Connor Flanagan, singer/songwriter and youth minister from St. Paul, MN, addressed young adults on our island during the XLT at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Agana Heights for the World Youth Day Guam 2017. (Photo by Jeff Bautista / bgx671@gmail.com)
Laura Chance, event guest and inspirational speaker praises God during World Youth Day Guam 2017 on Palm Sunday. (Photo by Jeff Bautista / bgx671@gmail.com)

By John Michael D. Pineda
Umatuna Si Yu’os

On April 7 and April 9, youth and young adults on our island were treated to a very special encounter in experiencing our Lord. Connor Flanagan, Laura Chance, and Ricky Vazquez were the event guests for World Youth Day Guam 2017 (WYD Guam 2017) which was hosted by Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Agana Heights. Pastor, Fr. Marvin Bearis, OFM Cap. led the event to fruition during the Palm Sunday weekend.

After the First Friday Mass on April 7th at the Agana Heights Parish, the first event for WYD Guam 2017 started, entitled “XLT” which is derived from the word “exalt.” XLT is a praise and worship Adoration format by Life Teen, a Eucharist-centered movement within the Roman Catholic Church that leads teenagers and their families into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church with the Blessed Virgin Mary as its intercessor and guide. The XLT on April 7 was geared toward college-aged young adults but was opened to the entire community.

The evening began with Laura as the MC as she introduced the Most Reverend Michael Byrnes, Coadjutor Archbishop of Agana. The archbishop shared a few remarks to the 100-plus people assembled that evening. With young adults from all over the island, Archbishop Byrnes encouraged each person to surrender themselves to Jesus, to exclaim that, “My life belongs to You.”

He said that what we do in Adoration should not be short of any effort we can fully exert. “The act of a believer is to escape one’s own gravity,” Archbishop Byrnes said. “Let’s let go of the earth today… join the heavenly Father in the courts of heaven and praise Him, simply for who He is. Let’s adore Him. Submit everything in our lives to Him.”

After the archbishop’s exhortation, Ricky began to lead the congregation to worship with the strum of his guitar and sang out praises to God. Although slow and reserved at first, the people gathered began to raise their hands along with their voices in praise. A beautiful experience, it was, and from then on, Connor began his talk witnessing about God’s providence and guidance.

Relatable for many in the audience, Connor touched upon life through the busyness of school, work, and family, making known of the struggles that everyone face differently. Connor focused his talk about not giving enough to God and investing in the world and our relationships, asking, “How much of the time given to us by God, are we giving back to Him?”

Connor reflected on his time after graduating college, stumbling on a passage in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, 4:13, “the Pharisees saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were common and uneducated men, but could tell that they had been with Jesus.” Connor explained that when it comes to life and the mysteries of the Lord, people like himself, can be “common and uneducated,” but with hope, he says, “people can see by the boldness in the way I live my life that I am a follower of Jesus.”

“If there’s anything we do on a daily basis,” he said, “we have to be as close as we can to Christ.” Though we are sinners, as Peter and John were in their weakness and failure to Christ, “To strive be close to Jesus… is time well-spent,” Connor said. “Jesus is saying ‘give Me more of you, and I’ll give you more of Me’… taking that one step further in going with the theme of the XLT — ‘Remain in Me’ from John 15:4-5.”

The evening continued with Holy Adoration, through music by Ricky, while Palé Mike Crisostomo of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Toto led in prayer. As Jesus was physically exposed in our presence, attendees of the event were given the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as others in attendance gave themselves to God singing praise and glory to Him. It was a very emotional encounter with the Most Blessed Sacrament for the young adults and others present that night.

As the night came to a close, it was announced that through the archbishop, the pope is requesting everyone to participate in a survey for the Guam Youth Synod 2018. Coordinated by members of the Archdiocese of Agana, this survey will assist with the preparatory document for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October 2018. The Synod of Bishops is entitled “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.” The pope himself says this to them: “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.” Pope Francis wants the hierarchy to listen to the youth so that the young people feel the warmth of the Church and stop living outside it. The evening ended in fellowship at the parish social hall.