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Reflections from World Youth Day in Panamá

Sandra Torres, Associate Director for the Hispanic Apostolate, with Jovenes en Acción from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Nata, Panamá for World Youth Day 2019.

What were your feelings when you seen the pope?

Naomi Martinez – I had the privilege to be a pilgrim at this years World Youth Day in Panamá. The area in which our group was waiting to see Pope Francis pass by had a television nearby and it allowed us to witness the moment he arrived. Just by seeing him on the screen and knowing that he was in the same city I was in was even more than I could have ever imagined to be possible. I had an urge to cry but I held it in. Once Pope Francis was getting close to us, even before he was in front of us, my body started to shake and I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was such an indescribable feeling because as he passed by I could feel Jesus Christ’s presence. Pope Francis is the next closest person there is to Jesus Christ himself and knowing that made this whole experience even more meaningful. I cried for a good 10 minutes and every time during the day when I would think about what I had just experienced, made me cry again.

Jennifer Sepulveda – When I knew that the time to see Pope Francis was approaching , I felt nervous and impatient. I felt so many emotions that I could not say in specific what I felt. When I saw the Pope mobile coming and I saw him smiling and waving to the crowds, I was not able to hold back my tears ; I cried really hard. His smile has left an impact on my life, when I think about his smile I feel nothing but happiness. Even to this day just thinking back to it, I find myself feeling the same happy emotions that I felt when I got to see Pope Francis. 

Abraham Lopez – It was a surreal feeling knowing he was on his way to the spot we were at. When the crowd began to cheer my heart began to race and filled with joy. As he passed he transmitted such a peace. I thank God for the opportunity to see him up close. I will never forget that moment.

How did you feel being with other youth from around the world? 

Naomi Martinez – Meeting individuals who are like me from all around the world was incredible. Knowing that all of them were there with the same purpose I was, made the experience even more memorable. My purpose was and is to be like Mary and tell God “I am the servant of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Listening to their stories, what they went through to make it to Panamá, and the long hours or days it took them just to see the Pope. This made me realize that everyone’s efforts brought us to our goal, which was to not only be with the Pope, but to feel God and to let Him into our hearts. It’s amazing having the opportunity to coexist with young people from all over the world and be able to trade items from our countries with each other. Meeting them itself was a great experience, but to become friends with them was better because we can hopefully meet up at the next World Youth Day. This experience will forever be in my heart and I hope that everyone that gets the opportunity to see the Pope takes it. 

Jennifer Sepulveda – I felt a familiar feeling when we were with the other youth. I felt like I was at school and we all knew each other by face but not by story. When talking to other youth and learning what they like and how their schooling was I learned that we were all going through similar paths, it was fun getting to know how the youth around the world live. 

Abraham Lopez – It just makes you realize how big our family is here on earth. I was awestruck when I saw the amount of youth dancing, singing, and playing music in their language all giving thanks to God. Regardless of each ones culture everyone came together as one to give thanks to our Lord. That was amazing!