Asian Youth Day helps young people deepen their faith8:57 PM, August 10, 2017
Indonesia:Trips to historical sites give youths insight into how cultural differences can act as a vehicle to achieving unity.
Young Asian people take part in a procession from Our Lady of Lourdes in Promasan to Sendangsono Marian shrine during an Asian Youth Day exposure program. (ucanews.com photo)
It was the first time Paulus Billuian Frensi Dahal had visited Sendangsono Marian Shrine in Yogyakarta, where the seeds of the Catholic faith in Java were sown more than 100 years ago.
He was among 150 young people from several Asian countries that participated in an exposure program at the historical site as part of the 7th Asian Youth Day (AYD).
The festivities were held on Aug. 2-6 under the theme "Joyful Asian Youth! Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia."
For the program they walked 1.3km in procession to reach the Sendangsono shrine, whose name means "spring that flows under a tree," starting from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Promasan.
"I was touched by Barnabas Sarikrama's struggle to seek God. He was seriously sick until he could not walk, but he had a strong will to meet a Dutch priest, who then taught him about Catholicism," the 20-year-old parishioner of St. Laurent Church in Bandung, West Java, told ucanews.com.
Sarikrama and three other Javanese were baptized by Jesuit Father Franciscus van Lith in May 1904. He then introduced Catholicism to other people in Kalibawang. Thanks to his efforts 171 local people were baptized in December that year by the priest, who blessed the spring and used the water for baptisms. This event is regarded as the birth of Semarang Archdiocese, which includes Yogyakarta.
"This program encouraged me to become a better young Catholic. I used to just sleep in at home and miss Sunday Mass. And if I attended a Sunday Mass, it was only to give a good impression to parishioners," said the student from Bandung Institute of Technology.
"What I have got here deepened my faith," he said.
Pravirdrran Joel Panersilbam, a 22-year-old university student from Malaysia, also found the program interesting. "Not everybody likes history. But for me, it means refreshing my knowledge," he said.
After returning home, he promised to learn more about the history of Catholicism in the world.
More than 2,000 young people from 21 Asian countries participated in exposure trips on Aug. 4. Besides the shrine, they visited another 24 historical sites, including Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Ganjuran.
The church was built in 1924 and is the first Catholic Church in Bantul district. In its compound, there is a building where the terrace is decorated with lotus flowers and a statue of Jesus in Javanese clothes. Catholics now view the church as a pilgrimage site, which is steeped in Javanese culture.
"My country, Myanmar, also has many cultures. I think cultures can serve as a medium to deepen the Catholic faith, because cultures have wisdom and can bring us closer to God," said Ka Nyar Maw, 23.
According to Father Antonius Haryanto, executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops' Commission for Youth, the AYD's exposure program aimed at encouraging young people to make their Catholic faith more alive.
"Basically, they live the Catholic faith. By doing so, they can go deeper in their faith. One way they can deepen their faith is by using their cultures as a medium," he said, mentioning the use of Javanese wayang (a shadow puppet show) as a medium to spread the Good News.
Saguh Istiyanto Isaac Jagues, chairman of the pastoral council at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Promasan, was grateful to know about the young people's keen interest in the history of Catholicism.
"Hopefully, they can share what they have learned here with their fellows. So more people will come to this pilgrimage site in the future," he said.
He also hoped that the program would promote unity among young people.
"Indonesia has continually promoted unity despite its diversity. This message of unity should also be brought by them to their own countries," he said.
Similarly, Ani Widayani, a Muslim woman who serves as village head of Sumbermulyo in Bantul district, believed that culture can play a significant role in promoting unity within society.
"In fact, some Muslims often come to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Ganjuran to pray to God whenever they have problems."
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