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Legionaries Help with Youth Synod

The recent Synod of Bishops met in Rome, October 3–28, to discuss “Youth, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” Some Legionaries had the opportunity to assist at this meeting of bishops from all over the world.

The Synod

In preparation for the gathering, in March 2018 there was a pre-Synodal meeting with 300 young people from five continents who came together at the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae, a seminary in Rome directed by the Legionaries of Christ, for diocesan seminarians from around the world. Then, in October, there followed the formal meeting of bishops from around the world in Rome, called a synod. Each bishops’ conference sent representative bishops and Pope Francis appointed a few more.

The synod began and ended with large Masses. In the opening Mass homily, Pope Francis said, “Jesus offers his disciples the assurance that will accompany all the missionary work to be entrusted to them: the Holy Spirit will be the first to preserve, to keep alive and relevant, the memory of the Lord in the heart of his disciples. It is the Spirit who ensures that the richness and beauty of the Gospel will be a source of constant joy and freshness.”

On Sunday, October 28, Pope Francis closed the synod. In his homily at the final Mass, he outlined the “three fundamental steps on the journey of faith,” which he summed up as “To listen, to be a neighbour, to bear witness. The journey of faith in today’s Gospel ends in a beautiful and surprising way when Jesus says ‘Go; your faith has made you well’ (v. 52). Yet Bartimaeus had made no profession of faith or done any good work; he had only begged for mercy. To feel oneself in need of salvation is the beginning of faith. It is the direct path to encountering Jesus.”

Legionaries’ Involvement in the Synod

Three Legionaries were helping out with the Synod as assistants to the Synod’s general secretary: Br. Alejandro de la Garza Gossler, LC,  and Fr. Luis Ramírez, LC, from Mexico, and Br.Russell Dean Ward, LC, from the US. These men were responsible for writing summaries and official acts of what different bishops said.

We asked Br. Russell how this participation corresponds to the Charism of Regnum Christi. He said, “The grace of being able to participate in the Youth Synod has been an experience of the Universal Church.” When we asked him about media coverage of the Synod, he said, “I have been able to witness that behind all the chaos present in the media, the vast majority of cardinals, bishops and priests here have a passionate love for the Church and long to spread the faith to the next generation.”

Br. Russell found the small group discussions especially inspiring. “Here I have seen how the Synod Fathers are really seeking the good of the whole Church,”he told us, “especially by an attentive listening to the voices of the young people present.” He though the way they worked through opinions was wonderful. “There may be diverse opinions on how to attain the end,” he said, “but the end is the same for all – to lead the youth to a real experience of Jesus Christ.”

When asked what he learned for the Church from the Youth Synod, Br. Russell mentioned accompaniment, such as mentoring and spiritual direction. He sees the need to form both priests and lay people to be mentors and spiritual guides.

Br. Russell summarized the Synod by comparing it to the disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus: “Jesus offers us the key to touching the hearts of the youth today. Jesus meets the two disciples as they walk away from Jerusalem—that is, the wrong way. Jesus actually walks the wrong way with them! He first listens to them, their doubts and disappointments. He then reprimands them and gives them the key to interpret all their experience from his perspective. Then he leads them to the Eucharist, where they recognize that he is alive and in their midst. After this, they go back to Jerusalem on fire with the love of Christ and as apostles of his resurrection.”

For more information on the Youth Synod, you can check out the Synod’s website.

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Knights of the Altar Visit the Vatican

Twenty-four students from Everest Academy Manila (Phillipines), from grades six through 10, recently traveled to Italy to train as altar servers. Members of Knights of the Altar, they spent June 23 to July 11 training and having fun. For most of this time, they stayed at the Casa di Santa Maria in Val Formazza, Italy, and at the end of their trip they met Pope Francis and served at Mass with him. 

Mio P. Medrana, one of the teen participants, said that meeting Pope Francis was a dream come true—but it was a privilege he had to earn. Medrana  said he and other participants “had to complete challenges which revolved around a virtue, such as give food to a homeless person to practice the virtue of generosity.”  He concluded, “This amazing experience inspired me and taught me that dreams do come true, but to reach your dreams you have to work for it.” 

