‘An Army of Youth’

This year marks the 75th anniversary, the Diamond Jubilee, of Student Catholic Action (SCA). For the lolos and lolas of my generation, SCA was the melting pot of our aspirations. We were “An Army of Youth” that fought for Christ the King in the campuses everywhere.

Indefatigable trio. To celebrate this SCA milestone, three indefatigable ladies—Edna Z. Manlapaz, Imelda M. Nicolas and Teresita C. Villacorta—invited the SCA alumni to write down and share their fondest remembrances of those 75 years. A large number from all over the planet—52 to be exact—responded. The delectable trio published the 52’s spontaneous, unedited reminiscences in an online book titled “Our Story, A Collection of Personal Memories of SCANs.”

The electronic book can easily be accessed via http://www.SCA75.org. On the side are links to view the contents and the prayer for Esther Vibal (the publisher). There is also a music player that, when clicked, will play the Irish Blessing as background. The book can also be downloaded as a PDF.

Let me whet the remembrances of the aging (like me) believers and vanguards of those yesteryears with the mighty theme song we all belted out with gusto, which they may want to teach to their children and grandchildren:

“An army of youth

Flying the standard of truth

We are fighting for Christ the Lord

Heads lifted high, Catholic Action our cry

And the Cross our only sword.

On earth’s battlefield

Never a vantage we’ll yield

As dauntlessly on we swing

Comrades true, dare and do

‘Neath the Queen’s white and blue

For our flag, for our faith

For Christ the King.

“Christ lifts His hand

The King commands

His challenge:  ‘Come and follow Me’

From every side, with eager stride

We form in the lines of victory.

Let foemen lurk

And laggards shirk

We throw our fortunes with the Lord

Mary’s Son till the world is won

We have pledged You our loyal word.

“An army of youth (refrain)”

Two favorite prayers. We began our SCA meetings, seminars, leadership training conferences and induction ceremonies with the “Prayer of Generosity” by St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; to serve you as you deserve to be served; to give without counting the cost; to fight without counting the wounds; to work without seeking the rest; to spend my life without expecting any other reward than the knowledge that I do Your holy will.  Amen.”

We ended all our activities with a magically humbling prayer, “Radiating Christ” by Cardinal Newman:

“Lord Jesus, teach me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.

“Flood my soul with Your spirit and light. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life will only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with will feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus! Stay with me and I shall begin to shine as You shine; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus shall be all from You; none of it will be mine. It will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You in the way which You love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching—not by my words but by example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears for you.  Amen.”

Introduction and enlightenment. Founded in 1936, SCA was nurtured by Fr. Edward McCarthy over its early years. But it was in the late ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s that it bloomed when Fr. Michael Nolan was its archdiocesan spiritual director.

Though Father Nolan passed away at the young age of 40 in 1964, his like-minded Columban successors, mostly Irish, carried on his zeal. Some of them are still alive, like Fr. James Sheehy,  now the parish priest of Labrador, Pangasinan. Several lay leaders, like Teresita “Titatet” Nitorreda and Vicenta “Nana Entay” Bernardo (now in the Great Beyond), spent their life career caring for SCA. Aside from the Columbans, the Jesuits (like Fr. John Delaney and Fr. Pacifico Ortiz) helped guide SCA during its “Golden Age.”

I was most fortunate to have been recruited by the Father Nolan into the SCA. I was a rebellious young man, but he expertly canalized my personal rebellion into constructive endeavors, like organizing the National Union of Students. Having been educated in public elementary and high schools, with parents who did not also know their faith, I grew up a Catholic ignoramus until “SCA Introduced Me to Christ.”

This is precisely the title of my little piece included in the online book.

SCA became a victim of martial law in 1972. Though reorganized after Ferdinand Marcos was driven out of power, SCA has not fully recovered its luster. But it still lives on to this date in about 32 dioceses. Its national chaplain is Bishop Rolando Tria Tirona, himself an SCAn from San Beda during his student days. For more of the SCA of today, visit their website www.scaphilippines.com

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