loves them and wants them to change for the better. Although we may have more to share with them in terms of money and goods, they have a lot of things to share by their experiences and their words. We never have too little in which we cannot help others. Our small actions, like donating a bar of soap or spending a morning with people who need our time can go a long way.

The activity did not end there. Jerome Capili, a Prison Minsitry volunteer and catechist, who also celebrated his birthday at that time, shared his blessings by taking charge of the residents’ lunch. The SYA volunteers also shared the simple gifts of toiletry items to the residents. I will never forget how thankful the residents were after the activity.
Photo 6_gift giving
LC: Their tears during the sharing became smiles and their eyes were full of hope. Hope for freedom to do the simple things such as being able to share moments with their families, to live a new life outside with God’s guidance, and all the unspoken wishes, are what we pray for them. Hugs and well-wishes were exchanged, but most of all, the experience to remind the residents that they are never forgotten and that they are loved will stay in our hearts.
Photo 7_Chapel

Dearest Parishioners,
We would like to appeal for your help and support in building a “GREEN – MULTI- FAITH CHAPEL” inside the compound of Taguig City Jail. This structure will be of great help to the residents. They can have their weekly masses and other activities there. For pledges and donations in cash or in kind will be much appreciated. Please get in touch with me or with our Social Worker Ms. Nimfa Dumago at the parish office. Thank you very much.
Love and Prayers,
Alli Raval
Prison Ministry Head

Ground Breaking of Multi-Purpose Chapel in Taguig City Jail By Jayme Blanco

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Last April 7, the Santuario De San Antonio Single Young Adults (SYA) visited the Taguig City Jail (TCJ) for the Ground Breaking of the TCJ Multi-Faith Chapel. The chapel will be designed and built by the SYA community through donations. Jolly Gomez gave a speech referring to Psalm 118, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jolly further said that, “The cornerstone is what is used to build a firm foundation. The psalm refers to Jesus but I also referred to the inmates. They are rejected by society but our prayer is that through our chapel they can come out as Christ-centered people who will be the cornerstones of their family and community.’

Present were SYA Prison Ministry head Alli Raval, Arch. Pabs Suarez (SYA), Atty. Jolly Gomez, SSAP-PPC President Jayme Blanco, PNP Regional Director J/CSUPT Emmanuel Sicio, DSC, J/SUPT Clement Laboy and J/SINSP Jundelina Jagunap.

The chapel will be designed by Arch. Pabs Suarez. The architecture will have an open design to accommodate more seating space. Further, it can be used for different activities for the spiritual growth of the TCJ inmates. There are right now 800 inmates in TCJ. Everyone is welcome to join the Prison Ministry activities in TCJ which also includes cathecism, cooking contest, gift giving, etc. For inquiries and donations, please visit our parish office and look for Ms. Nimfa Dumago, SSAP Social Worker or call 843-8832.

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!!

“JOURNEYING IN FAITH THROUGH SYA” By Johan Ferrer

syaI found out about the SYA Weekend reading its simple and straightforward announcement on the parish bulletin board 11 years ago. Back then, my relationship with God was through daily prayer & meditation, and attending Mass. I believe I was quite happy then, with my friends and my job. However, I couldn’t say I was happy with my relationship with God. I was wondering if I could attend not just Mass but also Church activities with people I could relate with. So I wanted to attend SYA. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because of scheduling conflicts. It took me 4 more years before I attended. I went to the retreat by myself, looking to reflect on how I could possibly get a better sense of direction in my life as a Catholic.

I’m an introvert, so it took me some time to warm up to strangers. But I felt very welcome and unjudged. I enjoyed the weekend and had many realizations, especially on how I could become a better Catholic. I attended the activities immediately after and still felt very welcome; it was as if I joined one big family.

Seven years have passed, and I still attend the SYA activities. I have become more vocal about my faith, wanting to attend Mass more and pray more. Attending and helping with activities of our Church ministries such as Luke 18, prison and hospital ministries, among others, have made me realize the power of service as a prayer. I have met people here who are good role models, in the way they live their life and with their faith. They are not just friends, they are like family to me. SYA is my faith family, and I have found my joy with them.