CEBU CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – About 5,000 students from across Cebu received their first communion during a special Mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) on Saturday, January 30.
About 500 of the 5,000 who received their first communion are street children.
Will one of them hear the calling to become priests? Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal told reporters on the sidelines of an IEC event on Friday, January 29, that he hopes so.
The cardinal shared the story of when he received his first communion at Luneta Park in Manila, the first time the IEC was held in the Philippines.
He was not expecting to become a priest then. (READ: First IEC in PH: Cardinal Vidal's first communion, too)
"I was amazed and happy when I received my First Communion at Luneta," Vidal said.
He presided over the special 4 pm Mass at the Cebu City Sports Complex.
Medical and security teams stood by as the temperatures rose to at least 31 degrees Celsius.
At least one child and a woman were seen being taken out of the complex on stretchers before the Mass ended.
Bebeng Guisadio, a housewife, brought her son Michael, 9, all the way from Alegria, a town about two hours away in southern Cebu.
She was emotional when her son received his first communion at the big event. "Siyempre lipay kaayo mi kay makalawat na siya," Guisadio told Rappler. (Of course we're happy because he can now take communion.)
"Maski init kaayo ok ra gyud kaayo kay tagsa ra jud ni na oportunidad," she added. (Even though the sun was really hot, it's fine because it's a rare opportunity.
Michael and his cousins all received their first communion Saturday. He said he was excited the most to take communion with his cousins.
They will stay in Cebu City one more night and will return to Alegria after the Statio Orbis, or final Mass of the IEC.
Are you happy?
"My dear children, are you happy?" Cardinal Vidal asked the youth. He added, "I know very well the feelings and thoughts of these children."
"I'm happy despite of my old age. Because I believe. I believe in God. I believe in the goodness of people," he said.
"His death on the cross and in the Eucharist, Jesus teaches us the real meaning of love," Vidal shared.
Bishops from across the Philippines and around the world sat on both sides of the stage as the young kids began to receive their communion.
The Statio Orbis will take place at the South Road Properties (SRP) on Sunday, January 31, at 4 pm. Organizers expect at least 1 million people to participate in the Mass. – Rappler.com