A record number of more than 250 young people aged 16 – 26 gathered at St Michael's Parish, Leauva'a, to celebrate this year's SamBosco. In addition to the large contingent of youth from Leauva'a parish, other participants joined the gathering of Salesian youth from St Francis de Sales parish in Salelologa, St John Bosco Parish in Sinamoga/Moamoa, Don Bosco High School and Vocational Centre in Salelologa and Don Bosco Technical Centre in Alafua. We were also especially blest this year to welcome the youth associated with the Salesian Sisters involvement in the parish at Malololelei.
Friday afternoon and evening was dominated by food, a welcoming ceremony, food, a peaceful but thought provoking prayer service led by the Malololelie Salesian Sisters and their youth, a multi-media input session on the "Gospel of Joy" theme by Fr Sefo Mulipola, an extraordinary beautiful session of Samoan style Taize prayer, again led the Sisters, with opportunities for confession for those who so chose (and many did) and then more food including a giant cake for Don Bosco's birthday!
Saturday morning started slowly … it was an early rising though so that everyone could attend 6:00 am Mass (YES, that's right 6:00 am Mass) with Fr Paselio Tevaga as the main celebrant. Again, despite the tiredness generated by too few hours of sleep, the early morning Mass was a very beautiful moment of prayer, peace, and quite reflection … and there were moments when that deep stillness that can only be generated through the celebration of the Eucharist enabled us to experience the presence of Christ in an extraordinary wordless manner.
A jazz session designed to get the adrenalin pumping was followed by breakfast. The main morning activity was an input session with the Police, who gave a well presented and thoughtfully received presentation on good citizenship. The police presentation provoked a number of thoughtful questions focusing upon rights and responsibilities of youth in terms of their relationship with the police.
And then it was time for fun and games … and RAIN. Now sooner had the six groups (Magone, Rua, Mazzarello, Savio, Besucco, Laura and De Sales) been established and prepared to march in procession onto the field at St Michael's than the rain began to tumble from the skies, without let-up, without pause, without faltering for hours and hours and hours. Yet, the rain was unable to dampen the spirit of the moment and the games proceeded, with the wet and slippery conditions only adding to the fun and hilarity of the moment. The Salesian Brothers in practical training did a wonderful job in organising the games and this was reflected by the undaunted spirit of joy and happiness they generated.
Lunch was followed by a typically Samoan period of rest that eventually led into singing practice in preparation for the Sunday parish Mass. And then it was time for more group activities.
After a period of free time, the evening meal was served, with the cooking being done by a dedicated team of local parishioners and members of the Leauva'a youth.
Then there was "the concert"! Wow! What a feast of talent, hilarity and joyfulness. Samoans have an innate talent for entertainment and a beautiful way of being able to share the joy of each other's gifts. And so there was music, dance, mime, skits, recitals, singing and lots and lots and lots of laughter.
Sunday morning Mass at Leauva'a is a sensational celebration of life and faith any Sunday, with crowds filling the large church on a weekly basis. The final SamBosco Mass saw the Church overflowing as it does only at Easter and Christmas. It was literally standing room only in the immaculately prepared church festooned on the outside with flags and bunting and on the inside with flowers in abundance. The voices of the combined SamBosco choir pierced the heavens and made the Mass, led by Fr Sefo Mulipolo, particularly special. Fr Filipo Kapeli gave a stirring homily about our hearts being set on fire by the Holy Spirit, and each of the three parish groups presented a short song and dance reflection.
Departures are almost always tinged with sadness and so it was during the concluding moments of SamBosco. After having shared the energy, spirit and communion of the "Gospel of Joy" in prayer, friendship, games, groups, conversations and activities all weekend, everyone was reluctant to leave. Yet there were ferries to catch and families waiting. Tears of sadness mingled with tears of happiness as new friends departed already eager to meet again next year for SamBosco 2014 at Sinamoga, Moamoa, Alafua.