World Youth Day (WYD) 2011 in Madrid, Spain was one of the unforgettable moments in my life!
Meeting Pope Benedict in person together with the other youth from all over the world was such an amazing experience!
A dear friend posted some throwback photos of team Middle East from WYD 2011.
We are called the trailblazers for being the pioneer delegates from a parish without a physical church and structure where love, faith and hope blooms abundantly.
There were a lot of fond memories in Spain- from the mundane to the profound, and many more.
But, one thing that I am proud of our team was finding a family in a group of pilgrims who wanted to become more closer to God through the WYD experience.
Next year, a new set of youth pilgrims will set foot in Panama for WYD 2019.
Group travel has interesting quirks. It can be difficult keeping people together and getting them somewhere at the same time. You can expect that someone will always have to use the toilet, someone will get lost, someone will get sick, someone will miss a train/bus/metro, or someone will lose a plane ticket or money (and sometimes it’s the same person for all of the above). Does it ring a bell, Team Arethas?
The best way to keep everyone on time and together is to leave lots of time for getting places and count heads after every mode of transportation.
One way to keep your group together while moving through a crowd is to have someone hold a unique flag that pilgrims can follow. If you are concerned about the group, have the flag stop on the side and let your pilgrims come to the flag to be counted.
The primary means of transportation for WYD pilgrims will be walking. Prepare your body ahead of time. Do a lot of physical activity before you leave.
I even enrolled in a gym before leaving for Madrid- though my chubby cheeks in photos doesn’t show any justice to it.
According to the bishops here are 10 great ways to prepare for WYD 2019:
Pray for your fellow pilgrims (even those you have yet to meet), for Pope Francis and the bishops participating, for the people of Panama, for those who cannot travel to WYD, and for yourself, that you may be open to God’s will for you at World Youth Day.
And don’t pack everything – just what is needed for the journey. Remember clothes (though not too many), good walking shoes, a hat, your morning basics (toothbrush, toiletries, etc.), any medications you need, your sleeping bag, your passport, and items that will help you travel spiritually (the Bible, prayer cards, your rosary, etc.).
At World Youth Day, there will be a lot of walking. Begin training for that by taking time to walk a few miles each day. Consider bringing others with you on your outings. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to be outside and to get in some healthy exercise!
Find out more about the country of Panama, its saints, and history. Pick up some Spanish phrases. Read about the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Dig deeper into your Catholic faith.
Learn about World Youth Day: how and why it began, what the schedule will be this year, and who is expected to be there.
When you’re in such big crowds like at World Youth Day, we need to listen attentively to directions and instructions. Get in the habit of listening to what your group leaders and other church leaders have to say. Listening is also the best way to keep safe.
When you’re at World Youth Day, you will live simply (just as Pope Francis encourages us to do). To prepare for that experience, consider fasting from food, from excess and material goods, and from bad habits.
One of the best ways to prepare for a pilgrimage is to give selflessly of yourself for others. Not only does this help another person in need, but it also trains us to think outside of ourselves (something good to know on a pilgrimage surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people).
Tell others about your trip. Explain to them why you are making the trip to World Youth Day, and what your Catholic faith means to you.
Too often, when the pilgrimage is over, people can close themselves off to those who didn’t experience the journey. Instead, consider sharing your joys and struggles with friends and family who aren’t going to Panama. And upon coming home, make a concerted effort to share your experiences in a positive and inviting manner, without making others feel left out.
God-willing I hope I can join WYD 2019 in Panama! Shout out to all my sponsors 😇