2019 World Youth Day In Panama
We participated in the World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations held in Panama last January, joining the Official Pilgrimage Group from Japan. The WYD is held every three years, gathering youth from various countries around the world. During the two weeks’ pilgrimage, we shared with each other, we sang together, and joined in prayers together. There were approximately seven hundred thousand participants. From the airport where we first touched Panama soil, up to the city, we encountered the youth everywhere we went. The whole of Panama was filled with the atmosphere of WYD.
After arriving, we stayed for a week in Chitre, our host parish, before joining in the main celebrations held in Panama City. During our stay, we were able to have a real encounter with participants from different countries who were also staying in the same area and with the local people. In the days of the main celebrations, we joined in the crowd which was a hundred times bigger than that at the parish. In the Papal Mass, we had sharing of the Word of God with people from around the world. We also had daily sharing within our Group from Japan, listening to how each one experienced the Masses, the activities and how each one was taking in the experiences. We participated as one pilgrimage group, journeying together, but our experiences and what we gained from our experiences were varied.
What we gained from this WYD
Lucia Shimada Nao
What struck me most in the celebrations was the great energy of the youth from all over the world. When the Holy Father said in one of his discourses, “Dear young people, go forward with overflowing youthful energy and faith”, at the beginning, I did not feel myself as one of those with so much powerful energy. But as I joined in prayer with other participants of various cultures, languages and colors, I realized that God led us here to gather and pray together, and because each one took a courageous step we were able to meet. Once again I was able to feel that God is watching over my little actions. And so, with the strength I have and by thinking actively, I found a strong desire within to continue each precious moment journeying together with God, In the end, I felt so much energy and wonders which I would never have experienced in everyday life. I am truly grateful for having been able to participate and at the same time, from now on, to make use of what I have learned to serve the people in the church.
Joan of Arc Takahashi Miho
Throughout the days of celebrations I was able to experience and feel so many things which I had never imagined before in Japan. Without access to Wi-Fi, or being unable to communicate in English, I sometimes felt perplexed over how I could reach the other person in order to understand each other. But, we are all one human family after all, there were moments when I felt real joy of understanding each other, in spite of not being able to communicate by words. Moreover, the words of the Holy Father, “We don’t need youth who are couch potatoes” really struck me. Everyone had a mobile phone, but no one played games on them like we do in Japan, the church was a place to meet and share with others. Religion was at the center of life, and people were active in various services. It made me reflect on myself, how much I had been a couch potato kind of person. From now on, I would like to get involved with the world as a youth, not with the Church of the future, but with the Church of ‘now’.
Thanks to the support of so many, especially that of the parishioners of St. Ignatius, I was able to have this wonderful experience which will stay with me for the rest of my life. I would like to continue each day with this gratitude in my heart.
Thomas Joseph Imada
Several days have passed since I came back to Japan. What I am feeling now is the overwhelming convenience and comfort of life, and a vague feeling of wistfulness in its shadow. During the days at Chitre and then in Panama City, I always felt the power of love from the people around me. Life was not convenient, but we felt the heartfelt care of the local people for the celebrations and its participants, the smiles of the participants from different countries that we encountered in the streets. Precisely because there were no rules, the people tried to put others first. Love was felt in each moment. However, back at home in Japan, I found we were having a conflict with our neighbor. We gained orderliness and comfort, but have we not forgotten something more important? I think we should bring back the joy of reciprocal love.
I wrote that I “came back”, but “being sent” may be more accurate to express my present sentiment. So many graces and so much strength received in the WYD. I want to continue praying, “Behold the servant of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your Word”, so I can offer what I have received for others around me.