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Unsure was the best word to describe my decision to attend the Corazon Puro Missionary Formation Program 2018 in New York City. There was enough time to decide, but I made up my mind almost last minute. I had reasons for hesitating, but the most obvious reason was a prior commitment for where the money I was trying to save should go. I wanted to take a break from work for half a year this year for further discernment.  This was supposed to be what I tried to save money for. And it still is.

And as I was discerning to go to the MFP 2018, a community friend challenged my ability to trust in the Lord. This led me to ask whether trying to be self-sufficient by saving for my future needs was just a way to guard my pride and believe in my ability to provide for myself. Was I really just saving myself from humiliation of asking people to help me and getting rejected in the process? Not that I’m saying it’s okay not to save—it is mandatory to save—but my situation was perhaps a question of pride.

So I decided to go for it and took the chunk off my savings (in fact, almost the whole of my savings) for the MFP 2018 trip. And I never regretted a single moment of my decision. God gave me an experience of a lifetime!

This trip felt like an introduction to a real missionary community life. Aside from the intellectual and spiritual formation and being always on our feet with our luggage behind us, I was urged to go out of my comfort zone. Last year was quite comfortable because it was so easy to hide behind our big Filipino group—and maybe I chose to interact less with other people. This year though, I felt the need to overcome my awkwardness in meeting new people, interacting with them, living with some of them for a short time, and (to my slight horror) being vulnerable in front of strangers. Yes, a short-notice workshop, three rounds of a testimony for different groups of people, and asking for support for Pure Heart Philippines in every mass for more than half a day were enough to raise my vulnerability meter. But I loved every memory and moment of it!

I realized that I haven’t entirely given myself during missions of our ministry until I shared my vulnerability and humbled myself to enlighten people in unfamiliar territory for the sake of the Lord. I learned to say fiat without the need to understand what the Lord willed during those moments. I learned to beg for the Lord. And it was so liberating—because I conquered my pride. I also realized that it is not bad to ask people for help sometimes, that fear of rejection is always part of the process. But a heart that looks up to the Lord and a cause that is dedicated for the Lord will conquer any fear of rejection and rejection itself. It is not easy, and it is something that needs to be put into practice when situations call for it.

It was also liberating to be guided to the path of vocations. One of the things I admire about Corazon Puro is how they celebrate the vocations of the members of their family. They announce it with joy and consider it a great accomplishment in life. Honestly, it struck me that vocations were an accomplishment in life because I never thought the same way before. So I was really humbled.

It was also timely, because since last year, I have been thinking a lot about my vocation.  In fact, I was almost sure of my fate post-MFP 2017. But with a few plot twists, confusion grew stronger, and I caught myself more determined to discern my vocation.

I could almost hear Pope Francis ringing in my ear and saying, “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.”

Looking at my life now, I am comfortable. And so I want to go beyond my comfort levels. I want to explore more how far my heart could open up to love. Because there is always a bigger and deeper question that looms over me, does God want me to do something more for Him?

Unsure was the best word to describe my decision to attend the Corazon Puro Missionary Formation Program 2018 in New York City. There was enough time to decide, but I made up my mind almost last minute. I had reasons for hesitating, but the most obvious reason was a prior commitment for where the money I was trying to save should go. I wanted to take a break from work for half a year this year for further discernment.  This was supposed to be what I tried to save money for. And it still is.

And as I was discerning to go to the MFP 2018, a community friend challenged my ability to trust in the Lord. This led me to ask whether trying to be self-sufficient by saving for my future needs was just a way to guard my pride and believe in my ability to provide for myself. Was I really just saving myself from humiliation of asking people to help me and getting rejected in the process? Not that I’m saying it’s okay not to save—it is mandatory to save—but my situation was perhaps a question of pride.

So I decided to go for it and took the chunk off my savings (in fact, almost the whole of my savings) for the MFP 2018 trip. And I never regretted a single moment of my decision. God gave me an experience of a lifetime!

