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Street kids: Pope Francis showed us God is here

Natashya Gutierrez
Street kids: Pope Francis showed us God is here
'We are poor but when I saw Pope Francis, I realized we are rich after all. We are rich in God's love,' says street child Jason Reyes

MANILA, Philippines – They barely slept the night before.

Around 500 street children at Tuloy Foundation in Don Bosco were so excited to see Pope Francis that it wasn’t hard to wake them at 2 am on Monday, January 19, the day of the Pope’s departure.

The kids, aged 10-18, had been chosen to bid the Pope farewell via song and dance – a routine they had practiced since November. Donned in white gloves and yellow shirts, they sat patiently waiting at Hangar 1 of Villamor Airbase, to say goodbye.  (READ: Filipinos bid goodbye to Pope Francis)

“For two or 3 weeks, they have been practicing intensively every day,” said Father Eugenio Inocentes who supervises the kids.

The children were even more excited especially because two of their peers had already seen the Pope at the University of San Tomas (UST) the day before and shared with them their experience. 

 Berlamae Campomayor, 18, said seeing the Holy Father was surreal.

“No words can explain my feelings when I saw him yesterday,” she told Rappler. “He blessed my rosary. A tear fell, but I didn’t want to cry.”

She said when she told the other kids that the Pope had also blessed the rosaries she had  brought home for them, everyone was ecstatic. 

“When our dormmates found out their rosaries were blessed [by the Pope], they were so happy and kept jumping. They wouldn’t let go of their rosaries!” she said.

Her friend from the foundation, Jason Reyes, 17, was with her at UST as well.

“When I came back [to the dorm] and saw them, everyone hugged me because to them, I was with the Pope,” he said.

‘Rich in God’s love’

At UST,  the Pope addressed the youth and encouraged them to lead a life of service and compassion. The youth event was part of the Pope’s 5-day state and pastoral visit to the country. (READ: FULL TEXT: Pope Francis’ message, youth encounter, UST)

Both Campomayor and Reyes are aware of how privileged and “blessed” they were to have been able to see the Pope – and to be part of his send-off ceremony.

Reyes, who has lived with the foundation for 3 years, said he felt the sincerity of the Pope in his care for the Filipino people.

“He really shows that he loves the people. He even breaks protocol to show he loves the people,” he told Rappler. “He’s here because he wants to be near the people and we feel that.”

Campomayor, who dreams of becoming a chef, and is studying to be one through Tuloy Foundation, said the pontiff “touched hearts of young people like me,” and has inspired her to help others.

Reyes agreed: “I want to help others. You don’t need to be a priest or nun to help others. I want to be an engineer.” 

Reyes said the Pope’s time in the country had further strengthened his faith.

“I realized that he’s here because he wants to show that God is here with us. He wants to show us that God is in us, that God loves us.”

He added: “We are poor but when I saw him I realized we are rich after all. We are rich in God’s love.” 

It’s a lesson, they said, they would keep with them long after the Pope’s plane leaves the runway. – Rappler.com


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