Balancing the role of pilgrim and reporter at my first World Youth Day in Panama was a challenge met with miles of walking, talking and being present in the moment. For so many of the pilgrims who shared their story with me, they hoped for transformation and change within their own spiritual lives. Living their faith out loud in their daily lives have been met with opposition and judgment at times.
So to escape to not only warmer temperature, but also to a welcoming community of fellow young believers, was the witness their yearning hearts desired. St. Augustine summarized it precisely when he said “our hearts are restless until they rest in You” and for nearly 200 pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens, they experienced a week filled with unity, joy and redemption.
I think that’s why it is so crucial to establish virtues and selflessness at a young age because it shapes our reality, which, in turn, shapes our society and in the long run, shapes our world. I understand why values and virtues are taught at a young age. These fundamental ideas have the capacity to change the world for good.
You can’t tell me there’s a more diverse group with energy and love for their faith than these young adults representing the @BrooklynDiocese – their weeklong journey comes to an end and they share one last group gathering encouraging each other to live their faith. #WYD2019 pic.twitter.com/373hKKa9yS
— Melissa ‘Missy’ E. 🐘 (@melissamissye) January 28, 2019
Imagine if these pilgrims who are called to married life, create families that bring core values to life – the depth of love and sacrifice, the value of service, the emphasis on hard work, the key to balancing time versus social expectations and allow their future families to dialogue and learn, especially from our elders as Pope Francis said.
Reflecting upon the crucial crossroads after my college years – youth leaders I served alongside, and teens who shared their faith with me – revitalized and showed me the path back to Jesus’ redeeming and unifying love.
The lessons that Life Teen intended for the teens to learn, in turn, became even greater lessons for me. It’s no wonder that years later, God would lead me on a path in my professional career that would take me to cover an international event designed to bring young people closer to Jesus.
It’s also safe to say that World Youth Day Panama will be a birthday for the books. Again, another year around the sun and there I was in the midst of thousands of pilgrims in a massive field named after Saint John Paul II, the person whose visions brought World Youth Day to life and the weeklong experience was slowly coming to an end.
Yet, there we were, adoring the Blessed Sacrament with our Holy Father. Even if for just a moment, the silence and reverence spoke louder than any noise that the world wanted to shout at us – from politics and power, to divisiveness and violence. Together we just worshipped the Lord, the giver of life.
The bluest of skies became the background for just a snippet of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. In the diverse faces, could you sense the baggage that was lifted from their lives? Could you see a young Church that is alive, willing and ready to thrive for the salvation of not only their souls, but for others? I did and it’s a message that I will take with me for years to come.