This trip felt like an introduction to a real missionary community life. Aside from the intellectual and spiritual formation and being always on our feet with our luggage behind us, I was urged to go out of my comfort zone. Last year was quite comfortable because it was so easy to hide behind our big Filipino group—and maybe I chose to interact less with other people. This year though, I felt the need to overcome my awkwardness in meeting new people, interacting with them, living with some of them for a short time, and (to my slight horror) being vulnerable in front of strangers. Yes, a short-notice workshop, three rounds of a testimony for different groups of people, and asking for support for Pure Heart Philippines in every mass for more than half a day were enough to raise my vulnerability meter. But I loved every memory and moment of it!

I realized that I haven’t entirely given myself during missions of our ministry until I shared my vulnerability and humbled myself to enlighten people in unfamiliar territory for the sake of the Lord. I learned to say fiat without the need to understand what the Lord willed during those moments. I learned to beg for the Lord. And it was so liberating—because I conquered my pride. I also realized that it is not bad to ask people for help sometimes, that fear of rejection is always part of the process. But a heart that looks up to the Lord and a cause that is dedicated for the Lord will conquer any fear of rejection and rejection itself. It is not easy, and it is something that needs to be put into practice when situations call for it.

It was also liberating to be guided to the path of vocations. One of the things I admire about Corazon Puro is how they celebrate the vocations of the members of their family. They announce it with joy and consider it a great accomplishment in life. Honestly, it struck me that vocations were an accomplishment in life because I never thought the same way before. So I was really humbled.

It was also timely, because since last year, I have been thinking a lot about my vocation.  In fact, I was almost sure of my fate post-MFP 2017. But with a few plot twists, confusion grew stronger, and I caught myself more determined to discern my vocation.

I could almost hear Pope Francis ringing in my ear and saying, “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark.”

Looking at my life now, I am comfortable. And so I want to go beyond my comfort levels. I want to explore more how far my heart could open up to love. Because there is always a bigger and deeper question that looms over me, does God want me to do something more for Him?

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GAMA

I always pray to God to draw me closer to Him. I want to serve and praise our Lord not just through masses but also through some of His special ways. He answered my prayers, and one of those special ways is the Chiara Luce Girls Camp 2018. From the moment it was announced, I was firm to join this camp, for this is a blessing.

I invited my two sisters to join. As their eldest sister, I don’t want them to miss this opportunity. I assured them that this camp is the best, and so, I was right. We had another best experience.

First thing in the morning, we attend masses at church. It is great to be at the temple of God to greet Him good morning and tell Him we love Him. After breakfast, we sing and dance to praise and worship our Lord. We had new lessons learned through the talks delivered by our beloved facilitators. These lessons will hopefully direct us to the way of living our Lord would want His daughters to have. Once in a while, we have games in which everyone takes part to improve our interaction with the others. We develop cooperation, understanding, and patience, knowing we had different personalities and backgrounds.

We also had Bible sharing by group. We read the Gospel and share to the group what lines struck our hearts and minds the most. We explained to them how it is related to our daily lives and as well share to them how these words of God dealt each of our problems and pain. We also watched a movie entitled War Room. This is a must-watch movie. In addition to our activities, we had hiking and WOW (meaning?) night. WOW night is our last night before the end of the camp in where we show our hidden talents. We wore dresses and looked like actual princesses of the kingdom of God. Lastly, my favorite part is the adoration. We have adoration every day at the prayer room. This is the time in which we praise Him, thank Him, ask forgiveness, and pray to Him just like a daughter talks to her Father.

Each day is much more precious than gold and diamonds. I am blessed to have met these people. I am blessed to have spent few days with my fellow campers and our beloved facilitators. Each of us are blessed to have experienced every single thing under their guidance. We, campers, would also like to thank our anonymous benefactor that showed his support financially. We’d like to show our gratitude by praying for you.

Nothing could beat the smiles I could daily see at the camp. Nothing could beat the laughter, the fun, and the happiness that I could see and feel from everyone on those days. These memories will forever stay in our hearts and our minds. To the Pure Heart Fairy, in behalf of the campers, I wish to have another summer camp next year. We are looking forward to be together with one another again. Thank you in advance, Pure Heart Fairy!

BLIZEL

Being one of the campers of the Chiara Luce Girls Camp 2018 is indeed challenging, yet I considered it as one of the most beautiful things  that ever happened to me.

We’re so lucky to be involved in this kind of camp because we learned so many things.

