God sent a gentle breeze from the four corners of the earth, steering hearts of young people to converge in a special “Paradise” Panama. This wonderful mingling of people from round the world was an amazing and joyful experience for many of them, as Agnes, from Monze in Zambia, tells us:
“I, Agnes Nkhata, am glad to share with you my most wonderful experience of the World Youth Day in Panama. I was privileged to be one of the twenty eight pilgrims that form the Zambia group. I also represented my Mary Immaculate Parish at large. I want to tell you about Saint Jose Chame Parish in Panama. I chose this because the great love, generosity and hospitality I experienced there set the tone to the wonderful impact the World Youth Day made on me.
We arrived at Saint Jose Chame Parish Panama about 23.00, after our long journey. Late as it was, the Parishioners were waiting to welcome us. The youth and their families all were present singing and dancing. My tiredness disappeared as I watched the joy of being welcomed to a foreign country and people in such a pleasant manner. They had organized the families that would host the Zambian Contingent before our arrival. The parish Chairperson called out each pilgrim and assigned the host family to the person. Our oneness as a Zambian family gave way to an insertion to a new family. For the next one week that was our home. They took every care of us from feeding, transportation, giving us treats, name it!! All of us spoke only English and they only Spanish. Yet we communicated. They installed the Spanish – English translator apps to their phones and this made it easier to communicate.
In our own parish of Saint Jose Chame there were over eleven countries. It was here at the Diocesan level that we had various activities, such as the daily celebration of Mass, praying the Rosary, having our lunch together, showcasing different cultural activities from various countries, faith walks through the forest, planting of trees and Painting. Each country painted her national flag on a very big canvas.
Young people are special
By now our new families have broadened. Every pilgrim stepped out of her or his own group and joined others in their dancing or other cultural activities. I came to understand that the young people are special. They can adapt easily and are very loving and lovable. It was a joy to see unity in diversity. In fact, it was a joy to be a Catholic and to be a youth. I have learnt and gained a lot and I hope to give what I have received.
Tears and hugs
Our parish families attended the last celebration of the Mass with us in their parish, distributed presents to us and we also gave them some presents we brought for home. They came as a body to see us off to Panama City in the morning of our departure. It was an emotional moment because we were leaving our “home out of home” for ever. Amidst tears, hugs and pecks we parted. Though I was, (as many of us were,) invited to come for a visit whenever….. I knew in my heart that it may never happen.
But part of me remains in my lovely host family, the parish and Panama as a whole. I cherish my time at Saint Joseph’s Parish Chama.
Abraham tells it:
I, Abraham Chisanga, from the diocese of Monze in Zambia, want to tell you about my new friends I met in Zambia
My trip to Panama for the World Youth Day was the first out of my country. During the event I got exposed to many people and cultures. I made a lot of friends! Though I made a lot of friends but I was freer with the three of them. Their names are: Juan Vieney Molan and Jessica Lodrigas from Central America and Alfredo from Germany. I met them at the church called St Joseph. It was during the night when we were having the official introduction of the Participants.
After the introduction one of my new friends, by the name of Juan, took me to his family. He introduced me to his family and the family welcomed me. They even gave me shelter, food and everything which was needed. I felt very happy. I can’t even explain how pleased I was because it was the first time in my life to have such experience. To live in a different family and a different country and find that ok is a memory I cherish.
During my stay with my friends in Panama these were my experiences: We taught one another about our different cultures and how we worship. The only challenges I had with my friends were about the language, different accents and different types of food. The food in particular was very different from the food I’m used to eating here in Zambia. But because I had made up my mind before travelling for the World Youth Day to follow the saying, “when you go to Rome, do like the Romans” I tried my best to understand the language and enjoy the meals.
I’m still communicating with my friends. We are still encouraging one another about Christianity and worship via social media.
After their “family” experience in their parish the participants moved to Panama City, for the General Assembly, where they took part in workshops, prayer and reflection on the theme: “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” They also had the opportunity to see Pope Francis and and meet still more friends from round the world.
Accompanying young people
Sister Mercy Ani, who travelled with the youth to Panama, reflects:
“Young people are the future generation. They are a well of vibrancy when motivated. They love God deep in them and long to be understood and valued as full members of the church who have talents to share.
The poor economic situation in many African Countries is reflected in the lives of most young people in Zambia too. The worst hit being the female youth. Early marriages, teenage pregnancies with its twin sister, teenage mothers, abortions, school drop outs, drink among the young men, and even cases of suicides are areas that cry for concerted efforts. Since the focus is on “Accompaniment” we collaborate with Family and Education ministries in education for effective parenting, inspirational teaching and leadership formation across the board.”
Holy Rosary Sisters thank you for your support and prayers for our youth ministry in all our Regions . May God bless you all.