Agape Village experience introduces confirmands to Catholic social teachings

Confirmands participate in a skit about the dignity of work.

By Jeanette Tan

Some Saturday mornings at Agape Village are a hive of activity and noise.

Buses pull into the Agape Village compound where a line of eager facilitators welcome up to 75 secondary catechism teenagers as they pour out.

They’re initially awkward and shy, because they come from different parishes, but they all have a common objective:
receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

This is where Agape Village comes in – a Caritas Singapore initiative, it is home to 14 of Caritas Singapore’s member organisations.

The Agape Experience is a slightly-more-than-half-day affair, which introduces confirmands to the concept of social mission, its spirituality, and also the Catholic welfare organisations that serve and partner with Singapore’s poor and disadvantaged.

Led by Franciscan Friar John-Paul Tan, a board member of Caritas Singapore, the team of trained volunteers gives teens an immersive encounter with Catholic social teachings like the dignity of the human person, the call to preserve and protect the environment, as well as the dignity of work.

The Agape Experience programme started in February 2016 and is offered to all parishes.

This year, 21 parishes have sent confirmands for the programme.

According to Caritas, the aim of Agape Experience is to reach out to youth through Catholic social teachings so they may be inspired to live it out in their lives and give back to society.

Confirmands work on a team-building challenge as part of the Agape Experience programme.

The day starts with prayer, praise and worship, and games. The teens are placed with participants from other parishes in groups to help them warm up to one another.

There are role-play scenarios performed by the teens themselves, who take on various characters they might know or meet in daily life such as a sick grandparent, a domestic worker, or a strict parent. These scenarios invite both the actors and their friends, the audience, to dialogue, which leads to greater understanding, appreciation and empathy.

After lunch, the teens venture around Agape Village to learn more about the various Catholic social teachings in practice.

Volunteers explain the work and mission of some of Caritas’ member organisations such as Abilities Beyond Limitations and Expectations (ABLE), Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP), Family Life Society and Boys’ Town.

This also introduces the teens’ to various facilities available for anyone whom they might know to be in need and who could possibly benefit from them.

The day concludes with a reflection that invites the teens to discern their personal social mission from God, and to inspire them to live it out in their lives.

Teens who attended one of the programme sessions shared their experience.

Genevieve Fong, 16, from the Church of Christ the King, said that she learned “that the youth play a very big part in the future of the Church, because we are the new generation. If we don’t do anything, who will?”

She added, “It touches me that there are more people in society than I thought who are willing to help the many people in this world who are in need ... ABLE’s mission, in particular, touched me the most because it rehabilitates the physically challenged and helps them realise they are no different from anyone else.”

Raphael Pek, 15, from the Church of St Michael, said, “Today’s session was eye-opening for me – it reminded me that there are others who are less privileged than me, and that it is possible to help them through volunteering and praying for them.”

He said that he intends to volunteer with SSVP after confirmation.

Samantha Easaiya, 14, from the Church of St Francis of Assisi, said, “The fact that everything in the Christian faith is interconnected and dependent on one another is really a big discovery for me.

“Just like in aquaponics, where fish, plants and microorganisms feed off one another to sustain one another, the Church consists of its community, beliefs, and all the principles it upholds ... I do hope that I can be more active in helping young people like me in the faith.”

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