Boroko, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 27 April 2020 — They came unsure of what to expect in the encounter and ended up asking for more. On April 22-24, thirty boarders from Mary Our Help Ladies Dormitory – East Boroko Papua New Guinea, attended the first batch of Youth Encounter formation program offered by the Sisters. The month-long lockdown in the country made the Sisters ask what more they could offer the boarders who, after two weeks, had finished answering all the take-home and online assignments. So the community decided to give them the YE (Youth Encounter) Program. The sessions were facilitated by Sr Alem Coching, Sr Carmencita Rodriguez and Sr Alice Fulgencio, the latter having been kept by the lockdown order from traveling back to her community in Tapo, Rabaul, East New Britain.

At the beginning of the session, sharing about their expectations, the boarders said they wanted to experience deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer and reflection, to get to know themselves and their companions better and to be able to share their experience to other young people when they go back to their villages. In their evaluation, they wrote that all of their expectations had been fulfilled in ways beyond what they hoped for.

Taking to heart the facilitators’ motivation to participate actively and to be faithful in their attendance, the boarders went through all the activities with youthful enthusiasm and commitment. Some identified their situation with that of the two blind men and others acknowledged they were behaving more like the crowd. They recognized that many times they put on different masks as they deal with people around them, that they need to be listened to and also to listen more. They felt grateful, empowered, blessed and even surprised as they listened to their companions giving them affirmation in the “circles of love” and cried as they stood silently to acknowledge the storm they are going through in life or as they showed support through silent prayer or putting a hand on their friend’s shoulder. And how they jumped, ran and sang their hearts out in the icebreakers and in the recreation moments!

Truly, the spirit of Mornese was palpable and alive in the three days of YE, an experience that the lucky boarders will never forget! At the “graduation” night, they expressed their gratitude in words, song and dance, thanking the Sisters for having thought of organizing this encounter for them. And with the lockdown over, they are more than ready to face the “new normal” and hopefully, become true and zealous evangelizers among their peers.

N.B. The Youth Encounter Program or YE is a formation program for young people in different settings designed by the late Mons. Ping Molina from the Diocese of Virac in the Philippines and has been approved by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines since 1986 as a formation program for youth. It is scripture-based, and its aim is to form young people into community-builders for the church and society.