In August, five young people from Venezuela joined 2 million other young people from around the world in Madrid for World Youth Day 2011. Here Alex Marrero, Eva Paredes, Vivian Saurez, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Antonella da Silva tell of their experiences:
In August 2010 five of us from the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Catia-la-Mar joined a group of 40 diocesan youth who had begun preparations for the pilgrimage to WYD 2011 and the meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Initially we were overjoyed at the thought of this pilgrimage but wondered how we would raise enough funds for five fares to Madrid? At least being able to speak Spanish would be an advantage when we would get there!! We each prayed for the strength we needed and for open hearts to know what this opportunity would mean for us in our lives. As we entered into the preparation with the diocesan group we organized hours of reflection on themes related to the pilgrimage, holy hours, Bible sharing, videos of testimonies of young people with conversion experiences. Individually we had our own personal prayer, apostolic commitments, and missions in Holy Week with the youth group Huellas as well as the support of our families.
Through the help of raffles, bazaars, cake sales, bingos, a religious concert, personal sacrifices to save a little and the constant help and encouragement of the Sisters we gradually completed the steps necessary to pay for the tickets and get our passports on time for the flight on 10th August.
We hoped to have a close encounter with God through different activities and make this sacrifice so that we can go on growing in faith and in the realisation of the Presence of the Blessed Trinity within, to experience the faith of other young people from different parts of the world and know that we can support each other in our journey of love for God in our hearts.
What excitement and expectant faith as we met at the airport in Caracas!!! Our parents and families, also Sisters Teresa and Franca came to see us off. The journey was the most joyful experience possible. From 10th until 15th we were received and attended to with sincere Christian love by the people of the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Zaragoza. We were taken on visits to many historical and religious buildings and museums where we learned of the life of Christians through the centuries. We were moved to tears and our hearts were filled with joy as we spent time in prayer in the Cathedral of our Lady of Pilar. There were faith sharing and debating sessions with youth from Italy, Mexico, France and USA. It was good to see the same God working in each one in a special way. We were impressed and challenged by the commitment and constant joy of some youth from the parish in Zaragoza who were preparing to act as interpreters for WYD
Moments that will be remembered by all of us were the times of prayer and blessing with the Blessed Sacrament by the Pope — to be with 2,000,000 pilgrims in the Vigil when hurricane winds took over and then the rains came pouring down – this was seen by all of us as a blessing from God on each one-it was followed by a time of great calm that took away all the discomfort of the heat. The presence of God was palpable. The music always helped us to come to moments of self-surrender and the experience of All as One. We learned to give and take in a big group-to share our space and goods and to wait. Also that as different cultures we all praise the same God – one faith unites us although there are different modes of expression. Together we form the Body of Christ and this leads us to a more personal surrender and readiness to walk together in the The Way.
Each of us feels called to change and to a commitment to Evangelization:
“I have changed my way of seeing the church. I need to do more to bring the word of God to others, I have the desire to pray more and be a better person and serve the Lord no matter what the cost. I will continue to work with the youth to give testimony of my faith in Christ Jesus and help them in the way – offer my life to God in the apostolate and live from His word”
“I have changed my way of thinking about and treating people-we are all one family whatever culture or colour. The joy of so many youth in the world with God in their hearts has power to change so much. I feel called to give to the world and not wait for the world to give to me, to be less worldly and more of the mind of Christ so that I, with others, can call many more young people to this new life of joy and help those who are less fortunate - I am what I am thanks to God”
“I feel called to continue to grow closer to God, to understand the Church and to give of my talents to help others in Catechesis always living what I believe”
“I have matured and learned that there are many ways to think but it is God who brings us to unity. To look at others as God looks at them. I will continue to serve in the choir and call other young people to do likewise”
“I feel renewed in my commitment to God, the church, and to sharing my faith through prayer and catechesis with so many youth here in the parish especially in the youth group”