Panama

World Youth Day (WYD) 2011 in Madrid, Spain was one of the unforgettable moments in my life!

Meeting Pope Benedict in person together with the other youth from all over the world was such an amazing experience!

A dear friend posted some throwback photos of team Middle East from WYD 2011.

We are called the trailblazers for being the pioneer delegates from a parish without a physical church and structure where love, faith and hope blooms abundantly.

Team Arethas WYD

Team Arethas goofing around after the WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Pope Benedict in his powerful words. Below photos: smiling with the delegates from South Korea and Poland. WYD Panama 2019 will be a chance for pilgrims around the world to come together with the many young people from the peripheries in Latin America to pray, worship, and celebrate the Catholic faith.

There were a lot of fond memories in Spain- from the mundane to the profound, and many more.

But, one thing that I am proud of our team was finding a family in a group of pilgrims who wanted to become more closer to God through the WYD experience.

Next year, a new set of youth pilgrims will set foot in Panama for WYD 2019.

Group travel has interesting quirks. It can be difficult keeping people together and getting them somewhere at the same time. You can expect that someone will always have to use the toilet, someone will get lost, someone will get sick, someone will miss a train/bus/metro, or someone will lose a plane ticket or money (and sometimes it’s the same person for all of the above). Does it ring a bell, Team Arethas?

The best way to keep everyone on time and together is to leave lots of time for getting places and count heads after every mode of transportation.

One way to keep your group together while moving through a crowd is to have someone hold a unique flag that pilgrims can follow. If you are concerned about the group, have the flag stop on the side and let your pilgrims come to the flag to be counted.

The primary means of transportation for WYD pilgrims will be walking. Prepare your body ahead of time. Do a lot of physical activity before you leave.

I even enrolled in a gym before leaving for Madrid- though my chubby cheeks in photos doesn’t show any justice to it.

According to the bishops here are 10 great ways to prepare for WYD 2019:

1. Pray.
Pray for your fellow pilgrims (even those you have yet to meet), for Pope Francis and the bishops participating, for the people of Panama, for those who cannot travel to WYD, and for yourself, that you may be open to God’s will for you at World Youth Day.

2. Pack.
And don’t pack everything – just what is needed for the journey. Remember clothes (though not too many), good walking shoes, a hat, your morning basics (toothbrush, toiletries, etc.), any medications you need, your sleeping bag, your passport, and items that will help you travel spiritually (the Bible, prayer cards, your rosary, etc.).

3. Walk.
At World Youth Day, there will be a lot of walking. Begin training for that by taking time to walk a few miles each day. Consider bringing others with you on your outings. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to be outside and to get in some healthy exercise!

4. Study.
Find out more about the country of Panama, its saints, and history. Pick up some Spanish phrases. Read about the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Dig deeper into your Catholic faith.

5. Learn.
Learn about World Youth Day: how and why it began, what the schedule will be this year, and who is expected to be there.

6. Listen.
When you’re in such big crowds like at World Youth Day, we need to listen attentively to directions and instructions. Get in the habit of listening to what your group leaders and other church leaders have to say. Listening is also the best way to keep safe.

7. Fast.
When you’re at World Youth Day, you will live simply (just as Pope Francis encourages us to do). To prepare for that experience, consider fasting from food, from excess and material goods, and from bad habits.

8. Give.
One of the best ways to prepare for a pilgrimage is to give selflessly of yourself for others. Not only does this help another person in need, but it also trains us to think outside of ourselves (something good to know on a pilgrimage surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people).

9. Talk.
Tell others about your trip. Explain to them why you are making the trip to World Youth Day, and what your Catholic faith means to you.

10. Share.
Too often, when the pilgrimage is over, people can close themselves off to those who didn’t experience the journey. Instead, consider sharing your joys and struggles with friends and family who aren’t going to Panama. And upon coming home, make a concerted effort to share your experiences in a positive and inviting manner, without making others feel left out.

God-willing I hope I can join WYD 2019 in Panama! Shout out to all my sponsors 😇

Tria

“Tria, our little missionary, everything will be alright.”

This is our little missionary Tria, 8 year old daughter of our Couples for Christ missionaries Onnel Tolentino and Maia Salcedo Tolentino

Onnel and Maia are faithful and exuberant missionaries for CFC having been assigned to different areas while they were still single. Onnel was a missionary in Taytay, Manila and Mongolia while Maia was a missionary from Agusan, UAE (Middle East) and China.

When they got married they decided to pursue mission work and just when Tria was 10 months old, their family journeyed to Kenya in Africa. They stayed there from 2010-2013.

Tria is her young age adjusted to the missionary life of their family- she got used to many meetings, conferences, mission trips, talks, activities and events that her parents did for CFC. Her toddler years were not ordinary – days and nights were spent doing mission with her parents. They travelled a lot, talked to a lot of people, faced danger and many crisis in their missions.

