“You are not the future, you are the present.” These words were said by Pope Francis in this year’s World Youth Day in Panama. This message really struck me as I began to reflect upon my life. What I do today, the decisions I make and the actions I take will affect my future. For every action there is a reaction, whether it be positive or negative. Before coming to Panama, I did not have specific expectations. My thoughts were simply “This is just another youth retreat, but with the whole world.” Even though I had no expectations I still arrived in Panama with the mindset that what I put into this experience is what I was going to get out of it.
Arriving in Panama itself was an unforgettable experience. Right away positive energy filled the air. Everyone was very kind and welcoming. When we got to the Colegio Claret so much emotion ran through my veins. Seeing all the flags waving gave me chills. I could not get over the fact so many individuals from all over the world had come together for one reason. Our differences did not matter, instead there was so much unity, we were all brothers and sisters. My favorite part of getting to meet people from all over the world was listening to their stories and experiences.
When listening to their experiences it made me realize how fortunate I am to be living in the United States. Staying with a host family really showed me how in the Unites States our struggles are nowhere near the struggles of other countries. While in Panama we experienced a water shortage for just a few hours and I really saw how it affected the whole city. In the U.S we drink water and use it like it is never going to run out. Despite different difficulties occurring in Panama, the community thrives with such positive attitudes.
Listening to the Pope’s message was also a great experience as it really made me reflect on my own life. This year when he talked he really emphasized the importance Mother Mary has on Catholicism. He talked about how she said yes to God as a very young woman. This really inspired me to step up as a young Catholic. I have a voice that I can use to speak out against injustices and motivate others to walk the journey of faith. The whole experience sparked a fire within me that I am excited to share here in the US.
This year I was very blessed with the opportunity to travel to Panama for the 2019 World Youth Day. When I was asked if I wanted to go I was not sure how I felt about it. I second guessed going to World Youth Day because I was afraid to leave my home and I was scared to fall behind in school but I overlooked these fears and decided to say yes to this amazing opportunity.
As I traveled to Panama I was very nervous, I had no expectations so I went with an open mind. Throughout the two weeks that I was in Panama I learned so many things. I learned that no matter how corrupt or divided our world may be we will always find peace and unity in our shared faith in God. I also learned to appreciate all I have and all that I am given whether big or small. This was a humbling experience because in all the people I met I could see the positive attitudes and great energy no matter who they were or what type of background they came from. Another thing that stuck with me was when Pope Francis told all the youth that we are not the past or the future, we are the now and we should be courageous to go out and share our faith.
One thing I definitely learned was patience. Throughout the two weeks I spent there were many times where my patience was tested, especially when we would have to wait in the hot sun for many hours. I also experienced the love of God through people such as my host mom and my international friends. I will always be grateful for the chance I was given to partake in this event. It was an amazing experience that will never be forgotten.