(CNL, Paul Haring)
One never expects to meet their heroes. Typically it is thought either too expensive or just plain impossible. One of the Pilgrimage’s biggest running gags was the idea of seeing the Pope. No one actually expected to see the Holy Father, let alone be close to him. This World Youth Day event made it possible.
Though it is an event that only happens every four years, it feels like it just ended yesterday. There is so much that happened throughout the trip, that is so hard to condense into multiple parts. If I were to attempt to tell you every single wonderful thing that went down on the trip, I would have to extend this series past part 50. I don’t think that I can ever truly do this experience justice for what it actually did for me, but I will try my best to condense it here. This was truly a pilgrimage and journey of self discovery, and finding love in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Our first day in Panama consisted of settling in, and visiting famous attractions in Panama. This all had nothing to do with the actual Pilgrimage, but it allowed us to explore a new strange land. Through the huge forest and beautiful front row view of the Panama canal, the Fort-Wayne group was able to experience God’s beauty first hand before the actual Pilgrimage began.
Once the festivities and events began, many local places and open areas began to be reserved specifically for certain language events. Our group managed to attend workshops and events in both Spanish and English, since we had a couple of Spanish speakers in the group. We managed to participate in many spiritual conversations and ice breakers with people from all around the world. Many of us, including myself, managed to make friendships with people I thought I would never meet. Through these friendships, we were all able to exchange small gifts and memorabilia which I still hold with me to this day.
The biggest take away from the World Youth Day event was how little it actually felt like some religious retreat. It’s weird to say about a religious gathering, but the whole even felt like one huge party that everyone was invited to. I feel so blessed having been able to participate in such an event, and I hope to be able to go back for the next World Youth Day. Though it is an experience that might not be able to be replicated, I can assure everyone that is one truly meant for the young soul.