Rachel Wong addresses the pilgrims during a catechesis session at WYD. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Pilgrim’s diary: We’re here, and we’re ready

By  Rachel Wong, Catholic Register Special
  • January 24, 2019

PANAMA CITY — I stood on a stage, looking out over a sea of young pilgrims. I had seen such crowds before, but never with such profound diversity. Flags representing countries from all over the world waved under the hot Panama sun. Despite the heat, there was a great sense of excitement and great expectation.

This was my scene from my vantage point as an MC for an English catechesis site at World Youth Day in Panama. 

My name is Rachel Wong, and I am from Vancouver, B.C. I am also a student missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO). CCO is a Catholic, university student movement dedicated to the renewal of the world through preaching the Gospel in a clear and simple way. I joined 13 other CCO missionaries from across Canada to go on mission to World Youth Day with the goal to invite all pilgrims to put Christ in the centre of their lives.

CCO animated an English catechesis site during World Youth Day for all English speaking pilgrims. It was incredible to help guide pilgrims along the theme of “Here I Am”. This is taken from St. Luke's Gospel, which is the overarching theme of this year's World Youth Day: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). 

With this theme, we are called to imitate Mary's fiat, her Yes, to God's will in our lives. As young people, we are faced with so many choices: where to go to school, what career path to pursue, who to hang out with, whether we are called to marriage or religious life… the choices are endless. But this World Youth Day, all the youth of the world are challenged to make greater choice: the choice to put Christ at the centre of our lives and submit to His will. 

We had the opportunity to attend Mass during the catechesis session, and I was so moved by seeing so many youth from the universal church present. I closed my eyes to take in the songs and all the youth responding back to the Mass. The peace I felt was a sharp contrast to the stress and anxiety I felt back home. I felt God challenging me to be docile to Him something that I struggled with for a great part of my life, and even now as I try to discern God's call for my life.

When we tell the Lord that we are here and ready to go where He wants us to, we give God the opportunity to use us for greatness. In his address to the youth at the fourth World Youth Day in 1989, St. Pope John Paul II said that “life with Christ is a beautiful adventure.” And how true that is! Our fiat is a simple way for us to imitate that of Mary and all the great prophets and saints before us: Here I am Lord, I come to do your will.

Amidst the suffering and turmoil that is present in our world today, seeing so many young people at the English catechesis site and World Youth Day gave me hope that we can be the generation of youth that brings about the new evangelization to the world. By saying yes to Christ, we are promised a fulfilling life. I challenge you, wherever you may be at this moment, to give Christ your life. Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI said, “open wide the doors to Christ!... He gives you everything and He takes nothing away.” What a powerful and beautiful exchange!

As World Youth Day continues, I ask you to continue praying for all the pilgrims from around the world and for the intention of our Holy Father Pope Francis. In turn, I pray that you will choose to say “here I am!” to our Lord and give Him your whole life. The adventure with Him is so worth it.

(Wong, 22, is travelling with Catholic Christian Outreach based in Ottawa)


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