Newly ordained Fr. Jerry with his many ulas!
Each day began at 7:00a.m. with the raising of the Samoan flag, the Vatican flag, and the official flag for the ATS event. I participated throughout the week as a member of the band, playing my trombone. The band would play each morning for the raising of the flag.
Breakfast always followed the morning flag ceremony, and then a number of sessions took place in the morning where guest speakers spoke on topics such as the Bible, vocations and mission work. There were plenty of opportunities for the youth to sing and dance to praise and worship music. Although there were thousands of people, the event still felt intimate and personable.
Following the morning sessions was lunch, followed by afternoon retreats to other villages by bus where the youth took an opportunity to evangelize to others. By 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. each afternoon, the band would gather to rehears music with the choir, since both had to perform together for the ordination mass of two priests on July 14th.
Our evenings included dinner, followed by more music and skit performances. It made for a full day, although that helped everyone to sleep well at night.
Friday the 13th was an especially busy day, as the morning started with a march of all 3,000 people through the streets of Apia and to the government building where the Prime Minister gave a powerful speech, challenging the youth to act in the global world. This group of youth also had the privilege of listening to the Head of State speak at the opening mass on July 8th. Friday afternoon the Stations of the Cross were powerfully reenacted, and once again the band had a role in this event. It also required us guys to wear outfits we normally wouldn’t be caught dead in, but it was all for the church so we made the sacrifice!
Day after day I was amazed at how much food was being prepared and how they always had enough and it was always hot! The lines to receive food moved fairly quickly, and there was little complaining; I think everyone felt like they were in the same boat.
The week finished on July 14th with the beautiful ordination mass where two deacons became priests for life. The band of course played at the mass, which was held outside at seven in the morning. It was the perfect way to end a week that challenged so many to dig deeper in their faith and to grow closer in friendship with each other and with God.
We didn't have a choice with the costumes for the Stations of the Cross!
The dozens of ulas for the priests to receive at the 7a.m. ordination mass.
During the ordination mass on July 14th.
The teuila flowers after the mass.
A few thousand chairs stacked after the mass finished.