COLORADO SPRINGS. The 16th International World Youth Day (WYD) gathering occurred Jan. 21-28 in Panama. World Youth Day is an intense week of prayer, worship and celebration of the Catholic faith for youth, young adults and the young at heart from around the world in union with Pope Francis.
WYD was instituted by St. John Paul II in December 1985 as an annual gathering of youth and young adults, and it is a tradition that has continued. The Colorado Springs delegation had 23 participants, which included Father Roylan Recio, our chaplain; Salesian Sister Linda Gonzales, our pilgrimage assistant; and Salesian Sister Bernadette Mota, our pilgrimage director.
Although we boarded the plane under snowy and freezing conditions in Denver, a warm welcome was awaiting us in Panama for a faith affirming, life changing journey.
The theme of WYD 2019 is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) As Mary had the courage to say “yes” to our Lord when responding to the angel, so did the Panamanian people when welcoming pilgrims from around the world.
With open hearts and arms, they shared their rich cultural and historical traditions, opening their churches for daily Mass and catechesis, and shared their lives throughout the week. We were moved by the simplicity and poverty of the people, and inspired by their generosity and hospitality. The Panamanian people became a reflection to us of Christ’s love and mercy and Mary’s yes!
During this pilgrimage, we were also presented with an opportunity to answer “yes” when we were confronted with the plight of our brothers and sisters from the Cuban delegation, which consisted of 540 participants, including priests and nuns. Father Recio spent some time them and later informed us that they had come on this pilgrimage with a grateful spirit and very few basic supplies.
Upon hearing about this situation, our group, as well as a delegation from Dallas, Texas, rallied together to gather whatever we could to share with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Without giving it a second thought, our groups gave them our meal vouchers, food and beverages, first aid kits, clothing, blankets, tarps, flashlights and even the shoes off of our feet. Our group, with our actions, stepped up and answered “yes” to God’s call to take care of our fellow man and “ . . . Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Jn 13:34)
As our pilgrimage drew to a close and we prepared to say farewell to Panama, changes could be seen in all of us who participated. Each one of us was not only on a collective journey but a personal one that will forever shape our lives. New friendships were made and a deeper relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ was formed.
The Holy Father stated in his final homily, “You, dear young people, are not the future but the Now of God” which has empowered us to go forth in the world to answer ‘yes’ as Mary did when she responded, “Let it be done, according to your word!”
(Katherine Klataska is a parishioner of St. Dominic’s and active in the diocesan young adult ministry.)