10/11/2016 11:07

330 Catholic young people at the Youth Convention

-        Fr. Brian Nonde CMM

Port Moresby:  Three hundred and thirty (330) young people from 22 dioceses of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands are on a Youth Convention at Don Bosco Technological Institute, Port Moresby. The youth convention commenced on 6 November will conclude on Sunday, 13 November 2016.

The youth convention will also serve to officially mark the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in PNG and Solomon Islands. The Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by the Holy Father, Pope Francis started on 8 December 2015 and officially ends with the closing of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican, on 20 November 2016.

Pope Francis imparted his paternal blessings to the young people gathered at the Port Moresby youth convention. Pope Francis’ blessing was disclosed in a letter written by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State to the Apostolic Nuncio in PNG, Archbishop Kurian Matthew Vayalunkal. With his blessings, Pope Francis hopes that the youth convention will also be a fruitful occasion for listening to the young people with “renewed and expansive hope, for they (the youth) represent new directions for humanity”. The Holy Father has encouraged the Church in PNG and Solomon Islands to take this youth event as an opportunity to reflect on new approaches of pastoral care specially tailored for young people in the region.

The Pope’s representative, Apostolic Nuncio Kurian Matthew Vayalunkal will grace the convention with his presence on Wednesday. This day is set aside for a pilgrimage walk to end at the Catholic Cathedral Church of Port Moresby.  The young people will be joined by the Catholic faithful of Port Moresby, Bereina and Kerema dioceses.  Several primary, secondary and technical school students will also join in the pilgrimage walk and Holy Mass. 

Earlier at the start of the convention, at the opening Mass last Sunday, Archbishop Francesco Panfilo sdb of Rabaul told the young people that the Church is very close to them.  He assured them that the Catholic Church was keenly aware of their daily challenges. “Dear young people, we your pastors are very much aware of the challenges that you face in the practice of your faith. The attraction to materialism, pleasure, sex, alcohol, drugs are the challenges that you face every day.  You are also facing challenges about truth, about what is honest and just, so take this as opportunity to learn true Christian values.  I challenge you to choose Jesus Christ and to stand for what he lived and died for,” challenged Archbishop Francesco.

The young representatives are undergoing an intense spiritual, intellectual, social-pastoral training and mentoring during their stay.  Fr. Shanthi Chacko Puthussery, Secretary of the Commission for Youth and Laity at the Bishops Conference, the main organizer explained that the goals of the convention were to reinforce and empower young people to stand firm in their Christian values.  He emphasized that young people have a lot of potential and that the Church needs to treasure and nurture.  “The pedagogy we are using at this convention is very simple: It is ‘learning by doing’. The young people receive brief lessons on key topics related to their faith and development.  During the group activities, the youth have an opportunity to learn from each other.  It is a positive, powerful and a beautiful experience for the youth”, said Fr. Shanthi.  

“What we are and who we are the responsibility of adults who have their own history.  They have the duty to help us share, reflect and understand it today,” said Bishop Bernard Unabali of Bongainville.

Each young person has been given a sling bag containing the Bible, the Catholic Catechism, Jubilee Year of Mercy T-shirt and the daily program of activities.  One of the participants, Xavier Kumba who hails from Lae described the convention as a moment of deepening his faith and knowledge of God.

A chapel with the presence of the Blessed Sacrament gives young people the opportunity to spend time in personal reflection and prayer.  Among many activities that the youth have participated in, include undertaking a visit to the Bomana Prison; visiting Port Moresby General Hospital; Bible Quiz and Picture exhibition of saints (the men and women whose Christian life they can emulate). At the end of the convention outstanding participants will be given an award to encourage and motivate them.