The Ateneo de Davao University celebrated the SAFIRE: “Faith Festival” and the launching of the Year of the Youth last 15 February 2019, Friday, at the AdDU Matina campus. This university-wide activity convened student representatives from across all units. These representatives comprised Grade 6 pupils representing the Grade School; Grade 10 students representing the Junior High School; Grade 11 students for the Senior High School; as well as student leaders from the SAMAHAN Central Board, Ateneo Religious Organizations (ARO), and from the Arrupe Office of Social Formation (AOSF), standing for the college unit. The participants were divided into houses named after saints associated with the youth, such as St. John Berchamns, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Pedro Calungsod, as well as with the saint who helped restore the Society of Jesus after its suppression, St. Joseph Pignatelli.

The Faith Festival opened with a procession of candles and enthronement of the Cross. During the opening liturgy, Fr. Ulysses S. Cabayao, S.J. reminded the participants of the beautiful image of Filipino youth in mission. He emphasized and reiterated the motto of the Year of the Youth—that each and everyone whose hearts are called to be forever young, are “beloved,” “gifted,” and “empowered.” This identity, he said, calls for the expression of faith that is full of dynamism, power, and energy. He added that to internalize this is to exhibit the very reason why the youth in mission are loved, gifted, and empowered by God.

Mr. Lunar Tan Fayloga, Chair of the AdDU Theology Department, invited participants in his closing message to look at and contemplate the image of the cross and recognize a God who journeys and suffers with the people. Alluding to Pope Francis, Mr. Fayloga emphasized that “being in mission” is a call to listen much as it is a call to action. He closed with the same prayer recited by His Holiness during the World Youth Day celebrations in Panama: “Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross. Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation.”

Concluding the SAFIRE Faith Festival was a performance of Praise and Worship songs by a band of young musicians, joined by the Ateneo de Davao student community who sang and danced and prayed along the music. The Festival was a celebration of faith, led by the youth of both the present and future.

As an event “of” and “for” the youth, the SAFIRE Faith Festival comprised engaging activities that made participants—even the organizers—unleash their inner youthfulness. The participants from each student group moved from one station to another, where each station offered unique experiences that appealed not only to the students’ intellect but to their emotion and soul. Among the experiences were a pilgrim walk, songs and dance, sharing and moments of reflection and prayer. Also evident in the stations were the creative and concerted efforts of administrators, teachers, formators, and Non-Teaching Personnel (NTP) from participating units who mounted the event. Each station contained a diverse array of special features, such as the Gratitude Wall of the Senior High School; the Music and Poetry station of the Junior High School; Dances and Rituals from the Grade School; the Care for Creation station of the Ecoteneo; and the Plenary of prayer liturgies, praise and worship, as well as opening and closing messages from the College Unit.

As part of the yearlong celebration of the 70th anniversary of Ateneo de Davao, dubbed “SAFIRE” or “Seventy Years Afire,” the Faith Festival had a threefold objective dedicated to the Ateneo youth. First was providing pupils and students with opportunities to express their gratitude and faith commitments in various ways. The second was making Ateneans recognize and celebrate their youth through their gifts and talents. Finally, the third Festival objective was making these young Ateneans engage in reflection and introspection concerning the communal experience as part of the Jesuit tradition and mission.

Written by Mr. Niel John G. Capidos, Ignatian Spirituality and Formation Office (ISFO)

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