Tria

She was a delight for all our brethren in Kenya, a darling to the priests and a stress reliever for the other missionaries there.

She grew up and fell in love with the mission as well. So much so that at her tender age she would sing and dance in front of people, behave when needed and serve as asked.

It was not an easy life for her and her family and yet they were joyful and peaceful.

From Kenya, her family’s next assignment was in Manila. Onnel and Maia continued their mission work here doing mission work for Ancop and CFC.

Tria became an Ate to Robi and started schooling in Manila.

She is now 8 years old.

Days ago she got fever then, suddenly she couldn’t walk nor talk properly. When rushed to the Medical City they put her immediately in the ICU and diagnosed her with GBS.

“Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the symmetrical weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms can increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases the disorder is life threatening – potentially interfering with breathing and, at times, with blood pressure or heart rate – and is considered a medical emergency. Such an individual is often put on a ventilator to assist with breathing and is watched closely for problems such as an abnormal heart beat, infections, blood clots, and high or low blood pressure. Most individuals, however, have good recovery from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, although some continue to have a certain degree of weakness.”

Everything went fast and hearthbreaking.
Tria wasn’t able to breathe on her own thus they intubated her and just today she contracted Pneumonia.

It’s a tough battle against GBS.
Medically it is very aggressive and rare that’s why her medication is much complicated.
The Medical fees are too high and for a missionary family impossible to raise.

We ask our friends and family to pray for Tria and share in any way in this challenging times. Tria is counting on our prayers and help. Let us help them raise funds so Tria can be healed, recover and serve with us again.

Our little missionary needs us, let us hold her hand and tell her, everything will be alright.

God is in control!
Amen

To help Tria, please click this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/z8zta5-help-save-tria

Niñaliz Donaire

Reposting from Sis. Grace Acla of SFC – UAE

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Confidence

During the SFC “Relentless” 25th International Conference, I finally met Bro. Donnie Ray Aquino, a fellow member of PICPA Riyadh Toastmasters Club (PRTC), a passionate communicator, a dedicated brother in SFC and a very talented fellow OFW from Oman.

I never had a chance to mentor him in toastmaster and he was full of wit. His charisma speaks for her gift of gab – a natural charmer.

He was a prominent humoruos speaker.

He joined the famous game shows like Game Ka Na Ba and Pinoy Henyo.

Recently, he joined Tawag ng Tanghalan as one of the contenders from Mindanao. It was an uphill battle but he fought hard. He did not win but the experience taught him to never surrender.

Confidence

To feel truly confident, you need to really believe you are capable. The best way to get that belief is through using your skills and talents — by learning and practicing. Bro. Donnie did that with love.

I lauded his efforts to showcase his God-given talent whenever the opportunity arised.

Bro. Donnie, thank you for being fearless. Your self-confidence was an inspiration to many.

Win or lose, we are here for you. We are looking forward to your next endeavor. All the best!

Bro. Donnie’s confidence emanates from a place of truth.

Believing in yourself is the fire starter for success of almost any measure. But how do you develop that self-confidence?

According to the Dalai Lama, it’s simple: “Love brings self-confidence. Anger brings fear.”

Self-confidence, he says, comes from generosity, from thinking and caring about others.

If you live your life with a genuine concern for the well-being of others, you will feel better about yourself, and in turn, feel more confident.

This is who Bro. Donnie is.

Full of love and kindness, a true brother and a servant of God.

Wendy

I met Ate Wendy Samonte after the closing program of SFC International Conference 2018.

She wore a facemask and thanked a group of brothers and sisters in the parking lot.

Bro. Cris Serdenia, a fellow servant leader in SFC Middle East introduced her to me.

Ate Wendy

Dear Lord, I come before You today in need of Your healing hand. In You all things are possible. Hold my heart within Yours, and renew my mind, body and soul. I am lost, but I come to You with grace. You gave us life, and You also give us the gift of infinite joy. Give me the strength to move forward on the path you’ve laid out for me. Guide me towards better health and give me the wisdom to identify those you’ve placed around me to help me get better. Amen. (Together with Ate Wendy & Bro. Cris.)

Ate Wendy was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), a rare type of cancer found in the digestive system, most often in the wall of the stomach.

She undergone surgery in 2016. She has no stomach anymore. Digesting food is a big challenge.

She shared her pains during chemo and CT scan sessions.

I felt her agony because I experienced the same.

Her optimism was a source of inspiration.

She went to the event as a victor and full of gratitude.

The SFC community was a source of hope.

Stories about Ate Wendy gave me a deeper understanding of God’s relentless love.

She was a living witness of God’s faithfulness.

Let us pray continuously for her complete healing.

