Before World Youth Day 2023, the World Youth Congress of MFC Youth took place with the title “Be Not Afraid.” This was perfectly timed, as we had just one final week after the congress to summon courage in our pursuit of attending World Youth Day. Previously, we had faced a visa denial, but the Monday following the Congress, our reapplication was granted. That week was filled with changes, challenges, surprises, and finally culminated in the approval of our visas and tickets to Lisbon, Portugal for WYD 2023.
After we received our visas for World Youth Day, I was entrusted with leading a subgroup consisting of 30 pilgrims who, like me, had initially been denied visas. We are all from different groups, dioceses, and organizations. I was admittedly anxious, given that this was my first WYD attendance and my initial experience leading such a big group in a big gathering, especially being from a different background. However, God comprehends me entirely, including my strengths and weaknesses.
Our subgroup was named “Mighty 30.” Sharing our common experiences in visa applications, God once again revealed Himself to me through the Mighty 30 and the people who become our families in Portugal, they become Jesus to me. We participated in masses, catechesis, conferences, visited numerous churches, journeyed to Fatima, and offered prayers for those in need. At the end of each day, the resounding message of “be not afraid” echoed through my encounters with people and places.
On the final day of WYD, a single yet powerful phrase resonated through my experience: “Be not afraid.” This message stayed with me throughout my journey, emphasizing the significance of taking risks for God, as the ultimate reward is beyond measure.
Our pilgrimage extended to Rome, an experience brimming with spiritual fulfillment and dreams realized. The sight of countless churches left me awestruck, a testament to the richness of our Catholic faith. Grand Basilicas, relics of saints and even Jesus Himself, all underscored the profound connection between God and the Catholic Church.
In Portugal and Rome, I encountered Jesus in numerous ways, moments not captured by my camera but etched deeply in my heart. Gratitude fills my heart, overflowing with these personal encounters with Jesus that I’m eager to share with other young people.
After arriving back in Manila, the gospel reading today echoed the same sentiment: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” This served as a continual call from God, emphasizing the importance of our response.
Thank you, Lord, thank you Missionary Families of Christ, and thank you to all the people I crossed paths with during this pilgrimage. WYD 2023 allowed us to meet Christ; now is the time to live, share Christ and His love to the world.