TANZA, Iloilo, Dec. 24, 2014 — A volunteer catechist of a youth group related a moving encounter between the children of informal settlers in Iloilo City and “Pope Francis” during a recent catechism session.
Kent Novie Tacsagon, 2nd Year Accountancy student at the University of San Agustin Iloilo and volunteer catechist of Youth United for the Pope (YUP) decided with other volunteers to bring a papal standee in an area of the Immaculate Conception Parish in the Tanza district, City proper during their Saturday afternoon catechism with the kids to spice up the session.
“There was a natural ‘connection’ among the children with the Pope’s representation,” Tacsagon recalled.
Holding back tears
“The children would come closer to the papal standee and giggle as they stood beside it. They asked very innocent questions, such as ‘Is this how big the Pope is?’ as they exclaimed, ‘He’s very big!’”
According to Tacsagon, the catechists were the ones in for a bigger surprise when they presented the Pope standee to the children, who greeted “the pope”with amazement, big eyes and smiles.
The catechists were silent and pensive on their way back from that experience. “Being men, we had to contain our emotions and hold back our tears,” Tacsagon exclaimed.
“We brought the papal standee to show the children how the Pope looked like. But the children in their joyful innocence gave us a glimpse of how Jesus looked like,” he said.
God among us
Earlier, the children were enjoying the lively rendition of the Nativity story, when they were given the news that a surprise guest would be with them that afternoon. The guest was someone, the catechists told them, who shows people that “God is close to us because he represents Jesus Christ on earth.”
With the papal standee still hidden from the view of the children, the catechists, Tacsagon, Paul Argamosa, Ryan Lumagbas, Benjay Acclaracion and Gideon Ilarde presented to them the story of Jesus’ Nativity, helping them realize that the Child in the manger is “God who is among us.”
In spite of the fact that not even one of its members got a ticket for the youth’s encounter with Pope Francis on Jan. 18, 2015 at the University of Sto. Tomas, YUP heeds the call of CBCP president and Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas “to look at the poor and those who are suffering to see the face of the pontiff”.
Following this exhortation, the group also continues their continuing efforts to respond to Pope Francis’ challenge in the Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel”. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas/CBCPNews)