SAN FRANCISCO – The moment Pope Francis stepped on Philippine soil his warmth and humility were evident.
A strong gust of wind blew off his skull cap. But he shrugged it off, proceeded down the steps, and was met by President Aquino.
He showed that now-famous human touch as he embraced and kissed the two children who welcomed him with flowers.
Government and church officials greeted him, but he had an especially affectionate greeting for Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
As darkness fell, he rode the open pope mobile and waved happily to the crowds.
These are some of the Pope’s qualities that the members of a Filipino American Catholic youth group in San Francisco say inspire them to become more active in church.
For the past 30 years the Junior Apostolates for Christ or J.A.C. has been bringing the word of God to teenagers and young adults through weekly prayers meetings and annual spiritual retreats.
“I think he was following the footsteps of Pope John Paul II who truly brought the youth to the church because without the youth coming behind us, behind the adults, there won’t be any more people in our church,” Mario Vierneza, JAC founder and adult coordinator, said.
These Fil-Ams say that they continue to be inspired by his humility and devotion.
“Even those who are non-believers are inspired by the Pope, as well by his actions of humility – stopping to hang out with the poor and basically being Jesus in this time,” member Ralph Baluyut said.
“Now the youth that I get to work with have a Vicar of Christ who is doing exactly what Christ is supposed to be doing,” Youth Coordinator Michelle Pastor added.
They say the hope connects well with the younger generation of Catholics.
“He’s connecting a lot better we those who are struggling with their faith,” Youth Coordinator Aaron Sales explained. “Not only going through social media, through Twitter or being able to take a picture of two, but being able to make the faith real — that it’s not just something in a book, that it’s something to live your life by.”
While they cannot be in the Philippines during the papal visit, they join their fellow kababayans in prayers of thanksgiving for Pope Francis.
The J.A.C. is also considering a pilgrimage to join Pope Francis this September in Philadelphia for the World Meetings of Families which would be his first U.S. visit as Pope.