As a youth, I expected World Youth Day to be fun and barely spiritual because like everyone else, it was hard to believe that youths around the world would still take their Catholic faith seriously because in my world, my faith meant that it was my own to protect but I was proven wrong. In fact, World Youth Day has proven to not only be a blessing to youths, it has also proven to be a gift to our world.
Together with Stefanus Able from UTM Skudai and Carlos Pereira from Melaka, I was blessed to have encountered World Youth Day with the Fellowship Of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), where we kicked off the pilgrimage with an international conference of students from around the world, called ‘In Via’ which means “On The Way’ in Latin. This conference held in Gaming, Austria consisted of talks which were relevant to the challenges faced by youths in living the Christian life. It was important as well because it served as a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the festivities of World Youth Day, with daily mass, sacrament of reconciliation and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
In the following week, gathering in Krakow, Poland alongside thousands of youth every day, proved to be a more wonderful experience than I expected when everyone treats each other as a friend, and greets one another with a smile or a wave or a row of high-fives. Singing and dancing and taking selfies on the streets are such a common sight that rather than be in disbelief, all I could do was relish in the joy of the moment.
Even though there are thousands of people in the streets of Krakow, watching the beauty of the Universal Church that goes beyond nationalities, languages, cultures and politics has moved me more to see the beauty of the Catholic Church, especially when we come together to adore the Eucharist at daily mass or to venerate the relics of Saints, both of which is a privilege to our faith. The best form of unity, however, was the happiness we shared in seeing Pope Francis, or listening to Our Holy Father’s witty homilies in our own languages because little do we know, we are gathered as Christ’s church, as His family, as one body of love.
Therefore, growing with FOCUS on this pilgrimage has been such a beautiful blessing because I have encountered God-filled people, missionaries and participants alike, who have played roles in changing my life as well as providing me with a community to share my faith with other brothers and sister in Christ from around the globe.
So, because of this, I say World Youth Day is a gift to our world because it sets enthusiastic and energetic people on a mission to change their families, their communities and their world; setting out to spread the love of God and to bring peace and hope to everyone who is open to receive it, be it if you are in the Middle East fighting the oppressions of extremists or in Asia fighting the rule of the government which forces it’s citizens to risk their lives for their faith, truly the essence of World Youth Day has the purpose to change lives of millions forever and I am so blessed to be a part of this universal church and having my catholic faith will forever the greatest gift I could ever have in my life which I will never take for granted. – Karyn Kan hails from Penang and is currently the President of the Catholic Students Society in MMU, Melaka.
“Never had I thought of getting the chance to go to World Youth Day or better, along with FOCUS. I shared a lot of experience with the people that I met there. It’s human nature to have faith in God and lose it, but my encounter with God has strengthened my faith in Him because He answered my prayers when I needed it most. I learnt to be vulnerable to his mercy and never forget to provide help to anyone that needs it, because even the smallest act of kindness will change a person’s heart tremendously, as it has towards me’ . – Stefanus Able
Although World Youth Day with FOCUS was fun, the core of the two weeks was a deeper relationship with God. The Gospels became very important to me and everyday during WYD I was looking forward to what the Lord wanted to say. The great homilists also helped us to appreciate the message even more. Also I began to see the importance of Holy Hour; Fr Martin, a priest from Austria taught us the purpose and steps for prayer. I have been reading the Gospels daily since then.” – Carlos Pereira