We learned to be responsible when it comes to our different group tasks each day. We learned many lessons through different talks given by our dear facilitators. We learned to love one another . . . not just a camper-to-camper relationship but as the daughters of the King. We learned to work as a team. We learned to forgive. We adored and praised God together, and we learned to humble ourselves to our Living God.

There’s so much things we’ve learned that even words can’t justify.

The millenials (campers) tend to be more active on gadgets such as smart phones, computer games, surfing on the net, and many more earthly things. That kind of unhealthy lifestyle changed when we participated in the camp. In there, we learned, “Disconnect to Connect.“

We disconnected ourselves from all the earthly things in order to connect and build stronger relation with all the campers, and most of all, to be very close to our Heavenly Father.

It was my second time already to participate in this camp. I’ve started joining Chiara Luce Girls Camp in 2017.

I admit, it really changed me.

The previous camp became my platform in order to become the best version of me, and that is to know Jesus more and be very close to him. And in this year’s camp, I’ve invited my two younger sisters because I wanted them to experience renewal in the camp like I did.

I would like to express this gratitude to our benefactor, handsome and beautiful facilitators, Sister Maria Goretti, Sister Mary Joy, and, most of all, to Him for making this camp a miracle!

Gamaliel M. Dominguez is an eighteen-year-old freshmen taking up bachelor of science in business administration, major in banking and financial management. She has been a scholar of the Brothers of Saint John Scholarship Program for six years. She’s into singing and dancing, and she’s interested to learn more languages.

Blizel G. Suello is nineteen years old. She is a scholar of the Brothers of Saint John since 2013. Blizel regularly participates in the Chiara Luce Monthly Formation and would love to be involved in one of the Saint John Community youth ministries in the near future when she’s ready. She’s currently taking up bachelor of arts, major in psychology. She’s a bookworm and likes science.

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This was originally posted on Anne Mae’s blog “Empty and Beautiful.”

Earlier today, I went to the supermarket. After buying the things I needed, I found myself overhearing a conversation of three young women, my age. It really struck me because what they were talking about were the things I used to say and believe when I was in high school. Now I feel the responsibility to share what I have learned of the truth and the misconceptions in my journey in the Catholic faith.

Person 1:

“Sus dzai, akong lola sige ug simba kada adlaw. Nah! Molapas na gyud siya sa langit dzai!”

(My grandmother goes to attend the Holy Mass every day. I’m afraid she’s gonna make it beyond Heaven!)

Ha! I know you’ve said this expression a couple of times already because I did before too (jokingly even until now). We used to say this to people we know who are veryyyyyyyyyyyy religious. But, seriously, for the sake of the children who are to read this, no one has ever crossed beyond Heaven because Heaven itself is an end. It is our final destination, our eternal home! And so all of us, young and old, is called to do everything (yes) just to get there! But for some people, like this young woman’s grandmother, they wanted to experience a glimpse and taste of Heaven every day so that she could know and love more the person Who made it. This glimpse and taste of Heaven is present in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus humbling Himself again and again to become that little piece of bread. A Bread that contains His eternal love for you (and me). A love so great to be contained that the Bread gets broken every time.

I’m saying this because we often have this association of “old people” and Holy Mass. That’s why when we “accidentally” enter a Church on a weekday, we only see “old people” attending the Holy Mass and maybe one or a couple of young adults, our age. My point is, although the Church only asked of us to attend the Holy Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days of Obligation, the church doors are also open for us young adults on weekdays to attend the Holy Mass, to be with that Someone, Who never tires of waiting in love.

Person 2:

“Unya magdala pa gyud siya ug daghan kaayong nobenaryo. Tag-as kaayong prayers, dzai!” (She also brings with her novena booklets with very loooooooong prayers).

