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Soaked in the Light: Teens Encounter Christ at the AUL Dome

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We have been used to associating Fridays with parties – for long rounds of intoxication with alcohol, for frenzied dances with just anyone we meet in a club, and revelries that last until dawn. Aquinians did a similar thing on August 4, 2017; it’s just that these students spent the entire evening listening to inspirational talks, danced and sang songs of praise, and encountered our Lord Jesus Christ instead.

The Office of Religious Affairs (ORA), especially the Center for Campus Ministry (CCM) partnered with the Dominican Network (DomNet) and the Knights of Columbus (KOC) AUL Chapter to organize the DomNet: Teen Encountering Christ (TEC) on a yearly basis. This is an expression of the extension of God’s grace and love to all Aquinians, regardless of gender, race, religion, denomination, economic status, and educational achievement. The organizers seek to provide fertile ground for the students to experience God personally, as well as to help them in their quest for deeper meaning, purpose, and hope in this life. Through this, the participants would be able to have a true relationship with God, and belong to a holistic community of believers.

They have been doing this since 2014, and this year, it was offered as a part of the celebration of Feast of Saint Dominic de Guzman.

Students who are still taking up Religious Education subjects were motivated to attend the said event from 5:30 p.m. of August 4, 2017, Friday, which lasted until the early morning of August 5. They spent the entire evening participating in activities that nourished their spiritual well-being, listened to informational talks that centers on a given theme, danced the night away, and worshipped God through songs, both slow and fast. There were 268 attendees: 229 were from the Senior High School (SHS), while the rest were college students.

So what are the things that these Aquinians do all night that keep them occupied until morning?

While the rest of the people outside drank to their heart’s content – and get wasted, to borrow from popular culture terms, these people at DomNet TEC would rather expend their energy playing games that have a subtle moral message, as well as listen to an inspirational talk, which is usually connected to the particular theme that the event has every year.

For the talk, they had Marylenda Penetrante, the director of Children and Youth Wellness Technical and Advocacy Center (CYWTAC) Albay. She explained how to strengthen the psycho-spiritual health of the students. She tackled how to fight depression and anxiety, and provided a personal example as to how she was able to do so. Finally, she explained that the best relationship that one can ever have is his or her relationship with God. “We are aware that the youth today are having struggles regarding their psycho-spiritual health, and we want to help address that,” said Professor Fernandino Pancho, director of CCM.

Worship Time

Somehow, her talk was cemented into the hearts of the participants by the worship leaders during the Worship Time. The attendees were soaked in live worship for over an hour. They sang, danced, and got immersed deeper into a personal and musical encounter with God. “It’s a great experience for the participants, and we hope that we would be able to encourage them to devote more time and energy to this session in the next DomNet TEC,” hoped Professor Joseph Endraca, one of the head organizers of the event.

Monk’s Meal

Another unique part of the event is their dinner time; they practice the concept of Monk’s Meal. Instead of getting food for themselves, the attendees would look for someone who doesn’t have food, and give the food that he has. It’s a unique concept that’s been patterned from the way monks share the food that is available, and would never complain. “We’re still in the process of perfecting it,” admitted Professor Pancho. “We have been upholding the practice for two years now, and although not everyone has understood the concept, but some do, and have great appreciation for it.”

Monk’s Meal is a practical way of teaching selflessness, in which not everyone passes with flying colors. Professor Pancho hopes that they will be able to finally inculcate into the students the concept of sharing food and prioritizing others’ welfare before their own in the succeeding years.

Ritual of the Light

No one who attended the DomNet TEC would ever forget the most solemn part, which is the Ritual of the Light. Students formed a massive square, and hold unlit candles. Then, a lit torch would go around them, and remain at the center afterward. Next, a handful of organizers approached the center with unlit candles, and get light from the initial burning torch, and would in turn spread it to the rest of the unlit candles surrounding the torch.

“The ritual symbolizes Christ, who is the light of the world,” explained Professor Endraca. “The world is full of darkness, and we believers of Christ ought to spread the wondrous light of our Lord to them.”

Room for Change

Overall, Professor Pancho and the rest of CCM, as well as the other heads of Knight of Columbus and the Dominican Network, were pleased with the results of the event, most especially with how the organizers worked together and practiced the initiative in doing well the tasks that were assigned to them. “I just hope that each participant, and even the organizers, would be mindful of every activity, because in every activity, there is an invaluable essence of Christ present,” said Professor Pancho. “And it is important that we tune our mind, heart, and spirit to it, because these things will not only bring about changes within us, but will also set into motion what we will become, and are meant to be, in the future.”

We have been used to associating Fridays with parties – and the organizers of DomNet Teen Encountering Christ are hoping that they can establish a new tradition of redeeming Fridays for the spiritual nourishment of the participants, and the furtherance of the Gospel, all for the glorious praise of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Indeed, here in the university, we thank God it’s Friday.

Posted on: 08.23.2017