World Youth Day 2019 in Panama was the experience of a lifetime. I learned a lot about serving others and answering God’s call. Bishop Frank Caggiano from Bridgeport taught me that I need to trust in God and take a risk when He calls upon me just like Mother Mary did. Cardinal Luis Tagle from the Philippines taught me that serving without love is just work. Bishop Robert Barron taught me that once we see the light of grace, then we can start to acknowledge our own sins. One of the most impacting things I learned was from the Holy Father. He said, “The greatest sin we can commit against ourselves is not being able to ask for help.” This impacted me significantly because often times I overwhelm myself with ministries and fall into a state of spiritual dryness— a state of desolation. At times I do not want to ask for help even though I am well aware I need it. He continued by saying, “…it is good that we ask Jesus for help, but we must also be able to reach out when we are drowning so that our brothers and sisters can pull us out.” This reminded me that often times I let my pride drown me and that I need to humble myself and acknowledge that I am human and cannot take on everything completely on my own. That is why I have brothers and sisters in Christ to help me and support me. Likewise, I am there to help them when they are drowning.
I also did a lot of self-reflection during the pilgrimage. One of the main things I wanted to get out of this experience was to grow as an individual. The Friday before leaving to Panama I went to Holy Hour and asked Jesus to help me grow. Once more, I realized that He indeed hears our prayers. However, it is not always easy in the way He helps us. Each day He had me face one of my insecurities that prevented me from growing. These insecurities ranged from trusting a group of young adults I didn’t really know, to trusting my bilingual tongue. I made close bonds with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ whom I traveled with. We bonded over waiting hours in the sun, singing in the bus, and praying the rosary while we waited in line. I made a lot of use of my fluency in Spanish, primarily translating and asking for general directions.
Overall, the experience was amazing. Even though it was not a vacation, it was definitely a break from my daily routine—what I really needed. As people keep asking me what I did while I was away, I keep thinking to myself, “Did I really walk that much? Did I really sleep in an open field? Did I really see the Holy Father?” They look at me like I suffered a great deal, but to me it wasn’t suffering. To me it was love. It was joyful and wonderful. The closest feeling I can describe to the people who have asked me how I feel is that feeling I felt when I got confirmed. I feel the burning fire of the Holy Spirit alive in me ready to spread out towards others.