World Youth Day 2019: A Journey Begins


Emanuel Alaniz

It’s not everyday that someone gets to say that they got the opportunity to stand 5 feet from the Pope. That is a privilege that I can gladly say I have lived. It was one fateful day some month in 2018. I had just been told about this new and strange retreat that was being planned in the beginning of the coming year, 2019. I was not super interested in this “World Youth Day” retreat. I have endured several retreats that really left a sour taste in my mouth, and I was expecting the situation to be the same for this retreat. I would not have been intrigued at all, if it had not been for the location of the retreat. 

The retreat this year was supposed to take place in Panama City, Panama. I had never traveled outside of the United States before, besides Mexico, so I was very interested in this experience. Despite the expensive cost of $4,000 dollars, my family and a group from Saint Adalbert’s parish that was also planning on going on this retreat trip, got together a good amount of fundraisers and donations to raise money for everyone. 

On the cold, extremely snowy day of January 20, 2019, I and a group of 20+ Diocese of Fort-Wayne students departed from Saint Pius church, and headed towards the Chicago airport. This was also the day of the 2018-2019 school year Midwinter Dance, so I dare say that I left rather somber knowing that I was going to miss out on a fun high school experience. Trying to put that into the back of my mind though, I focused on the long journey ahead trying to push aside the freezing cold temperature. 

The eight hour flight did not add to my comfort, so I began mentally to prepare myself for a grueling two weeks in Panama. The shift from Chicago to Panama City was a big one, as I was not prepared at all to face the warm comfortable climate of Panama. Upon arrival, the air felt cleaner and the light brighter. Even the airport itself seemed to have a very lively tone to it. We were received by a very excited group of Panamanian tour guides, who broke out into cheers and exciting cries when they met us. I knew that my expectations for Panama had been pretty low, but I was only barely scratching the surface of the true World Youth Day experience.