Knights of the Altar is an organization within ECYD, the teen division of Regnum Christi, that focuses on young men who serve Mass. Like all EYCD programs, this one seeks to meet teens where they are and help answer their questions, building up their encounters, convictions and decisions. As the organization describes itself, “In serving God in the daily masses, we are forming the hearts of future Christian leaders in our society, people willing to spend [their] entire life in helping the less fortunate, [to] make our society an authentic culture of love and care.” 

Enzo Tanjutco, one of these young Knights, commented on the trip to Italy: “I was able to make strong bonds of friendship with my companions and friends,” he said, “but especially with Jesus Christ. My love for Him grew in a special way in this Vatican trip, and I could have great training opportunities in Val Formazza and in Rome.” 

At the end of the trip, the group traveled to Rome for three important meetings. First, they met with Msgr. Guido Marini, the Pope’s master of ceremonies, and had time for questions about Pope Francis and how Marini helps him. Second, they took part in a Mass at the worldwide headquarters of the Legion and Regnum Christi with Fr. Eduardo Robles-Gil, LC, where they renewed their friendship with Christ in ECYD. Finally, they served a Mass with Pope Francis and greeted him afterwards. 

They practiced serving Mass in all these different places, but they also had fun, such as climbing a mountain more than 10,000 feet high. 

Several of the participants shared their testimony about meeting the Pope and how the experience has affected them.  

Santi Violago-Tanjutco said, “I believe that meeting Pope Francis has affected my faith in many ways. The fact that I was able to celebrate the Mass with him, and even shake his hand, is a true honor. After meeting him, I felt different in a way. I started to pray more often, and I also visited Christ in the Eucharist more frequently than before. Also, I was more conscious of my actions and words, especially towards others. I also got to talk to more people about my faith, and I have continued to spread the Word of God.” 

Vasco Tam Esquivel, one of the youngest participants, had a special sign of affection from Francis. “I recently celebrated my birthday before meeting the Pope,” he said. “Fr Felipe, our school chaplain, told the Pope it was my birthday, and the Pope touched my left cheek as a form of greeting me. I felt an indescribable feeling of joy as he touched my face and shook my hand.” 

Shaking hands with the Pope was also a moving experience for Nathan Angelo Oseña. “I was really nervous,” he said, “because he is the holiest Father and the Vicar of Christ. The moment I shook his hand, I felt the amazing grace from the Pope and felt that I was much closer to God than before. I saw him as a gentle father and a friend, as if I had known him for a long time. He was very gentle and kind-hearted, and it was an experience like no other.” 

You can watch a video of highlights from their trip. 

Embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6R3i7Oaj9z4&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=JaimeLorenzoLC 

And a video about this apostolate in Manila. 

Embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeA2eE4cRV0&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=NeilBurdeos 

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Alex Kucera

Atlanta

Alex Kucera has lived in Atlanta, GA, for the last 46 years. He is one of 9 children, married to his wife Karmen, and has 3 girls, one grandson, and a granddaughter on the way. Alex joined Regnum Christi in 2007. Out of the gate, he joined the Helping Hands Medical Missions apostolate and is still participating today with the Ghana Friendship Mission.

In 2009, Alex was asked to be the Atlanta RC Renewal Coordinator for the Atlanta Locality to help the RC members with the RC renewal process. Alex became a Group Leader in 2012 for four of the Atlanta Men’s Section Teams and continues today. Running in parallel, in 2013, Alex became a Team Leader and shepherded a large team of good men.

Alex was honored to be the Atlanta Mission Coordinator between 2010 to 2022 (12 years), coordinating 5-8 Holy Week Mission teams across Georgia. He also created and coordinated missions at a parish in Athens, GA, for 9 years. Alex continues to coordinate Holy Week Missions, Advent Missions, and Monthly missions at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Cumming, GA.

From 2016 to 2022, Alex also served as the Men’s Section Assistant in Atlanta. He loved working with the Men’s Section Director, the Legionaries, Consecrated, and Women’s Section leadership teams.

Alex is exceptionally grateful to the Legionaries, Consecrated, and many RC members who he’s journeyed shoulder to shoulder, growing his relationship with Christ and others along the way. He knows that there is only one way, that’s Christ’s Way, with others!