This may seem like routine now… but this act of sitting down and reflecting on what happened throughout the year on New Year’s Eve is ever so prominent this year, 2020 because even the midst of difficulties in life, a lot of ups and downs academically, it was still a year of grace on many dimensions. Particularly for me, spiritually, it was a time of spiritual renewal. As I counted the days to a new decade, I would not expect that 2020 would have unfolded this way, and nor would anyone else. However, instead of moaning and groaning, I think it is important to take a look back at what this year has given us and what we put into it, of course, with the help of God’s grace.
- Completing first-year and starting second-year of undergraduate studies – Academically, that is what I am proud of, especially being a first-generation university student in the family, studying in the humanities at the University of Toronto. When the pandemic rolled around in March, classes were moved online and it was honestly funny seeing how certain professors were to manage their online classes as it was a period of transition for everyone – though, some professors seemed more prepared than others. I was just glad to be able to complete my first-year of undergraduate studies. Over the summer, I applied for my programs. I had my eyes on the Philosophy major for some time and was considering Christianity and Culture major. However, things took a turn and I applied for the Ethics, Society and Law program, and was accepted into the program. As of now, I am pursuing a double major in Ethics, Society and Law, and Philosophy with intentions of minoring as well in Christianity and Culture. The first semester of second-year was a rollercoaster. It was a leap from first-year for some courses and honestly, I received marks that I was not too happy… but it is all part of the learning. There were certainly many achievements as well as what I would classify as “failures,” so a lot of ups and downs but it is humbling both ways. I am so grateful for my professors and TAs, all of whom have been very understanding and accommodating!
- Zoom, Zoom, Zoom Ministry! – Besides the Zoom classes, with more time on my hands more so because of the absence of travel to and from places, and with work temporarily on hold on weekends, I was blessed to have the opportunity to “come home” more or less with youth ministry at my home parish, specifically, with the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, a youth ministry which I highly respect for their mission and spirituality. It was also a learning curve for me as well, as it was through these online gatherings that I had the opportunity to develop my catechetical teaching skills in ways that would appeal to young people, as well as discover other areas of Catholicism as well. However, overall, it was just a blessing to get to know and work with great people, many whom I have known for some time but really, no opportunity to work closely with until now.
- Huynh Trưởng (Youth Leader) Installation – September 19, 2020 was a memorable day as not only did I take a day off work to be back with my parish community, but that day marked an new chapter in my life with the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, VEYM, a movement I have taken part in for more than 10 years. If you want to know more about the significance of this installation and my journey with VEYM in general, read this reflection.
- Virtual Liturgy of the Word – I am also part of another youth ministry at my parish, known as YaYA (Youth and Young Adults Ministries). During times of lockdown, with the suspension of public Mass (and now for a second lockdown as I write this post), an initiative that came out of these times was a virtual celebration of the Liturgy of the Word. Its humble beginnings began with a Zoom call with a screen shared of a Google Docs the first weekend in March when public Masses were suspended. That later evolved into a weekly event until Corpus Christi Sunday, in which youth gathered together to read the Word of God and offer up intentions. This is something I will never forget because there have been a consistent number of youth who show up at these Virtual Liturgy of the Word celebrations all throughout lockdown, and it shows the commitment to faith that a lot of youth have… truly inspirational.
- Faith Renewal Opportunities – In all honesty, I thought my spiritual life before the pandemic was fine, and thus it would last through any circumstance, even through a pandemic. However, the more time passed by, I realized how “empty” my spiritual well was. This realization came more so during October, with the beatification of the young Carlo Acutis. As I read about his life and realizing how much he challenged himself to reach the “infinite,” I asked myself how I was challenging my own spiritual life. I found that my spiritual life should not be something routine, but rather, it must be something progressing and challenged, setting goals for ourselves. That is what I have been striving to do, and that meant stepping outside my comfort zone to attend my first ever Faith Study (Discovery, CCO) and it was very fruitful for my spiritual life. It was also through this Faith Study that upon completion, I decided to also sign up for the Rise Up Young Adults Conference which has been nothing but grace, upon grace, upon grace. Thank God for giving me a “wake-up call”! Recently I have also gathered my thoughts together to compose several reflections about the quotes and spirituality of Bl. Carlo Acutis. Will they be published in a book form or somewhere? I honestly don’t know… but I’ll leave it ferment for some time.
These are just five notable points of 2020 for me… but these are just one of many blessings. As I said, it has been a difficult year for many, but we should not gaze on the negatives but forget our blessings.
Now for 2021…!