I am personally not a novena prayer person. And it’s okay. We often get to say this because we associate prayers with loooooooooong (or short) novenas, and it’s okay too. Some people just really prefer to pray with prayerbooks to guide them in praying. But it’s also okay to just bring your heart, open and willing to listen to the voice of the One Who made your (and my) heart. As Fr Mike Schmitz says, silence is the first language of God. So to allow our eyes closed and our hearts open, and to be just before Him in silence is the most precious of all time between you and Him. In my journey in the Christian Catholic faith, I learned that praying is not always about asking this and that. But, prayer is simply seeking and building a relationship with the Lord, asking and listening what He wants you to do. And to build that relationship, a constant communication is needed. That is to say, a constant prayer life. So praying doesn’t only apply when one needs something. It’s an everyday contact with the Lord. It’s a necessity. But I also know, praying is a real struggle. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed and full of joy; and sometimes it’s dry as if the Lord is not present. That is only to increase your love and longing for Him. It is important to know that you are not alone in this struggle. If you can come by an Adoration chapel, be present and spend even 10 minutes of your time every day and it will change your life.

In one of the retreats I attended, I was struck when one of the speakers said that holiness is meant to be normal. Because guess what, we think that being religious or holy is an extreme thing when it should be like waking up in the morning and fixing our beds. We live in this very distorted world, and as Christians we are called to go against the stream of mediocrity because we are made for more. We are made for higher things. We are made for Jesus. We are made for Heaven and Heaven is our home.

Anne Mae has been a PH server since 2016. She’s currently a biology major in the University of the Philippines Cebu. She has a beautiful voice that sings praises to God and talent in expressing prayer into poetry and then transforming it into inspiring songs.

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Pure Heart Philippines | Filipino Values.. by Audrey Criscille Abatol - 10M ago

I have always loved biking since I could remember. I learned how to bike when I was in kindergarten and lost my two front teeth in the process. No pain, no gain they say. Aside from biking, I love my Cebu island, especially its beaches. I regularly explore to establish my personal spots to chill either by a beach or on a mountaintop. Biking and Cebu’s natural beauty always gave me a sense of peace and joy.

Five years ago, I dreamed of taking a bike trip around the entire island of Cebu. I kept it in my head waiting for buddies who are crazy enough to invite. I never thought I would find them in my ministry Pure Heart Philippines (PHP). Eric’s and Bulay’s “Let’s do it!” and a fist bump were all it took to get things started.

What began as a fun adventure for a trio turned out to be a meaningful mission for a larger team. Eric suggested to make it a fundraiser for PHP to help us reach out to 9,000 youth this year. Our team also morphed from just a bike crew of three to having an additional support crew of five. I’m glad it did because now, I couldn’t imagine making it through that bike trip without a support crew.

As I went through the challenging process of leading my pack in this adventure, my emotions and thoughts also went through a roller-coaster ride. I had to make sure that the elements of fun, meaning, and safety were met with the size of the group that we have. Because of this, I’d like to think I grew to be a better person for others.

In planning the itinerary, I prioritized mass since many of our team members attend mass every day; the plan was never for myself. But as the Tour de Cebu week slowly approached, I realized, Why not get the strength from the Eucharist? On Maundy Thursday, about a week before our Tour de Cebu, I began going to mass daily. As of this writing, with God’s grace, I have continued the habit and have received strength to face life’s daily struggles head-on.

The trip also reminded me that it’s good to plan and better to recalibrate according to what happens along the way. I wanted to bike through the entire island, but we had technical bike issues, and our support crew wanted to take turns in biking some of the legs. At first, I was disappointed that I didn’t meet my personal goal, but the time I spent in the vehicle made a difference in my encounter with our support crew. I have learned to better appreciate all the aspects and everyone’s role in our adventure.

Despite the roller coaster of emotions, my heart was constantly overflowing with joy. I have found a supportive community; I realized PHP has been with me in my hopes and struggles since our paths converged. I’m beyond grateful for my PHP squad for always keeping up with my big dreams, making them more meaningful than what I hoped for, supporting me to make them come true, and inspiring others to do the same.

As we pedaled our last stretch of the trip, I prayed for the 9,000 youth we aim to reach this year. Just like me, these young men and women have dreams, and they want it to matter. I prayed that they too would believe in their dreams, have the resilience in facing any obstacles, and never yield in making these dreams come true.

