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T&T pilgrims recall WYD experience

WYD pilgrims take a photo with Archbishop Gordon and a life size cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis at the session. Photo: Renée Smith

By Renée Smith, rsmith.camsel@rcpos.org

Some of the Panama World Youth Day pilgrims met at Archbishop’s House on February 22 for a sharing and post-mortem session of WYD 2019.World Youth Day Panama took place from January 22–27 with over 50 persons representing the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.

At Archbishop’s House, Archbishop Jason Gordon and the Episcopal Delegate for Youth, Taresa Best dialogued with the young people to gain feedback and look at ways for improving the organisation of WYD pilgrimages in future.The majority of the group were young adults, no older than 25 years old, who shared how they spiritually and physically prepared for WYD. The session also found them writing down the pains and joys experienced during the journey.

Speaking to the young people, Archbishop Gordon said it was a “great privilege to be a WYD pilgrim”. “It is a privilege to meet so many young Catholics from all over the world whose faith is your faith,” he said.

He added the experience of “world Catholicism” with young people is “precious” because so many negative things are often said about young people. “Remember this privilege and this ‘bligh’ you have been given to attend WYD and I ask you to pay it forward to future WYD pilgrims, by sharing with persons in your parish who weren’t as privileged and by deepening your commitment to Christ,” Archbishop Jason said.

Here are some testimonies

Samantha Lessey, 25: I grew up without my father, (he died when I was two years old) and I always had that brokenness of not having a father growing up. There was always a longing in my heart to experience the love of an “earthly father” and I realised God knew this better than I did when I went to WYD.

Before WYD, I thought the part of me that wanted an earthly father was gone. I knew my Heavenly Father will be always there for me even when I did not know it or believe it. Yet through my host father Constantine Fernandez in Colon, Panama, God blessed me with the gift of knowing a father’s love.

‘Papi’, as he would ask me to call him, told his daughters and me every morning, “Good morning my beautiful daughters” kissing us on the forehead and give us his blessings.

He and his wife would also make us breakfast every day and we would eat together as a family before heading out for the day. Papi would also call to check up on us to make sure we were okay and that made me feel special.

He told me once, “Samantha no matter what, know that you have a father who loves you here in Panama that you can call anytime. If you need advice just call and I am here for you my daughter, God bless you.”

This was something I only dreamt of experiencing from my earthly father which I experienced from Constantine Fernandez—a father given to me by God.

Jo-Reane Pascall, 38: At WYD’s closing Mass with the Holy Father, Pope Francis spoke about love. When he said, “Love Jesus as Mary did” at that moment I felt Jesus appear to me. Jesus told me how much He loved me, “I love you so much, my love is everlasting and I never stopped loving you”.

Physically, I felt water was pouring non-stop by my heart but it was slow as if you were opening a tap. Eventually that feeling became so overwhelming as though the love filled me up to capacity and started oozing out of my pores. I had asked my friends to place me on the floor to lie for a bit as I could no longer stand. I felt my spirit merge with Christ as He was on Calvary.

While He was being whipped and persecuted, I saw it but did not feel the pain as this experience was immersed in love. What stood out for me was that regardless of what was going on around Him, Christ was not distracted as He walked to Calvary. While walking with Christ, I also felt an urgency to get to Calvary and I think that is what Christ was feeling as well.

While Christ and I were walking to Calvary, they took the cross from Him. I asked Him, “Jesus are you going to put me through this?”. Soon after I woke up. Today, I feel a new sense of belonging to community and God. Coming from WYD, I want to share my testimony with everyone I meet.