(Iyam Salvanera, Fulltimer in Malawi, Africa)
My journey to 2011 WYD started almost a year ago. An invitation to attend the 2011 WYD Madrid was extended to all CFC FFL pastoral workers worldwide. I was not so keen on attending the WYD because I know I’m no longer qualified within the age bracket for the youth participants (start the age guessing game now!). But then they said that I am a youth minister. Upon learning that I was already considered as a youth minister, a sparkle of happiness shined through me because afterall I’m still a qualified participant despite my age now! So, off I go to start my journey to Madrid.
I have encountered a lot bumps and high waves while preparing for my WYD application and processing my schengen visa. Together with my missionary partner here in Malawi, we opted to join the ECY-Philippine delegation instead of the Malawi delegation to the WYD. Our application papers made a tour around Malawi-Philippines-Spain-Germany-Malawi. We hurdled a couple of protocols and had a tough race in processing our WYD and schengen visa application. We almost did not make it to WYD as our schengen visa was released only 4 days before our supposed flight to Madrid and our air tickets were purchased a day later after the release of our visa.
The anguish of waiting for the release of my visa and the hustle of late searching for available flights to Madrid tested my faith. A speck of doubt crossed my mind that I could not make it to the WYD and that Madrid was not for me. Remembering our community theme last year about trusting in the power of The Almighty, I immediately brushed off the cobwebs in my faith. From then on, I started walking on waters with expectant faith and full trust in our Lord while waiting for my approved visa and confirmed booking. There was peace within me as I surrendered everything to our Lord and my journey of faith continues.
As I set my foot in Barajas Airport in Madrid, I still cannot grasp how I made it to Madrid. I attribute my presence in Madrid to the grace and generosity of our Lord and also to the generous hearts of my 3 blood brothers who contributed for my registration, airfare and pocket money to Madrid.
Upon seeing my brothers and sisters from the community at the airport, the joy and happiness in my heart I can not contain. The exchange of kisses and warm embraces quenched the longing for familiar faces that I have never seen for almost a year. Words of wisdoms / advices and wonderful moments with them I will cherish. I cried almost every morning worhip I spent with them. Back here in my mission area, we don’t have that same intensity and vibrancy in our community praise and worship to our Lord. God knows how I miss and long for this kind of praise and worship. I thank the Lord for WYD 2011 for giving me the chance to fortify my prayers and faith by experiencing once again community morning worship with my fellow CFC FFL WYD delegates. Those moments I will treasure as a keepsake to help me going as I continue with my work in the arid land of my mission area.
Sierra de Fuentes was the gracious host of our subgroup during the Days in the Diocese. Sierra de Fuentes is a quaint and picturesque pueblo in the province of Caceres, region of Extramadura. We were so blessed with the accomodation, generosity and hospitality extended to us by the people of Sierra de Fuentes. Many thanks to them specially to their parish priest Padre Jesus Moreno.
The pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal) is one of the highlights in my 2011 WYD experience. I have dreamt to visit Fatima with my Mama (A Marian devotee. She wore the Lourdes habit as her Sunday dress from the age 12 until she got married. By the way the name of my Mama was Lourdes). A dream never fulfilled up to time she died several years ago. The visit at Fatima made me miss my Mama, I shed tears apologizing to her that I was not able to take her to Fatima. Though I dreamt of visiting Fatima with my Mama, I felt her presence there with me. I felt the warmth of her embrace under the heat of the scorching sun and she said to me it’s ok, I am happy for you. I also felt Mama Mary embraced me assuring me that the motherly love and care I missed, she will provide me. As I left Fatima, I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving to our Lord for fulfilling another dream come true for me.
Another highlight in my 2011 WYD experience was my unplanned visit to Avila. While waiting for my return flight schedule, I have another day to spend around Spain. A divine inspiration was received by deciding to have a pilgrimage to Avila, considered by many as the city of Pebbles and Saints. I marveled at the grandeur and splendor of Avila. I was blessed to visit the Convento de Santa Teresa, the primary shrine of St Teresa of Avila. It prompted me to learn more about the life of St Teresa of Avila (Doctor of the Church, teacher of prayer), the order of Discalced Carmelites and her writings specially The Interior Castle. I now found strength in this famous quotation of St. Teresa:
Let nothing disturb you.
My journey to 2011 WYD watered my faith. I know my faith is not going to dry up like a dewdrop under the heat of the sun in my mission area. Firmes en la Fe, the journey continues…..