Biking Around the Entire Island of Cebu DAY 05 (Balamban, Tuburan, Tabuelan, San Remegios) - YouTube

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Converting from fear to love! This transition came to my mind as a common thematic thread for my insights from April 8–13, 2018. After hundreds of kilometers through 44 municipalities, 1 province, we have successfully traveled the island of Cebu. Tour de Cebu aims to raise funds to continue supporting in spreading the message of God’s love to the other young people, teaching them about the dignity of the body and soul. And so looking back in the road, I wonder, What is my takeaway now that the road has ended and I have made my way home?

We met tons of people along the way plus the families who host us at night. Our encounter with them continues to show us God’s face of love. The same God draws us from our many fears and complaints to God’s love and helps us to grow in trust in God’s loving providence. As we learn to entrust ourselves more and more to this love, we ourselves are drawn to live not in fear but in God’s love. Moreover, I like learning the rules of the road. Our bike leg from San Remigio to Cebu City via the west coast of Cebu and across the transcentral highway left me with some fear if I can make it to Catmon. “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”

The Lord communicates this message constantly to me as I live my day to day, drawing me to greater trust and empowering me to love more. How did these fears limited my capacity to entrust myself to the Lord and to love others? How did these fears make me bury my talents away for fear of rejections rather than use my gifts and multiply them in my service of others? Seeing the generosity of people and the picturesque sights of the island, thanking God after being tested physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually on a long and sometimes uncooperative roads (even friendships are tested too), experiencing the support of the teammates, I realized these are awesome ways to remind us of God’s love for all. Each day may throw new challenges like bike failures, losing one’s way, and sickness, but the reward of praying together each night is amazing—the unparalleled beauty of the sunset triumphs over all. We pray to the Lord for the gifts of trust and courage.

Trust that the Lord’s love always dwells in our hearts, healing us, providing for us, melting away the fears that stop us; and courage, a force that helps us go beyond our fears and pay attention to the gifts that God provides moment by moment so that we can face up to life’s challenges and crosses, not ending up drowned or overwhelmed. We pray for such trust and courage so God’s love may take root in us as we risk and move out from ourselves to love others. Thanks to Eric Crowley, Bulay, Audrey, Rhea, Em em, Lore, Nino, and Plong. To God be the glory!

Watch the Tour de Cebu here:

Biking Around the Entire Island of Cebu! DAY 1 - YouTube

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During Holy Week, I was asked to give a reflection on the Seventh Station: Jesus Falls for the Second Time. I reflected on Jesus’s thoughts as He had stood up from His second fall. For sure our all-powerful God could have easily taken himself out of that situation, but He chose to get up and continue. What was his reason? It could only have been because of one thing—love. Love gives you strength to keep going. During the Tour de Cebu, our 530-kilometer bicycle ride around the entire island of Cebu, that reflection became real.

Our Tour de Cebu started out as a fun idea where we adventure seekers can enjoy the beauty of the Philippines and use it as a way to get attention so we can tell people about our ministry and ask for support, but it ended up being much more than that. It became a spiritual journey—a journey that we did with our mission team, that allowed our friendships to deepen. Together we overcame hardships, and together we kept God at the center. Our Tour de Cebu was no longer just a bike trip, it was now a pilgrimage.

As we got into our bike trip, exhaustion came and sickness creeped in; things just got harder. I’ll even admit that I gave up biking on the second day. I let Plong, who was driving, have a chance at biking so that I can take a break. When one of our bikes broke down, I was secretly relieved that the pressure to bike the whole thing was also gone.

Our fourth day was hyped up to be the most difficult. It included the Barili to Aloguinsan stretch. The road from Barili to Aloguinsan is a winding road, taking people inland halfway across the island and back out to the coast. If you’re not familiar with the topography of Cebu, the center of the Island is basically a mountain range just big enough to kill an amateur bicyclist through exhaustion. If there’s one thing I hate about biking, it’s biking up hills, so going into this leg of the trip, I already anticipated the tremendous suffering. Since one of our bikers fell ill the day before, I had no excuse to sit out of this stretch except that I didn’t want to, which isn’t an acceptable excuse in my book. Going into this, our team already decided it’s better for us all just to all get in the car and drive it. Although I had been a lazy bum seeking comfort up until this point, I couldn’t justify driving this stretch. Pope Benedict XVI’s words resonated within me, “You were not made for comfort, but for greatness!” So, I pushed that if no one is going to bike this stretch, it should be because we tried and failed, not because we were too afraid to try. So we gave it a shot expecting to fail.

