The National Youth Day in Santiago de Cuba, has not been a concrete event, but a process of deepening and living one’s Faith. A journey lasting three years, which have not yet ended. Since the 2016 National Youth Day in Havana, annouced that the next venue would be Santiago de Cuba. A challenge for the Archdiocese, but with much confidence, joy and hope we embraced this dream and from the moment our city was announced.
We wanted to make the JNJ in Santiago a jouney or a process, instead of justa n event, which likely would not be meaningful for Young people. Therefore, the goal for 2017 to 2019 was to form, “Missionary Disciples for the Cuban Church of Today”.
Although it has been a lot of work, effort, much greater i sour dream and joy of living out the JNJ with a burning, passionate heart and with the only desire that it be a means where young people could enconter Jesus and meet others who seek the same in their lives.
With great joy, I had the Grace to share this experience with Gabriela Bázquez rmi. Our junior’s sister, who lives in Mexico and with Jackie Gadea and Marianela Roubiceck two Young women from the Hispanic Youth Ministry in Miami, Florida. They served and worked with everyone, and poured their whole heart to the mission.
The World Youth Day (WYD) (JMJ in spanish) in Panama, was another big boost that helped increase the youth’s expectations of the JNJ in Santiago event from a national event consisting of one venue, to an event consisting of 11 venues, correspondig to the 11 dioceses in the Island. It was a great test for us; discouragements, disappointments, pain and much helplessness filled our hearts when we first learned of the news. However, it was a way of looking back at the only true center, Jesus. And from Him, we moved on with everything, without fear, with confidence and hope in Him.
The difficulties did not stop there, the authorities did not allow the other venues to carry out public procession of the Stations of the Cross through the streets, it was only allowed in Santiago de Cuba and not on the agreed route. Nothing stopped the almost 900 young people and general public from Santiago accompanying Jesus, carrying his Cross, and all the crosses that this town carries.
Prior to August 1st, each catechetical center of the city was prepared with great care: decoration, food, and housing accommodation whith neighboring families. We became aware that adopting families recived one or more children for two days. All of this fosters a sense of community and co-responsibility of our Church. On the first of the event, young pilgrims began arriving, each being welcomed in our parishes. Two more dioceses joined us, Guantánamo-Baracoa and Bayamo-Manzanillo, which is why reached a capacity of 900 young participants. The inauguration took place at the Cathedral, that night songs, and beautiful moments of prayer. In prayer, we asked God, whith the intercession of our holy Patrons San Antonio María Claret, Blessed José López Piteira, Saint John Paul II, Venerable Felix Varela and Blessed Dolores Sopeña, all whom are covered by the Maternal mantle of Our Lady of Charity that these days, be filled with great meaningful experience for each person.
The following day, on Friday 2 we began with the Eucharist and sent off the youth to their mission. Throughout the morning, the young people walked the sectors of each catechetical center announcing the Word and inviting everyone the Station of the Cross. In the afternoon, we hosted the “Christ-Fair”, consisting of seven stations located in different sections. And dusk the Station of the Cross proceeded through the streets of the city to the Cathedral, where the last 5 stations were represented. Everyone walking the streets wore white shirts and caps, prayed and sang out loud and above all, we lived deeply every moment.
On Saturday we prepared ourselves with the a catechism that centered around everything that we have lived, from the experience of our Blesses mother Mary, her availability and service to the God’s project, which is an invitation, and a call to each one of us. At night we held a beautiful vigil, which began with procession in the street praying a Rosary all the way to the Sanctuary of our Lady of Charity. When we arrived, we encountered Jesus in Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; which concluded whith mass and an evening concert until next morning. Every moment was lived whith great intensity. An I believe with great convivtion, that it is a call to a mission for and with Jesus. We were presented with many obstacles from the authorities who wanted to extinguish the flame that moves us as Christians, but they simply AVOIDED IT, because with Jesus we cannot be defeated. For me, all this way and specifically this JNJ was a “shake” of Faith, a strong call to conviction that we should be a more “prophetic” Church, an invitation to Hope, to the firm clarity that “only God is enough … ”And to understand the central point of our Religious Family,“ We are born for the Renewal of the Church ”, it is urgent, it is necessary. It revives my missionary vocation, a fight against evil, in any of its forms, like Mary.
Sandra C. Mancia rmi.