Meeting Jesus in Rio de JaneiroBy Tatti Pangalangan
“Go and make disciples of all nations!” was the theme of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The event was held July 23 to 28, and was attended by millions of people from around the globe.
It is an event for the youth organized by the Catholic Church.
Since Pope John Paul II started it in 1984, it is celebrated every two to three years, in different parts of the world.
It is a blessing to be able to go to such a happy event, to be able to see the Pope in the flesh, and most of all, to become one with Jesus.
Twelve students from Assumption College San Lorenzo (Carla Alcantara, Maja Concio, Celine Lopez, Margie Magbitang, Gaby Nazareth, Katya Lichauco, Amber Ogsimer, Billie Remulla, Nikki Abaya, Feriza Fernando, Jana Hernandez and Bea Ramos), five from Assumption Antipolo, and one from Assumpta Technical High School, with chaperones Sr. Migs Vedua, Tet Tubig and Louie Lorenzo, had the privilege to be part of such an eye-opening and enlightening experience.
They’re repaying the favor by giving an account of what it was like to be a delegate.
What was your reaction when you learned that you were chosen to be a delegate?
Margie: I couldn’t believe it; I was very ecstatic, excited, crying tears of joy. I honestly thought I would be rejected because the envelope I got was so thin, but it was a letter of congratulations, after all!
Amber: Being chosen was probably one of those slow-mo moments for me. I remember not being able to scream. I just smiled to myself and said a silent prayer to God, thanking Him so much for being given this opportunity.
Billie: The moment I found out I was chosen to be a delegate, I shed tears of joy. It was very surprising, but I was filled with happiness and couldn’t wait to go.
What was the highlight of your experience?
Bea: Hearing the Pope say “Jesus Cristo está contando com você! A Igreja está contando com você! O Papa está contando com você!” In English, “Jesus Christ is counting on you. The Church is counting on you. Papa is counting on you.” It summed up my whole experience of WYD and affirmed the reason I went to Brazil.
Amber: Being asked to name just one thing as the highlight of my whole WYD experience is very difficult, so I’m going to cheat a bit and say that the whole WYD proper from July 23 to 28 really made this entire trip meaningful. Whenever Pope Francis speaks, its impact is on a personal level, and so his homilies and speeches were really what stood out for me.
Power of love
What new thing did you learn about the culture of Brazil and the people’s devotion to Christianity?
Gaby: Brazilians are very open about their faith and they embrace other religions, believing that the power of love speaks for itself. According to our tour guide, whenever there is a graduation in school, students who are not Christian are respected and given a rabbi or a pastor who will preside, alongside the priest, and both agree to perform the ceremony of each religion.
Maja: Brazilians love to dance everywhere and anytime. Brazilians are also very devoted to Nossa Senhora or Mother Mary. Their patron is actually Nossa Senhora Apericidad, or Our Lady of Apericidad, and you can clearly see how Nossa Senhora has affected the culture and daily life of Brazilians.
How was your relationship with Christ deepened by this event?
Feriza: It was deepened when I saw in perspective that Christ is truly great and loving. It made me realize how lucky we are that there is Someone who loves us so much, and it makes me feel sad that we turn a blind eye on Him. It made me want to practice my faith more. It made me more proud to be a child of God and a sister of Christ.
Vigil with the Pope
Nikki: My relationship with Christ really deepened through the other Christians that I met in this World Youth Day. I was able to see Jesus in every person, regardless of his or her race or language. I saw it in the people’s actions, how welcoming and warm they were, even when they didn’t know you.
Name the top three activities you joined during your stay.
Billie: The vigil with the Pope, the Papal welcoming ceremony, and the closing ceremony were my three favorite activities in Rio de Janeiro.
Amber: Seeing the Pope, the closing Mass and worship with our YFL (Youth for Family and Life) ate and kuya were my favorite and unforgettable experiences.
Cleansed by confession
Jana: Semana Missionaria in Maua; World Youth Day 2013 proper in Rio de Janeiro (although we walked far just to enter Copacabana); and confession, because it felt so different. I’ve never felt so cleansed, and I felt closer to Jesus Christ.
Describe your experience in one sentence.
Sister Migs: We are all pilgrims, not tourists; and if we allow God to love us at every moment, He is just waiting to fill our cup so that we can love others as He has loved us, be gracious to others as He has been gracious to us.
Jana: Thanks to World Youth Day 2013, I’ve seen and met Jesus Christ, and I will live my life to pursue Him, say yes to Him, and gradually bring others closer to Him.
Katya: Solidarity with fellow young people allowed me to see that we are the present and the future of the Church, called to evangelize and further make disciples of all nations.
Carla: World Youth Day was the beginning of my mission.
Prayer is key
Any words of encouragement for future or aspiring WYD delegates?
Katya: Prayer is key. If you think that God is calling you to sign up for it, pray. If you are waiting for the results to see if you were chosen, pray. If you doubt yourself, pray. If you are lucky enough to have been chosen, pray. Don’t be afraid to talk to God.
Sister Migs: It’s a life-changing pilgrimage. I hope more young people can experience this intense, life-changing event in one’s life. It is all worth it—finding the true treasure in our life.
What was the most important lesson you learned during your experience?
Nikki: To be not afraid. Jesus commanded us all out of love to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Many were and are persecuted because of their faith, but Jesus reminds us to stay strong though people will bring you down for your beliefs.
Carla: Surrender your whole life to God. Most days, especially during the first week, I was intensely challenged, and it was always tempting to question God. But then I realized, why doubt Him when you can always ask for His grace?
Bea: To speak the language of love. Obviously, there was a language barrier; however, we did not let it stop us from expressing our love for each other and for the Lord. We set aside our differences and focused on what truly mattered, the reason we were sent to Brazil, to make known the love of the Lord to everyone.
Who was the most inspiring person you met in your journey, and why?
Bea: Though everyone I met inspired me, the one who stood out was Esteban. He is a 20-year-old guy from Venezuela and is a missionary in the Amazonia. I couldn’t believe that there would be someone who would dedicate his life, young as he is, to the service of the Lord.
A typical 20-year-old these days is out partying, but Esteban is dedicating his time to be a missionary in the Amazon forest, outside his comfort zone.
Sister Migs: Pope Francis. He is an authentic witness of dynamic faith. By his actions, he evangelizes people, especially in his concrete acts of love for the poor.
Feriza: The most inspiring person I have met in the WYD was and is Jesus Christ. As crazy as that sounds, I really met Christ. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his message for WYD 2013, and enumerated again by Pope Francis, you can’t talk about Christ unless you have had an encounter with Him, and I truly believe that I encountered Him in the people I met and in the experiences I gained.
Margie: The most inspiring people I met were our ate and kuya from CFC-YFL (Couples for Christ-Youth for Family and Life). Spending three weeks in the same group under the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY-Philippines), I learned that they are full-time missionaries. They are a concrete example of the World Youth Day 2013 theme of “Go and make disciples of all nations.” They’ve proven that even as a lay person, you can go and be a missionary in your own little way and dedicate your life to serving the Lord.
Truly, these delegates have shown that you don’t have to go as far as Brazil to realize how much God loves you. If anything, this experience has only reinforced what they’ve known all along—that God’s love is everywhere and in everyone. And so, with much enthusiasm, we shout, “Papa Francisco juntos con Cristo!”
PHOTOS BY TATTI PANGALANGAN