The daunting 30-kilometer stretch ended up being the most meaningful part of the trip to me. I had already considered this a pilgrimage, so I was mentally prepared to offer up my suffering for all the intentions given to us. And at the end of the day, not only did we end up biking the entire mountainous road to Aloguinsan, but we did it meaningfully. We carried the intentions that were given to us up and down and up and down these hills. We offered up any exhaustion or fatigue. It was beautiful.

When you do things for fun, giving up is easy to do, which is how I lived the beginning of the trip. When you do things for love, giving up is the last thing you want to do.

This trip reminded me of two things. The first is that we have so much to be thankful for—our lives, bodies, health, mission, country, and all the opportunities that God has given us. And the second is that no matter what we do, we can make it meaningful. Whether it’s biking around the island of Cebu or giving talks to youth, having fun with friends, or working at a desk, we can live these things—especially our sufferings—for the glory of God.

Watch the Tour de Cebu here:

Biking Around the Entire Island of Cebu! DAY 1 - YouTube

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“Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”

Pure Heart Philippines was invited by St. Joseph College in Maasin City, Southern Leyte, to take part in their weeklong activity last February 19-23 entitled “Crossroads 2018,” which was participated by more than 800 grade 12 students.

When I heard about this mission last year, I was so excited. On top of the reason that this would be my first ever long mission and first ever “overseas” mission, SJC is also close to my heart as my siblings have been products of this school. However, preparing for this mission has been a challenge for me as I was preoccupied and busy for the transition at work as I just rendered my resignation. (Yes, I am officially unemployed since February 15, 2018. Cheers!) At some point, it came to my mind not to go to the mission as I really wasn’t prepared enough. But God really gives us His assurance. Before I went to Maasin City, I was able to talk to Fr. Thomas—the spiritual director for Pure Heart—and confided to him my fears and doubts, and then he calmly said, “Do not fear, for God anoints those He appoints.” Those words were more than enough to calm my heart.

I am in awe and overwhelmed to see how God’s hand is working all throughout this mission. I was supposed to go together with the other servers, Eric and Mark, in going directly to Maasin City at noon on Sunday, February 18, but I decided to catch the 9:00 p.m. trip via Hilongos (2-hour drive from Maasin) so I could join the Chiara Luce—a monthly mission of Pure Heart in partnership with the Apostolic Sisters of St. John to give formation to girls aging twelve to eighteen. After the formation, I rushed to the port area without any ticket yet, and when I was about to pay, I realized I don’t have my wallet with me. I started to panic and felt a bit embarrassed. Then a woman approached me and asked what’s wrong, so I told her about the situation, and without second thought, she offered to help me. Amazing! God has always been with me—through the woman who offered to help me buy the ticket, through the man who offered me his seat in the bus going to Maasin City, through the bus driver who offered to drive me back to city proper (yes, I fell asleep on the bus and almost reached a different municipality when I woke up). Indeed, God’s hand at work!

I arrived at SJC at 5:00 a.m. And together with other servers, I attended the 5:30 a.m. mass at the cathedral. The warm welcome of Fr. Niccolo, the head for Campus Ministry in SJC; the Franciscan Sisters; and all the people there including the students made us comfortable and ready for the mission.

It was a bit challenging on the first day as there were only three of us, but with God’s amazing presence, we were able to pull it through. The students were so participative, and they really listen to the talks. During the Q&A, we were overwhelmed by the number of questions raised, and even some students were brave enough to share to us what they’ve learned. We ended our day with adoration and confession. How amazing it is to go back and have an intimate encounter with Jesus and ask for His forgiveness.

When we finished the day, our body felt really tired, but our hearts were burning with desire to spread God’s message of love to the students. Then Eric said, “If sometimes we get tired or exhausted during the mission, let’s always remember that we are doing this out of love for the students.” And those words has always been in our hearts and served as our motivation to give our best day by day.

