Welcome to the blog for FAMILYYA! This blog acts as an extension of FAMILYYA, giving access to our lessons and by connecting to a wider Filipino-American and Catholic audience. This blog will also inform you of special events that FAMILYYA will be hosting.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From a Dream to a Calling: FAMILYYA at World Youth Day Rio 2013!

FAMILYYA Youth Coordinator and Chapel volunteer Jessica Abejar had just recently returned from her pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she performed during their four-day long Youth Festival. Jessica was recommended as a performer by Chapel moderator Rev. Dr. Joseph Marabe, and her piece "Mother" was selected by the Festival coordinators. Below, Jessica recounts her the details of her performance and the memories made along the path to following her dreams.
Jessica returns to the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz
with a miniature version of Christ the Redeemer,
a famous site in Rio de Janeiro.

"My name is Jessica, and I'm from New York."
Applause erupted from the hundreds of pilgrims and volunteers attending catechesis on Wednesday, July 24th at Colégio Nossa Senhora das Mercês. Though these pilgrims and volunteers came from all over the world, one thing was true- EVERYONE LOVES NEW YORK. Why? Because it is the city of dreams, and like most New Yorkers, I had plenty. But while I too was a starry-eyed performer, my dreams weren't meant to be fulfilled in New York. My dreams brought me to Rio de Janeiro that morning (or in that case, Niterói, a suburb of Rio). My dream was to perform at World Youth Day.
Dancing "Mother" at Feira de São Cristóvão
The Youth Festival, one of the largest religious art festivals, included over 600 acts this year from performers all over the world. I had the special privilege of presenting my meditation reflection dance “Mother” before a global audience at Feira de São Cristóvão, an open-air stage within a traditional Northeastern Brazilian marketplace, in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, July 25th at 2PM. Despite the rain, many pilgrims and volunteers watched the performance. The 20-minute solo incorporated liturgical, modern, and ballet dance as well as the use of colorful veils and narration to enhance the piece. I felt like I had danced my very best that day. I truly felt like not only were God and the Holy Spirit present, but also my mother, whom I dedicated the performance to. My mother had wanted to go with me to Rio but was unable to due to financial reasons. She would have loved the performance just as much as the audience did. The audience applauded loudly, calling it “beautiful!”, “a dream!”, “amazing!” Many volunteers, including, to my surprise, the performing arts coordinator, stayed after to take lots of pictures with me and even asked for my autograph!
Watch a video from the performance below!

Though the main reason why I had gone to Brazil was to fulfill a lifelong dream, I gained more from this experience than I had imagined. It is great to be able to make a dream come true, but what is even greater is sharing this dream with others. I not only shared this dream with the audience and the volunteers present at my performance, but with my family, friends, and supporters back at home. I was overwhelmed by the warmth, the generosity, the kindness, and incredible support from everyone I had met along this journey. I was a witness of God’s love and found my true calling in the process.

With the Brazilian volunteers at morning catechesis
And what is my true calling? DANCE! There was dance everywhere! Every morning at catechesis, the Brazilians from the parish of Santo Cristo dos Milagres would lead us in singing and dancing. Then at the catechesis Mass on Wednesday, there were South Africans who performed a beautiful traditional offertory chant and dance. At the Main Events, there was always dancing. We even did a flashmob for the Pope, and the cardinals and the bishops joined in, too! And of course, my most favorite dancing experience happened during the evening before the final Mass. As over 3.5 million people settled into Copacabana Beach, a small group of Brazilians near our campsite began beating their drums and shaking their tambourines. Soon I joined with other pilgrims from all over the world and began to samba para Cristo ("samba for Christ", and if you don't know, samba is one of the most popular dance styles of Brazil). We danced samba into the night, never forgetting that we came from all ends of the Earth to share in our faith at World Youth Day in Rio.

But it was the words of His Holiness Pope Francis that sealed the deal in making me answer my true calling.
“Go. Do not be afraid. And serve.”
Pope Francis, World Youth Day Final Mass
Sunday, July 28, 2013 at Copacabana Beach 

Every bit of doubt left me. I felt empowered by his words, and my confidence rose. I came to Brazil with a dream, but I come back to the US with a calling. I am meant to dance for the Lord, as a part of the new evangelization, and I hope to share this ministry with others through performance and instruction.
Jessica continues her volunteer work as Youth Coordinator of the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz, where she oversees FAMILYYA. She returns to the Chapel with a renewed spirit and hopes to bring to FAMILYYA all that she had learned from World Youth Day. Jessica also continues her ministry in dance, performing at the Chapel and for various religious organizations and events. She also hopes to bring more dance to FAMILYYA.

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