SAN DIEGO — Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano invited the hundreds of young adult faithful who nearly filled The Immaculata Church on Sunday to consider that their journey of faith is like a race.
“Let us persevere in running the race before us, but keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,” he said, quoting Scripture from the Mass’ second reading (Hebrews 12:1-4) in his homily.
The young adults from across the diocese, including a group that carpooled from the Imperial Valley, converged on the church on the campus of the University of San Diego for the event. It was organized by the diocese’s Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry. It began with an hour of adoration, followed by the Mass, and ended with a reception in the grassy area next to the church. Newly ordained Father Guillermo “Memo” Hernandez offered the sacrament of reconciliation before and during the Mass.
In his bilingual homily, Bishop Bejarano recounted how, when he first arrived in San Diego two years ago, he encountered a marathon being run on city streets when he was driving. He could not advance until the last of the runners had passed. Since he could see only one or two runners at a time every few minutes, including one who was walking, he figured it was ending.
“How wrong I was,” he said.
Small groups of runners kept coming. If these individuals were so far behind, he wondered, “Why do they keep running?”
“I realized, for them, it was not important when they arrived but rather to arrive,” he said. “They only had one goal: Finish the race, no matter how much time or sacrifice it took.”
He said this experience helped him to see the words of St. Timothy with new eyes: “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith.” (Timothy 2:4)
In a world of traditions, of contradictions, and different ideologies, even inside the Church, it’s easy to get distracted and confused during the race of faith.
He said that, as a priest and a bishop, he gets pressure to take a position on one issue or another. He said that he does not like to be labeled, but if he has to be, “then I want to be labeled a disciple of Christ.”
Whenever he comes to a big decision, he said he asks himself, “Is this a distraction or is this going to help me keep my eyes fixed on Christ?”
The bishop told the young people that they will have to make difficult decisions in life.
“But we have to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.”
After the Mass, the young adults streamed out to the grassy area next to the church for a reception complete with tacos and agua fresca.
“I’m here to meet other Catholic people, to adore Jesus, to celebrate Mass on a Sunday with friends, and enjoy the food,” said Laura Ibrahim, 25, as she waited with two friends in the food line. She said she considers Our Mother of Confidence Church and the UCSD Newman Center as her “home parishes.”
Twenty-six-year-old Christian Mojica, one of her friends, said he had turned out because “it’s Sunday and you have to go to Mass.”
“It’s amazing to see the presence of young adults, who are the present and future life of the Church,” said Mojica, who attends Mass at Our Mother of Confidence Church and at the San Diego State University Newman Center.
Seven members of the Imperial Valley Young Adult Ministry carpooled to the Mass, said Brianah Wong, their coordinator.
Fabiola Rojas, 24, from St. Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe churches in El Centro, said it was her second time attending the special Mass.
“I love it,” Rojas said. “Seeing all of these young adults gathered in one place gives me so much joy.”