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TAWAU – Almost 2000 youth from across the three dioceses of Sandakan, Keningau and Kota Kinabalu (34 parishes) had come to the last stretch of their pilgrimage to Tawau, the place where they were to celebrate the 4th Sabah Youth Day (SYD-4) on 6-10 June 2016. They were also joined by a contingent from the Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam and from Miri Diocese.
They have been guided on this long and challenging path in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, called by Pope Francis, to be touched by God’s boundless mercy, so that in turn they may become ‘apostles of mercy’ by their actions, words and prayers in the world, wounded by selfishness, hatred and so much despair.
Gathered at St Ursula Convent School open ground, a sea of excited and expectant faces was seen as they waited to begin their procession to Holy Trinity Church for the grand opening of the SYD-4 on the first evening of June 6.
The colourful procession of the Youth Cross and the icon of Mary, Mother of Mercy, was led by the contingents of youths and accompanied by traditional dancers from the four main communities of TUKAD, Indonesians, Filipinos and Chinese, followed by bikers who accompanied the Cross and icon, and ending with the altar servers, religious, clergy and bishops. Sabah Youth Day-4 was officially launched with the opening Eucharist.
Proud to have the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Joseph Marino with them, the youth were happily reminded by him of their chosen theme ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy’ at Mass, which was presided by the Nuncio, that this was what Christ would have them do in order to be happy and joyful.
“How can we be in hurt and be happy at the same time?” Marino asked his young audience, and explained “This brings us to the reality of today’s world as Jesus encourages us to help all, even those whom we call enemy. Why? So we are able to experience God’s mercy through others and through self.”
The four elements of the beatitudes, he said, are to love all, give all, and judge no one but self, which lead to mercy. The act of mercy is nothing more than going to those in need and touching them.
On another encouraging note from his opening words for the event, Archbishop Marino told the youth, faith cannot be locked up in the building but needs to be shown to others….go and be the witness of Christ, live up your faith, mercy and love!
As host, Bishop Julius Gitom welcomed the youth and called them to realise their mission as youth through becoming a witness in this ever changing and challenging world.
Parish priest Msgr Nicholas Ong hoped that the pilgrims would be able to feel welcomed and be welcoming to others to embrace the differences and diversity in Sabah.
The Opening Mass was also concelebrated by Bishop Julius Gitom of Sandakan Diocese, Bishop Cornelius Piong of Keningau Diocese, Archbishop John Wong of Kota Kinabalu Archdiocese, and 26 priests.
Throughout the five- day event, the priests were available to minister the Sacrament of Reconciliation and offer counselling.
The Opening and Welcoming Night was also a night of fellowship, forging old friendships and making new ones, which was enlivened by a medley of dances and songs.
Catecheses and animation were available throughout the four days. To facilitate effective sharing of experiences, the pilgrims were placed in small groups. Exhibitions were open for viewing during the break time. A Family Night and a Taize Prayer were also part of the event. The pilgrims took part in the para-liturgy on the Journey of the Cross.
Some 40 religious were there to encourage the youths to seek answers to the question of what God expects from each.
History of SYD
In 2000 at the close of the local Jubilee of Youth, the Youth Commission of KK Archdiocese and Youth Apostolate of Keningau Diocese saw that it was good for the youth event to continue once in four years, to be hosted alternately by each diocese.
SYD is therefore a church event in collaboration with the youth, for the youth and of the youth.
This year SYD-4 is hosted by Holy Trinity Tawau and they had taken up the theme of the 31st World Youth Day that will take place in Krakow, Poland on July 26-31.
Beginning in 2004, SYD-1 was held in Keningau, in 2008 SYD-2 was in Ranau, and in 2012 the 3rd edition took place in Toboh, Tambunan. – SYD Documentation/Tawau SOCCOM Teams