At the conclusion of the 6th Asian Youth Day, a young Filipino pilgrim stated that the greatest thing he will walk away with is a higher value of his faith, thanks to the profound devotion of Korean Catholics.
“The biggest thing that I will take with me from this experience is the vitality of faith here in Korea, because in the Philippines, we know that the Philippines is a Catholic country, but the faith becomes routine,” Jessie Perez told CNA Aug. 17.
“But here in Korea it’s not routine, it’s not common for them to become Catholic. That’s why they value their faith so much,” he observed, stating that “I would like to instill our young people to value their faith, to value what they have, to value the Catholicism that we have.”
Hailing from Manila, Perez was present along with other members of his group for Pope Francis’ closing mass for the 6th Asian Youth Day, which followed the theme “Asian youth! Wake up! The glory of the martyrs shines on you!”
The Mass took place Aug. 17 at Haemi castle, which is a few hours south of the capital city of Seoul.
Noting how the main purpose of his visit was to participate in the Asian Youth Day, Perez explained that he also wanted to come “to experience faith, to experience the vitality of the Catholic faith in Asia” through the youth event.
Being in mass with Pope Francis “serves as a challenge for me with the homily that he gave us, the Asian youth,” he said.
“It challenges us to be more rooted in our faith. We might not experience persecution like the martyrs, but in modern times we experience a lot of persecution, and the challenge is to stand firm in the faith, stand firm on what we decide and what we do in every aspect of our lives to be” greater witnesses of the faith.
Echoing the encounter’s theme, Pope Francis urged those gathered “Asian youth, wake up!”
“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present!”
“As young people not only in Asia, but also as sons and daughters of this great continent, you have a right and a duty to take full part in the life of your societies,” he said.
“Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life!”
At the end of the mass when Pope Francis was driving in his popemobile greeting the 41,000 youth gathered, Perez placed himself at the front of the barrier where he could reach the pontiff, and handed him a Filipino doll portraying one of his favorite of their country’s Saints as he drove by.
“I gave him the Pedrito doll, which is the miniature of our Filipino saint, Saint Peter Calungsod. That’s my gift to him,” Perez recalled, explaining that he has a strong devotion to the saint because his home parish is named after the catechist, who was killed for his faith at a young age.
When he handed the doll to the Pope, Perez recounted how the pontiff asked “Is it for me? Is it for me?” and took it when he replied “yes, yes, yes!”
Explaining how “we are so excited” to receive the Pope in the Philippines as part of his Jan. 12 – 19 trip there and to Sri Lanka, the youth stated that he hopes to participate in all of the events, and to be a part of the organizing committee.
The visit, he said, “will give hope for our country. We know that the Philippines has been devastated by different calamities. That’s why Pope Francis wants to visit, to show mercy and compassion to the victims of calamities.”