MIRA MESA — The 5-year-olds outlining the shape of their hand with bright blue, yellow and red paint are the fruit of the synod. So is their young instructor, Mirachris Rieta, who moves from child to child, coaxing them to paint the drawings onto white plates.
They were some of the 150 participants of the Filipino Culture Immersion Camp, held for three days in mid-August at Good Shepherd School.
Last year, the parishioners who had participated in synod consultations wanted their parish to do more to engage families, particularly children and teens, and build the parish’s community and ultimately the Church.
The parish’s leadership listened and responded in a variety of ways. One of them was to organize the camp for Filipinos, a significant community at the parish. The camp brought together children ages 5 to 13 to learn about Filipino culture, which has faith at its heart.
Invitation to join dialogues
Throughout the month of October, parishes and schools across the diocese will once more ask their members to come together and listen to one another as part of the synod. They will be invited to participate in dialogue sessions centered on the theme of the Eucharist.
Like last year, small groups of individuals will sit around a circle and share their experiences anonymously. The sessions will again be held in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
A designated individual at each group will take notes, and the information will be compiled and submitted to the diocese. As he has done with previous synod consultations, Cardinal McElroy will share the findings with the community and the parishes. And the parishes, in turn, will explore ways to address the concerns raised, working with their communities.
Last year, many people who participated in the small-group sessions said that they had enjoyed the experience and wished their parish held these sessions more often.
The fruits of last year’s sessions can be seen across the diocese, as parishes introduce new events or programs, or update existing ones.
Over time, as envisioned by Pope Francis, this synodal process will help renew not only the individual parishes but the Church itself.
Fun and games, with a purpose
The Filipino community first organized the camp in 2006, and it has been offered every other year at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Rancho Peñasquitos. Some of the children who participated in earlier camps served as volunteers in the camp at Good Shepherd School.
There, the children were divided into six groups, all named after Filipino Marian devotions. The “campers” rotated among six hands-on, age-appropriate activities: dances, games, songs, arts and crafts, language and faith expressions.
The instructors ranged from grandparents to professional teachers, and the volunteers included high school and college students. The children learned to refer to them as “kuyas” and “ates,” older brothers and sisters in the Filipino language.
“Values such as respect for your elders and responsibility are woven into the activities,” said Charlotte Fajardo, the camp’s coordinator.
The youngsters had a lot of fun — along with learning seamlessly about the Philippines’ history, culture, language and faith.
Joe Mazares, chair of the Council of Filipino-American Organizations, served as one of the chaperones. He envisioned other parishes and cultural communities organizing similar camps.
“It’s important to understand your identity, and that begins at a young age,” he said.
The camp ended where it began: with families and faith. They prayed the rosary together and enjoyed a “Bayanihan” potluck soup dinner followed by kids’ performances of the songs and dances they had learned.
For more information, visit sdcatholic.org/synod or sdcatholic.org/sinodo (Spanish).