Amidst her condition Ate Wendy remains steadfast in serving the Lord in whatever way possible, her gratitude prayer:

“Thank you God for being with me, inspiring me and using me to speak Your words to my brothers and sisters. Continue to use me Lord, allow me to see Jesus through the people around me and to experience Your great love.”

Directions

One of the big messages from the SFC 25th anniversary “Relentless” international conference was shared by Fr. Xavier Olin, SJ during his homily. “God is not only present in our joys but also in our pains and sorrows.”

I was reminded that the experience of being in the desert is necessary for our spiritual life for it is the place and the time to encounter Christ. Difficult and desolate it may seem, but it is the matter of restoration and discovering ourselves.

Through these desert moments, we will come to realize that we have a God who is relentlessly pursuing us and who is always finding ways to guide us and lead us.

My healing journey was one of my desert moments in life.

It was painful but God’s relentless love pulled me through every day.

Directions

“Be grateful for the past. Be joyful in the present. Be hopeful for the future.” Together with Bro Cris Serdenia, a fellow servant leader and Bro. Noli Manuel, SFC International Coordinator

Moreover, Bro. Noli Manuel, SFC International Coordinator bared the directions of the community for the next 25 years.

He said, “We’ve always been asking ourselves how much more can we give. I think we should now ask, how much we’re willing to lose.”

A more inclusive and a loving but not compromising community will be the main thrust in the future.

Aside from accompanying young and unmarried singles, SFC will also embrace and evangelize: young widow and widower, young single parents, young people with same sex attraction (SSA); and young divorce, annulled and separated singles.

The announcement came as a surprise to many but God is not asking us to be ready. He is expecting us to be obedient.

The journey will never be easy in the coming years but we are hopeful for the future that lies ahead of us because God’s love is relentless!

#GodisRELENTLESS
#SFCat25
#iamSFC
#SFCicon2018

Empowering

Powerful messages of hope, spirit-filled talks and empowering presence of servant leaders who chose to serve God with a grateful heart – made the “Relentless” 25th SFC International Conference (ICON) one of the most inspired Catholic events of young adults and professionals from all over the world.

My first ICON empowered me to live more with a rekindled heart for God.

My meaningful relationships through the years with my brothers and sisters in the community will be for a lifetime.

Special shout to Bro. Rommel Orpiada, a fellow Chapter Head and a Mission Volunteer for making my first ICON experience possible. Thank you so much for being God’s instrument of blessing.

I joined the International Mission delegates from the Middle East and also met SFC members fron Sabah, Malaysia and also provincial representatives from Leyte, Davao and Zamboanga Del Norte.

During the sessions, we prayed for each other and meditated on God’s word.

Empowering

Catholic beliefs and doctrines have their roots in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ who founded the Catholic Church nearly 2,000 years ago shared during our workshop about the foundation of our faith at National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Makati City.

Empowering 2

In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Dear Lord, see me through these hard times. In these troubling times, I am filled with unspeakable fears. I reach out my hand to you now, And ask you to walk besides me. I cannot carry all my burdens, But I know you can, and will. Please walk beside me. Please guide me. Please help me hold on strong, Through the trials and storms. Help me hold on to my faith, In even the darkest hour. Stay with me Lord, And show me Your way. In your love and Holy Spirit I abide. Amen. A night of prayer and meditation during the conference.

#GodisRELENTLESS
#SFCat25
#iamSFC

ICON

More than 7000 SFC members all over the world trooped to Globe Circuit Makati and celebrated the CFC – Singles for Christ (SFC)’s 25th anniversary “Relentless” international conference.

Thank you Lord! I witnessed this historic event right before my eyes.

More than the big stage, bright lights and spectacular video/audio features – I was inspired by the community’s effort to look back to its history and trailblaze to another 25 years full of optimism and clinging on God’s faithfulness.

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SFC Fearless Team beaming with hope.

A heart that overflows with God’s love- felt and shared by everyone through the years.

Here are some important event snippets that pierced my hearts from SFC Global official facebook page.

Icon 2018

During the opening mass, SFC members were reminded that controlling what comes in our mouth is as important as what comes out from it. We are encouraged to consider fasting of what goes out of our mouth and to remember the following: To fast from foul language, to keep judgment from spilling out of our mouths, to try to control verbal negatives, and to let the world know about Jesus. By fasting, we give God space in our lives.

SFC Icon 2018

If we are to remember things our journey as Singles for Christ, remember the following things: First, remember that God loves you. Second, remember Jesus Christ. Third, remember repentance. Fourth, remember the power of the Holy Spirit that is made available for all of us. Lastly, remember that God has sent us tools (community, prayer, sacraments).

SFC Icon 2018 1

Recognized as the “Most Honest Tricycle Driver” in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Manuel Loma is a member of Singles for Christ in 1997. He shares how he has continued to do good things in his own field while living out the Christian life that he learned in SFC. He continues to help people, being honest with them, especially to his passengers in his daily living without any cost.