June 25, 2008

Interview with Oka on Youth in the Spirit Seminar by Potter & Scribe

  1. Please tell us what this seminar is all about. โ€“ you may share what went on during the retreat, the number of people attended and the demographics (like general age, gender and occupation) [I know this is open to youths aged 16-30. I just like to know the details specifically about this batch thanks]

Youth in the Spirit Seminar @ SMOTA is basically a similar Life in the Spirit Seminar targeted for youths and young adults. What this seminar is all about? It’s about conversion, it’s about rediscovering one own’s baptism, what it means to be a baptized Christian in Today’s world. It’s also about encountering God in one’s life. We follow the “Life in the Spirit team Manual: Catholic edition 2000”, and it states that the objectives of the seminar are:

a.To establish, or re-establish, personal relationships with Jesus.
b.To help participants grow their spiritual lives and their relationship with God.
c.To help participants yield to the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
d.To introduce participants to a life of service and community, particularly in the parish.

The seminar is designed to be 7 week long, but we extend it to 8 week long to include the week of Pentecost celebration. In each seminar we usually have a short prayer in the beginning. Mostly through singing songs and praising the Lord. After the prayer and singing, we continue with a short talk. All the speakers are youths and young adults, except for one session on repentence (Br. John Soh, our spiritual director). Then afterwards, one of the service team will give his/her life testimony, mostly related to the topic presented, which then continues with a sharing group discussion.

The seminar discusses about God’s plan for us, young people. In short, what God wants is LOVE. This is the first session which is about God’s Love. The second session talks about How much God Loves us through Jesus. Is Jesus really matters? shouldn’t we just live a good live and it’s enough? We try to answer this in the second session. The third session introduce the participants on Something that God is offering to each in everyone of us: New Life. What kind of life is it? Is it something that we really want to have? Then, the fourth session talks about God’s Gift, and how we ALL can receive it. This gift is more than just gold or problem-free life. The GIFT is a person. That person is the Holy Spirit, who is God himself. We believe that the greatest gift a person can give is himself and this is what God does! Br. John Soh presented a vision of repentence and what is NOT a true repentence. In between this session and the next, we arranged a session for Sacrament of reconciliation with the priests in St. Mary. Fr. John Paul and Fr. John Wong has kindly ministered to us ๐Ÿ™‚

The fifth session is rather special since we don’t really have a talk. We begin in the afternoon with a short input on “the meaning of my baptism”. And then on the evening, the facilitators pray for their members for the Baptism in the Spirit. This is a time for the participants to say YES to the Gift, that is the Holy Spirit and to surrender their whole lives to the Lord.

on the sixth week, we do not have any session but we attend a Pentecost Triduum organized by SACCRE (Singapore Archdiocese Catholic Charismatic Renewal). The main speaker for the triduum was Fr. Gino Henriquez and it is concluded with a mass celebrated by the Archbishop. We want to bring the participants to be in union with the larger Church in the archdiocesan level and celebrate Pentecost together.

The last two weeks presents the future on how we can grow more in our relationship with the Lord and to be transformed each day. It presents a vision of discipleship and it equips us with the basic tools to start a life-long journey.

Throughout the 8-week seminars, each participants is given a prayer journal in which there are some reflection, scripture passages, and church teaching. The participants can write their “prayer experience”. It is one of the many ways to stop and listen to God and to oneself. In this way, we also learn to pray every day, and not just simply praying, but praying with the scripture and together with the Church.

We ended our YISS with a BBQ ๐Ÿ™‚

The number of participants were 24 including the service team. So about half of them are the service team. The participants comes from different nationalities, locals, Philipinos, and Indonesians. The youngest was 18 and the oldest in the group was 34. Their occupations varies from auditor, acountant, IT programmers, engineers, secretary, web designers, architects, and researchers.

We divide the participants into four groups, two female groups and two male groups.

  1. What have you benefited from it? What about the others?

I remember my first life in the spirit seminar was about 11 years ago when I was still in high school. My initial intention to join was that because it will be fun with all my friends joining the retreat (at that time it was a 2 nights stay-in retreat).To be frank I didn’t experience anything sensational. But one year after the seminar, I saw my life changed bit by bit. I started to pray every day, and not just praying, but enjoying it! I started to read the scriptures. I began to serve in ministries and join youth communities. I find my life to be more alive! I didn’t say I became a saint, but I began to see my weaknesses. And yet, I saw how much God loves me even in my weaknesses. I found God alive in me. I recall what Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I think this is the benefit I received. I am still on that journey to Love God even more. And this why I am joining The Emmaus, we are journeying together to love God even more in each other.

About others, I will try to ask if anyone would like to share also their experience. If I can get someone, I will send it to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. Why did you decide to be part of this?

I think because I can’t contain it. What I have received, I need to give. I pray and I dream that many people experience God and find God alive in them. It is too wonderful to be missed. I realize that many young people are looking for God, they are looking for love, but they are looking at the wrong place. My own experience says this. I can truly understand what St. Augustine said, “our hearts are made for Thee O Lord, and it will not rest until it rests in Thee.”

so why did I decide to be part of this? Simply because I can’t contain it. Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely you give.”

  1. Were you involved in the previous seminars too? If yes, which are the ones?

This is our first seminar in St. Mary. Previously some of us involved in NTU CSA (Catholic Student Apostolate) catholic charismatic prayer group. These people helped the NTU’s Life in the Spirit Camp (they call it a camp) there for several years. Before The Emmaus is formally formed and affiliated in St. Mary, we also helped in one youth life in the spirit seminar in Risen Christ.

  1. Why is this seminar good for the youths? Why should they attend?

I personally believe it is good because youths, and not just youth, can encounter God in their lives. Many young people know about God. They have God in their head. They receive God every week in the Eucharist without being amazed at what they receive! Not many young people know God. An encounter with God changes lives. This is what the seminar tries to offer. It is just one of the MANY ways people can encounter God. It depends a lot on our disposition and openness to the work of God. God has no reservation to love us, but sometimes our heart is to small to receive that Love, or even blocked. Partly not our fault only, it can be due to hurts that we have as persons. It can be because of family problems. It can be because of relationship problem, and many other things. In this seminar, we learn to say Yes to that Love.

Why should they attend? They don’t have to attend. It’s not something necessary for those who have found the abundant of God’s love in their lives. Yet for those many who seek God, who seek what it means to be loved by the Unconditional Love, maybe this seminar can be a chance to experience the God who is Love. Moreover, it has helped me to understand my Baptism. It has helped many people to love the Eucharist. It has helped many to be devoted to the Church.

  1. What were some memorable moments or events that happened in the retreat?

I would say the people ๐Ÿ™‚ For me the people are memorable. They are important, each of them is beautiful in their own ways. They seek God, they spent time every week on saturday nights to pray and to listen to God. They shared their lives with their group members. I think it is beautiful. I think they are beautiful. I believe this is what God sees in them. They are beautiful, each one of them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. If there is a chance for you to promote this seminar to others, how would you โ€œsellโ€ this? What would you say?

hehehe. This is a difficult question. I have never been a good sales person :p
Maybe I will share my life with them. I am a cradle catholic. I knew about God, but I didn’t really know God. I guess it all started when I had problem in my family. My relationship with my dad was quite bad and I didn’t speak to him for months. It was difficult. But God came and he became my friend. When I think of it again, He was so real. He accompanied me when I cried in my room every nights. But this is only God can do it, He reconciled me with my dad during the mass, particularly during the sign of peace and communion. After that I attend my first life in the spirit seminar and I decide to love Him more. It has been a wonderful journey with God. No matter what you think about Christianity and God, there is always MORE! Come and see.