Recharged. Inspired. Overflowing with love.
A World Youth Day Testimony by Giella Garcia Sanchez, CFC SFL Fulltime Pastoral Worker
To say that my Rio World Youth Day experience was a blessing, is an understatement. Words couldn’t capture the whole experience. I was recharged, inspired and love was surely overflowing.
Life as a lay-missionary has been beautifully busy with activities here and there, missions everywhere. I was tasked to be one of the subgroup leaders for this WYD. 8 months before it happened, it became very busy with all the preparations for the requirements of our delegation. While in Rio, we needed to do some tasks daily. But these never deprived me from being a pilgrim myself, and really having this beautiful opportunity to talk to God and to listen to Him. I believe that one of the greatest privileges with the World Youth Day is to be able to pray for loved ones. Before I left the Philippines, I took some time to gather the prayer requests of my family, friends and community members. Aside from my ticket, passport, yellow fever card and other official documents, I considered my 5 pages of prayer requests as an important document that I bring with me everyday. We had the chance to hear mass everyday, and together with my personal prayertime, I really had so much intimate time with God. Everyday was a chance to listen to Him. Everyday was an opportunity to remember others. It was also in this WYD that I met St. Nicholas who I now consider my “saint friend”. We were hosted in St. Nicholas parish for our first week, and I was able to encounter his relics and learn about him. St. Nicholas is the defender of threatened families and the friend of the suffering and the needy with which I have been fervently praying everyday to follow. Truly, I was recharged through my personal time with God.
I was blessed to have attended the WYD Day in Australia in 2008. Back then, I was very much inspired with the Catechesis and talks we heard. That was one of the things that I looked forward to when we were on our way to Rio. True enough, God spoke so much in the different occasions we had to listen. During the WYD proper in Rio, we were hosted at Sao Francisco Xavier parish. For 3 days, we were at the parish from 9 in the morning until 12 noon for Catechesis, and the Holy Mass. In one of the Catechesis, this message from a Cardinal struck me, “It is a tragedy not knowing that we are loved by God”. I realized of how much my life is complete, simply because I know that more than anything else, God loves me. That statement moved me to have this conviction to keep on spreading God’s love to everyone through my mission, as it is truly a tragedy when others don’t get to experience His love.
In one of the Catechesis as well, we were asked to partner with other pilgrims. My partner was an adult pilgrim who was there with his wife. They were from Pakistan. He told me that it is such a challenge to live out their being Catholics in Pakistan, where Catholics are less than 10% of the population. But despite that, he faithfully responds to God’s call to do His mission. This same reality was reaffirmed during the Asian Youth Forum where I met Japanese and Koreans who were just converted to the Catholic faith a year ago. It was amazing to see their genuine desire to know and love God.
And of course, seeing Pope Francis at a distance of only four meters away was really on top of my list! To hear the Holy Father speak live was nothing less than a gift from God. He spoke simply and straight to the point. It was such a blessing to hear him speak in his Argentine Spanish, that is close to my heart after having been on mission to Argentina. His last words were, “Go, Don’t be afraid and Serve”. These words are not new to our hearts, but we needed to hear them at that very moment. He reaffirmed the reality that it is becoming harder to bring Christ to the world that is fast progressing. But it is in these times that the world all the more needs Christ. As the youth, we need to be Saints in this modern world. We must simply say “yes!”, and go wherever He sends us through whatever ways – be it in our communities, schools or parishes. Many people would go against us, but we must not fear because the Holy Spirit will be there. We are called to serve, by loving other people in any way possible. Truly, I was inspired!
Overflowing with love.
We were so blessed because in both activities of the WYD, the Missionary Week and the WYD proper, we were hosted by families. During the first week, the SFL subgroup was in Surui, in the Diocese of Mage. We were welcomed in a very overwhelming way: banners with our names were waved up high; a line of people shouting “Filipinas!” while we entering the parish hall; and the presence of the people there everyday that accompanied us through all our activities. All these and more made us experience love to the fullest.
My host family in Surui was Marta and her son Marcelo. I’m so glad because Marta could speak Spanish, which I already learned. Everyday was an opportunity to talk with her heart to heart. Her generosity was overflowing. She would give me gifts everyday at the breakfast table. She even gave me a key to her house, so I can go home during breaks since her house was just a five-minute walk from the parish. She was there to accompany me during the daily masses.
During the WYD proper in Rio, my host is Tita Leah. She is 85 years old, but she was strong and vibrant to accommodate us which was very humbling. She was so sweet looking after our needs. She gave us a home away from home.
The whole Brazilian community was so loving. Their hospitality are so much so like the Filipinos. You would never feel homesick while being in Brazil! Food was always overflowing. Their volunteers would also take the extra mile to make sure that we had the best experience.
Truly, Rio World Youth Day moved my life in ways more than one. Every pilgrim would attest to this. This is God’s grace. This is a great manifestation of His love for me.