The search for role models for a new generation of young Catholics has been the underlying message of this year's annual meeting on new evangelization in Manila.
The Philippine Conference on New Evangelization
, now in its sixth year, ended on July 21 with a reminder to Catholics to accompany young people in their "search for truth."
This year's gathering, which carried the theme, "Filipino Youth Walking with Jesus," focused the discussions on "strengthening and enriching the faith and spiritual life" of young Filipinos.
Bishop Rex Andrew Alarcon of Daet told the gathering of more than 5,000 Filipino Catholics to help young people find answers to their questions.
"Most of the questions of the youth today is if God is real [and] what is the truth?" said the prelate. "The youth have very brave questions, many of which, we, the elders cannot answer," he added.
He said people need "to walk with the youth in search of the truth" by giving them a "sense of belongingness" and to help them "exercise their freedom to develop mature commitments."
"If we still cannot answer their many questions, what’s important is that they feel that they have someone with them in search of the truth," he said.
Catholic lay preacher Bo Sanchez, founder of the Light of Jesus Ministry, said young Catholics need "authentic witnesses" to live the faith.
"They need authentic real people ... through social media and end up in a face to face relationship,” Sanchez said.
"They will not know God’s love on a theoretical level if they do not experience God’s love through their personal relationship with that person," he said.
"They need mentors, people who can say three words, 'come and see,'" Sanchez added.
People from different walks of life shared their experiences during the three-day meeting at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
Athlete, Sisi Rondina shared how she dealt with anxiety, a mental health issue young people complain about.
"I always pray to the Lord that he will calm my anxieties," she said, adding that after she leaves a church she "feels so light."
"It’s comforting that God is healing you," Rondina said.
In his sharing during the gathering, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle
of Manila warned about the so-called norms or criteria of mental health.
"While it is good that we are now quite open in discussing it, be cautious about the so called norms or criteria of mental health," said the cardinal.
"Sometimes people say that to be considered mentally healthy you don't experience loneliness, you don't experience frustration," he said.
But the cardinal said that just because a person experienced a moment of loneliness doesn’t mean he or she is already "mentally unstable."
"Not every day would be okay, not every moment is a feel good moment," he said.
said the capability of a person to deal with frustrations should be part of mental health.
"It is when you know how to handle it, how you can face it, and you don't lose hope, then you are healthy because you are normal," he said.
Cardinal Tagle introduced the conference on new evangelization in 2013 as a response to the challenge of new evangelization and in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines.
Now in its sixth year, the cardinal shared his hope that at the end of the conference "we will all walk the talk with the youth, the Church, society, creation and with Jesus."