Priests hear confession from World Youth Day pilgrims Jan 24. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Speaking Out: My WYD dreams have to wait

By  Speaking Out, Nicole Vaz
  • January 23, 2019

When I found out about World Youth Day Panama I was beyond excited. 

I started to imagine my pilgrimage almost immediately because I have dreamt about having this opportunity for the longest time.  

However, my dreams were almost immediately crushed when I found out the dates on which it was to be held. 

It turns out that my exams and World Youth Day were scheduled during the exact same week, making it impossible for me to attend.  

People kept asking why I wanted to go in the first place. 

Was I just going to visit a new country and make new friends?  These questions got me thinking about what this experience would really mean to me.  

While getting to visit a beautiful country was a part of my reasoning, in reality it made up only a fraction of my real response.

Over the years, I have met several people who have had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day. 

My entire family, with the exception of me, has already attended at least once. 

My parents attended World Youth Day Toronto in 2002 and my brother went to Spain with my church youth group for World Youth Day in 2011.  

Every experience that I’ve heard, whether it be from a family member or a friend, has been nothing less than inspirational. For most attendees that I have talked to, being able to express their faith so freely alongside such a large group of people who share in the same beliefs was a life-changing experience.  

There are so many times in a young person’s life when we get lost and distracted, essentially causing us to stray from our faith. However, knowing that there are people just like you all around the world struggling with the same problems makes you realize that you are never alone.

So why do I personally want to attend World Youth Day? My answer is pretty simple, I want to be able to experience my faith in a new environment.  

I want to be able to connect with God not only from the comfort of my local church, prayer group or personal prayer space but in a diverse setting. A place where young minds and hearts come together for the same purpose, to discover not only God, but also ourselves and our purpose on this Earth.  

So while it is sad that I will not be attending this year’s World Youth Day, I do know that when the time is right I will be given the opportunity. 

This being said, I do plan on following the event on social media and the news so that I too can in a sense be present.  

For now, I am wishing everyone who attends WYD — from all the young people to the Pope, bishops, priests and volunteers — a blessed pilgrimage.  

(Vaz, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Fr. Michael Goetz Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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