With the help and support of the SJC Campus Ministry, we were able to finish the mission fruitfully. It was so heartwarming to hear from the students about their learnings and realizations.  One student messaged me on Facebook and said, “Ate, nice kaajo injong mga talks, daghan kaajo mi ug nakat-onan. Naghilak jud ko sa skit ninjo about hope and redemption.” (Ate, your talks are very nice. We learned a lot. I cried during your skit on hope and redemption.) Another one said, “Ate, ganahan kaajo ko naminaw ninjo kay di makaduka. Informative and fun injong way.” (Ate, I really like listening to you because you’re not boring. Your way is informative and fun.) Praise be Jesus Christ for touching the hearts of all the participants. May the seed of faith, hope, and love that God has planted in their hearts bear fruit for them to live the life that He has planned for them and guide them to be the sons and daughters He created them to be.

It’s always been an amazing experience to be used by God as instrument and bearers of His light in the world. Everytime I go on a mission, I always end up receiving more than what I give. I learn more, I gain more friends, and I can feel God’s love all the more. He never fails to spoil His servants; during our last day in Maasin City, we decided to watch the sunrise by the beach. Actually the beach is just right across from where we were staying, but we weren’t able to get the chance to go there the first few days. So we went out at 5:30 a.m., and it was still dark, and it was so cloudy! I prayed in silent, “Lord, please let us witness the sunrise today.” When we reached the shore, still the sun wasn’t shining. But we were still amazed of how calm and peaceful the sea has been, seemed like the whole world is in the state of great solitude.  Then Eric said that maybe we can have holy hour at the shore so we gave each other a moment to pray. Few minutes after, the rain started to pour, and I was like, “Lord, the sunrise, please,” but the rain continued for a couple more minutes. Despite that, we stayed, and the rain eventually stopped. Rays of the sun started to show behind those thick clouds, seemed like the Holy Spirit is descending from heaven. That’s what I thought. It was such a sight to behold.  I was even more amazed when God showed us the rainbow, not just one but two! As I watched its vibrant color painted in the skies and reflected in the water, my heart was just in awe! There were also a lot of birds in the beach, a lot of fishes jumping in the water, seemed to me that they were also praising God that very moment. We were just asking for the sunrise, but He gave us so much more.

As what Fr. Niccolo said, “Sometimes, God’s gift doesn’t come wrapped in pretty bows.” Indeed, God let it rain not because He doesn’t want us to witness the sunrise, but because He needed it to create the rainbow and prepare something more amazing. The same applies in life, if He let us experience trials, challenges, and even suffering, no matter how dark and difficult the road we are taking, always trust in Him. He has always better and more amazing plans. Indeed, there’s always a rainbow after the rain.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the opportunity to serve you.

Analou Zarco is 25 years old and originally from Hilongos, Leyte. She moved to Cebu in 2009 to study BS Management Accounting at the University of San Jose-Recoletos. She is presently connected with Wealthbank as an account officer for business loans.

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Some servers from Pure Heart Philippines will be riding their bicycles around the entire island of Cebu to raise funds for Pure Heart! We will be documenting the process and sharing our insights with you, so follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! We have created a GoFundMe page for those who would like to support us financially!

Pure Heart Biking All Around Cebu Island - YouTube

Send us your prayer intentions in the comments of the YouTube video or on Facebook!

God bless!

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I joined the other three servers at the front pew just as Fr. Thomas was about to give his homily. Right after this mass, the four of us would be giving our yes—our commitment—to purity of heart and its promotion. Still feeling despondent from what we learned during the monthly formation about the sad reality of child sex trafficking in the country, I tried to process how all these came to be. I mean, it is such a great shame we’re letting these happen to our poor children. It is such a shame that we’re thinking we’re powerless.

I think it was also no mere coincidence we’re making our commitment as PH servers on the day the gospel reading was about the parable of the talents. It is about a servant being punished by his master for not doing anything to the possessions entrusted to him. It is called the parable of the talents because each servant was given talents of property. A talent was actually an ancient unit of currency. However, this talent in the parable could very well be interpreted as….a talent—our personal abilities! So it was just fitting that on the day we’re saying yes to God’s call, He reminded us we have been given gifts that we could use in order that He may be pleased.

