[Rewind #AwaNgDiyosPH] Young people praying Church’s hope for conversion?



For Easter, The Filipino Connection releases articles from its special edition on the apostolic visit of Pope Francis last January 15-19, 2015.


MANILA—Among millions of people who patiently endured the early morning cold breeze to see Pope Francis visit a Catholic university here, there’s a sight of youthful energy kneeling on a concrete sidewalk for minutes. A candle lit up that youthful energy.

That energy those five boy teenagers knelt for had the rosary for a charm. But these teenagers were simply praying for a safe journey to the Philippines by Pope Francis.

Members of the Mary Help of Christians Crusade (MHCC) praying hours before Pope Francis arrived in UST January 18 (photo by EFIGENIO CHRISTOPHER TOLEDO IV / The Filipino Connection)

Members of the Mary Help of Christians Crusade (MHCC) praying hours before Pope Francis arrived in UST January 18 (photo by EFIGENIO CHRISTOPHER TOLEDO IV / The Filipino Connection)

They don’t even bother kneeling on the hard cement because they know it’s for a good cause: to pray for the Pope’s security while in the Philippines.

These young people, members of a group called Mary Help of Christians Crusade (MHCC), were also praying for Filipino youths’ conversion of heart. The group’s mission is chivalric in this Internet age: “a modern day army of God to save the young people from falling into temptations of alcoholism, drugs, obscene literature, and other worldly desires”.

“Ipinagppray po namin ang lahat ng kabataan na nahuhulog na sa kalaswaan. Sa nagagawa ng mass media, so ang layunin po namin ipagdasal sila [We’re praying for young people who are entrapped with lust and with the worldly influences of the mass media. Our aim is to pray for them],” 17-year-old Renz Christian Nuñez said, adding that MHCC had attended in all activities of the Pope in the country except in Tacloban.

Through praying on streets, they encourage people, especially the youth, to join and pray with them. With no microphones backing them, the prayerful voice howled that early 2:45 morning queue at P. Noval Street, just outside of the University of Santo Tomas where Pope Francis, some seven hours later, would visit. Their knees wouldn’t wither until they had finished praying.

Nilalakasan po namin ‘yung boses namin para maakit sila pero hindi po pagpapakitang tao ‘yun po  ‘yung nasa puso namin akitin, hindi yung makita lang na babanal-banal [We pray loudly but that is not for us to show ourselves off as ‘holy’. Our praying comes from the heart],” Nuñez said.

The group admitted that instead of playing addictive computer games, they spend time praying since they joined the group two to three years ago. It is also their way to resist temptations.

They told The Filipino Connection that they have gone through a lot of difficulties before joining MHCC.

At a young age, Nuñez was a porn addict. “Pupunta kami sa computer shop, minsan po usapang kalaswaan, even in school po bugbugan at palamura po kami [Encounters at the computer shop are full of lustful language. We bully people in school and curse a lot],” he said.

Nuñez’s conversion started when he was involved in drawing and arts. Then, MHCC came into his life and asked him to join.

Today, Renz Christian Nuñez and his 15-year-old younger brother Richard are active MHCC members. Aside from praying the rosary almost five times a day, they are encouraged to participate in other religious activities like daily adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, daily and weekly masses, weekly catechesis, and monthly communion of reparation vigil.

The story of these teenagers comes in the face of what a 2013 National Filipino Catholic Youth Survey, conducted by the Philippine bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY), had found from its survey of some 2,039 young Catholics aged 13 to 39. The survey showed that while some 13.9 percent “are not religious,” about 84.9 percent are the opposite: they are “religious”.

About 97.4 percent of survey respondents think religious “is important in their lives” In another survey finding, while 88 percent think the parish priest is an influences unto young people’s spirituality, 83.4 percent surmise co-members of a religious group were influencers to the Catholic faith.

But at least, from January 15 to 19, an Argentinian Supreme Pontiff animated the spirits of the Nuñez brothers and their kneeling-in-prayer colleagues. What more, MHCC members said, they admired Pope Francis’ humility and simplicity.

Speaking in Filipino, Renz Nuñez said: “Pope Francis’ visit here gave us the chance to show that he empathizes with us. His pushing of mercy and compassion thus drives us to show and sow mercy unto others.”

Until now, MHCC continues to gather more youth and encourage them to be closer to God.

Seven hours later, the MHCC members went inside and had witnessed Pope Francis giving them and other technology-savvy young people advice. “Today, with so many means of communication we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? No. It is good and can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way that we accumulate information,” Pope Francis said.

“We have so much information but maybe we don’t know what to do with that information. So we run the risk of becoming museums of young people who have everything but not knowing what to do with it. We don’t need young museums but we do need holy young people… To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn bow to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through that love let that information bear fruit.” –with reports from Jeremaiah M. Opiniano



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