Chiro Youth Movement: a group journey that transforms

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What is different about the Chiro Youth Movement from other Youth Movements? We are in constant search for meaning in life. We have to ask ourselves once in a while, is it worthwhile joining the Chiro Movement?

The Chiro movement is a faith-driven human activity. We assume that it is permeated by the presence of God. From there springs this refreshing question:  what is the distinct character of our movement that we can contribute to the youth movement in general?

Theophile Verbist, the servant leader who reached out to those in need.

Before anything else, we have to go back to our origins. We are movement initiated in Belgium and brought to the Philippines by a CICM Belgian Missionary, the late Rev. Fr. Francis Gevers,CICM. He brought along with him a life inspired by the life of the founder of CICM, Rev. Fr. Theophile Verbist.

Who was Theophile Verbist? He was someone who wanted to help the poorest of the poor, the defenseless. He went to Inner Mongolia to be with the most abandoned in that far-flung village of Siwantze, in Inner Mongolia, China. He arrived there with some companions in December 1865. I am not sure if he had a dream or a plan for this people before hand. He simply went. He felt the calling of God, he heard about the plight of the people there (especially the abandoned children), and he simply dared to go. He did not hesitate, he pioneered, he risked his life. He did not last three years.

A few weeks after he arrived in Siwantze, in the midst of the great uncertainty and challenge he was facing, he could joyfully write a good priest-friend of his who stayed in Brussels, Rev. Jacques Bax. He said: Jacques, WE HAVE A GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL MISSION. Was he in his right mind when he said that? Did he see something more that what was around him? Was he being moved by a stronger spell (maybe from God) that pushed him to stay? And he stayed for good.

Theophile Verbist shared his enthusiasm to others and they found meaning in it.

He knew how to share his inspiration to others. After Inner Mongolia, many more joined the group. Many more joined the movement. CICM reached out to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Philippines, to other countries of Africa, the Americas and Asia. At one point in history, the CICM almost reached having 2,000 members. The present members come from many different nationalities and working the world over.

Theophile Verbist had a dream of a better world and he lived by it, giving his whole life for it.

But I am sure it was not enough for Theophile Verbist to be just there with his people. He must have other motives. He must have the desire for change. He must have a dream of a better reality for the people he went to serve.

Theophile Verbist, a Christ-centered leader.

Without out any doubt, Theophile Verbist was a man of faith, he was a faith-driven leader and missionary. As Jesus the Christ gave up his divine condition to be able to be one with humanity, Theophile Verbist saw to it that he had nothing but his trust in God and his faithful following of Jesus. He gave up everything so he would be totally free to be with others.

He did not only ask the question, what would Jesus do if he were here? A common question we ask in many other occasions. But Theophile Verbist did not ask this question. He was fully aware of it as an inspiration. He simply did it.

He pioneered in all his actions. He respected the people and just became one with them: dressing like them, eating what they ate, being there in their celebrations, and most importantly, he was there to listen to their stories. He shepherded his flock so closely and lovingly that smelt like them. He was there simply to say: you are good people, we are all good people, we are all creatures of the same Father. In one word, he loved them, just like Jesus the Christ, who loved us till the end.

Chiro Movement: moving together to transform.

Dear Chiro members here present this afternoon, you come together to inspire one another, to work together. You help one another to transform yourselves. I exhort you to be aware that you too are preparing yourselves to work for the common good. You have a social responsibility which walks hand in hand with your personal freedom and personal aspirations. We have to be committed to the transformation of our local and global situation. This means: we joined Chiro freely and we commit ourselves to change society fashioned to the dream of God: His kingdom of peace and justice and care for all of creation.

I looked up your website and I found your beautiful motto and inspirational scriptural text: Chiro: to bring the youth closer to Christ. So the, as the body without the spirit is dead, also faith without actions is dead (James 2:26). All members of Chiro are men and women of action, concrete action for the better. Furthermore, you have listed the following as your advocacies: Children’s Rights, Anti-consumerism/materialism, gender equality, climate justice, migration and non-violence.

Chiro: a missionary discipleship based on the values of Jesus the Christ.

And you couple your motto and advocacies with your core values. They are: Service and Commitment, Justice-Equality-Solidarity, Spirit of Communion, Training in Democracy and Christ-centeredness. All of these enable you to become young men and women who are capable: to be God Fearing, Hard Working and Law Abiding. You raise your prophetic voice when there is injustice. You are critically aware of the cause of widespread poverty that stifles the growth of millions of co-filipinos. If you are missionary disciples, then you should not fear nor be ashamed to communicate the GOOD NEWS of the good deeds you do as a youth movement that clearly is an alternative way of being “the youth of today”.

What now?

All Chiro Youth are aware that God is at work. The foundational understanding is this: God is at work. This is His Mission (mission Dei), and we are His humble and committed collaborators. God labors in creation. He continuously enjoins us to do our part. We joyfully accept this invitation. Did you ever know that the most noble question is the following: how can I help you? It is taking the initiative to help and not helping when asked. As God took the initiative to love and serve, we too are invited to be initiators, to be consequential.

All Chiro Youth have to make choices and never be fence-sitters or mere spectators. We are perennially confronted with life-situations that require from us the ethical move to choose between good and evil. If we are Christ-centered, we have no choice but to choose good and reject evil. If we do so, we then align ourselves to God’s original purpose for the whole world and all of humankind.

All Chiro Youth seek to go the “extra mile”. We look at the horizon which is the Kingdom of God but we have our two feet steadily grounded on reality. We work, we struggle. We strive for excellence and relevance. We are open and sincere in evaluating our works. We allow others to evaluate us. This is a sign of a mature group or movement. We do not sit on our laurels. Yes, we celebrate the loving presence of God in our lives, in our Movement.

You make a political choice to act in favor of the excluded and the marginalized or society. You contribute positively and consistently in offering solutions to the problems of society. You go beyond your planned activities for mutual bonding and mutual acceptance as persons. You are youth movement in action and on the move. You act locally but you think globally. You become as you act citizens of the universe.

Conclusion

Chiro Members aspire to become a brotherhood and sisterhood inspired by Jesus the Christ, to move and journey towards personal and societal transformation. You find meaning in this, and you joyfully celebrate this great opportunity that God has given you. You put into practice your faith. Your faith is not dead. You do not aspire to be best youth movement, but rather you aspire to be different, to be an alternative. Pope Francis once said: young men and women of today, do not be afraid to go “against the current” of this selfish and self-serving consumerist society.

Why fear when God the Father, in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, is your faithful companion and ally? Move on, there is so much to do, there is so much to celebrate. If you are faithful to God’s will, you will always be fruitful in your actions.

If you are faithful and fruitful, you cannot but be joyful. Be a joy for others always!

By Fr. Ramon “Monch” Caluza, CICM
Chairman of the Board
Chiro Youth Movement Inc.,

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