“Who is your true friend?” About 100 youths gathered at the Church of St Vincent de Paul (SVDP) on the first day of this millennium in search of this ‘true friend’. Having this question as the theme, the first Emmaus Evening of this year started in the church at 8:30 pm with a lively ‘Praise and Worship’ session with the help of the music ministry from the Church of St Michael. Archdiocesan youth chaplain Fr Michael Sitaram was the main celebrant for the Mass while district youth chaplains or their representatives, like the youthful Fr Adrian Yeo, visiting priest Pallotine Fr Michael Gitner (Australian Murdoch University chaplain) concelebrating, and Fr John Joseph Fenelon as preacher.

In place of the usual Penitential Rite reciting the ‘I Confess’, the congregation were told to write their sins on a piece of paper, which was put in a glass bowl. Fr Fenelon then poured water over the pieces of paper, symbolising the cleansing of sins.

Celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, Fr Fenelon explains that it means ‘the manifestation of God’s love for His people’. He said, “Jesus was born for everybody, for everyone… has come to experience God’s love in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not just born for the chosen people – the Jewish people, but for all peoples of all time. And therefore when the pagan kings came to pay respects to the Child, they see… that Jesus was not born just for the chosen people, but for all peoples of all times.”

He continued, “Just as they (the three wise men) were guided by the star, we too who are looking for this true friend whom we know is Jesus, have the faith as our star to guide us. Our faith is the only faith that in the end will bring us to Jesus. Because when we make our search for this true friend, we are also going to be making a very long and difficult journey. Our journey has a lot of pitfalls and distractions, because these are the errors in our lives.”

Stressing on the importance of the presence of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord in the Mass, he said, “This true friend is present in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is like a milestone in our life. If you look at our lives, the milestones tell us how far we are from our destination. Because in the Mass Jesus is truly present. The Mass is like a milestone for us as we make our faith journey, this pilgrimage. As we make this pilgrimage, we need this much-needed source of direction.”

Concluding with a strong affirmation of our Catholic faith, Fr Fenelon expounded, “Let us praise and thank God for the gift of His son Jesus, for the gift of His Word that becomes flesh for us, the Incarnation that takes place every day in the Catholic Church, where nowhere else you see it happening, except in our Faith and in our Church. Jesus is there every day for us, He wants to meet us, nourish us, strengthen us and give us direction. Let us all pray for this grace.”

Melissa Chiew, 17, a bubbly girl from the SVDP youth group, ‘The Mustard Seed’ commented that the Mass was “fulfilling” for “what matters most is everybody’s participation”, because “if everyone came here and the purpose is met”, that we came here to worship God, then “the Mass has been a success”.

She liked that the action of going to the sanctuary during the Consecration as she felt that it was “more personal”, and it “feels more at home”. She had experienced this before and considers it as one of the benefits of having a small crowd. On the unusual penitential rite, she felt that it was “different and refreshing”.

Natalie Loo, 18, was is from the youth group of the Church of the said that she “rather liked the Mass” because it gave her “a nice feeling”. She also likes to “participate in Mass” and “hear sermons that are good” because they can be “fruitful”, thus she goes to weekday Mass sometimes. When the Emmaus Evening was held every month, she was very enthusiastic about it, and because school was so stressful, she actually “looked forward” to it. As she became more busy soon after, it fortunately begun to be held every 3 months instead, although she was quite “sad” about the change. She remains enthusiastic about the Emmaus Evenings till today, as she even calls her friends to attend them nowadays.

Randall Ng, 18, a choir member of SVDP, felt that the event was “good and very fun”. He said, “I wish more people came because they would have become more spiritual.”

Karen, who is on the organising committee and the worship leader for that evening, said, “This Emmaus Evening focuses on our personal relationship with God, and the following EE is on commitment and communication, which is on April 29, but subjective to venue changes.”

The Catholic News (January 21, 2000)