In his sermon, Fr. Thomas posed this question, “What is holding us back from serving?” Really, what is holding a server back from serving? (Well, aside from the fact that most servers have full-time jobs.) While I pondered on this, I can’t help but recall the first time I went on a mission with Pure Heart. I wasn’t really excited to go because I still had some self-doubts. What business does a sinner like me have sharing the word of God? I intended to be just-happy-to-be-there. It didn’t help that we’re greeted by a rowdy audience—those supposedly more intellectual students! I started to wonder if all the other missions were like this. I was slowly losing faith that we’ll get our message across. However, as the talks started, those students started behaving and listened intently. At that moment, I was instantly reminded that Jesus is with us. (He must have spanked the naughty ones, just kidding!) Yes, Jesus is with us—after all, He is the mission captain. He is the one sending us, but He is with us all the time.

As I made my vow that night, my thoughts were brought again to those children suffering from abuse and exploitation. I prayed that in answering yes to His call, I may be His instrument in helping alleviate the pain of those abused and keep others from suffering the same plight.

So what is holding you back from giving your yes? There shouldn’t be, because we have the Son of God for a mission captain. Whatever is holding us back, we should just surrender them all to Him.

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Two months ago, I received a message from a good friend. Let’s just hide her identity under the name of “Bulay,” and she said, “Hey, Analou, Pure Heart Philippines has a serious business proposition for you!” I was wondering what it would be and how “serious” was that serious, so we met over lunch, and guess what the proposition was? Insert fast heartbeat. I was asked to head the Chiara Luce group—a regular mission of Pure Hearts Philippines in partnership with the Apostolic Sisters of St. John. This is a monthly formation given to young girls normally aging twelve to eighteen years old. Indeed, it was really a serious one. And after that business lunch, the rest was history.

Chiara Luce formation is held every third Sunday of the month, and last Sunday, we just had our formation for the month of September. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence has always been a common problem and struggle faced by teenagers nowadays. Why so? Because we are living in a world where there is an epidemic of negativity that affects the quality of a person’s life in various ways, from the way we think and feel about ourselves to the way we think about or react to different life situations. This has been the inspiration for this month’s formation, to help these young girls regain the confidence that God has already given them.

We started the day with a mass and shared a sumptuous lunch together. In the afternoon, to formally start the activity, we invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit by singing praise and worship songs, which was led by Ate Bulay. And of course, the day will never be complete without the games and having fun. So…who says our monthly formation is boring?

During the formation talk, it deepens our understanding on why people have low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Again, the society we are living in is giving us false definition of beauty and self-worth. For years now, business and media has been constructing the ideal image of what a “perfect woman” is supposed to look like. And most often than not, we tend to compare ourselves with others and words “you are not good enough” seems to be flashing everywhere. Receiving comments focused on our imperfections has also been very common. We hear these from our friends and people around us and even from our parents.

But the real question is, where should our self-esteem and self-confidence come from? As in Psalms 139:14 “I praise God for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” Yes, our confidence should be rooted with God—our Creator. It was affirmed in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in His own image and likeness.” As a woman who loves God, we should also therefore love ourselves, for we are God’s creation—His masterpiece. Accept the whole package, unconditionally! Be proud of our weaknesses and imperfections, for God said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. And it is our imperfections and weaknesses that make us unique and special. Indeed, we are all perfectly imperfect in the eyes of the one who made us.

After the talk, we had spoken words of affirmation given by Kuya Angelo as a way of reminding the girls that they are precious, valuable, appreciated, and loved. We also had the affirmation circle, which was facilitated by Ate Audrey. It was when girls took turns in giving positive comments and appreciation to one another. They were holding lighted candles all throughout the activity to signify the sacredness and sincerity of the activity and as a way to signify that they are bearers of God’s light in the world. Everyone in the room were moved, even the Pure Hearts servers were also reminded of how precious and loved we are.

We then had adoration, which was led by Sr. Claire of Jesus, and Fr. Thomas was also there available for the young girls who wanted to have confession. What a wonderful way to end the day by going back and asking for forgiveness and reconciliation from the Father. It was an intimate moment and encounter with Him—who was the source and giver of our confidence. Truly it was an amazing day! Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever.

PS: Thank you so much, Chiara Luce and Pure Heart family, for the advance birthday surprise. Thank you for the love. I love you to the moon and back.

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