There were 400 young people from all over Taiwan who attended World Youth Day and formed many different pilgrimage groups. We were one of the small ones, the University Youth Pilgrimage Group, with a total of 17 young people who went on pilgrimage for three weeks, from July 25 to August 14. The first week in Portimao, Portugal, for the youth celebration “Welcome to the Parides de Chemin Nefu”, the second week at the World Youth Day in Lisbon, and the last week with the pilgrimage to Spain.
This is my fifth time participating in such a large youth celebration and I thank God for the gift of so many opportunities to experience these moments with young people. WYD is important to me as a starting point for considering my vocation, and I hope that young people will have the experience of encountering the Lord at the beginning of this important time.
God gives everyone the opportunity to think carefully. How I long for the young person who, in this process, begins to seriously face his faith and God’s plan for his life. God has a unique gift for each one of us, a gift that we do not seem to realize when we have not been touched by Jesus and the WYD pilgrimage is an opportunity to say: “Lord, please come, I want to find you!” And a beautiful story of encounter can really begin.
Pilgrimage is an encounter with God. The beginning of my pilgrimage was not the day I set out on the journey, but the moment I accepted to be a leader. Jesus Christ himself became my best companion, helping me to find a team of people to work with and to gradually complete the registration of a small group of pilgrims. As I interviewed the members, I heard the young people’s desire to go on pilgrimage, and I was eager to travel with them and accompany them on this pilgrimage.
I don’t know if the young people still remember their initial longing and if they return home with a harvest. Looking back, God has given me more than I ever expected or desired. Throughout the three-week pilgrimage, God has invited each of the young people at different stages of their faith and I have seen them slowly change, encouraging each other to grow in their faith through the group.
Walking with young people has helped me to face challenges and open my limits. Gradually I felt that I was no longer young, that my physical strength was often put to the test and that I had to work hard to keep up with the young people. I feel that I no longer have the same passion and dreams as before and I just need to live each day in peace, but after a long time, I can’t live a wonderful life with that attitude and I have become lukewarm. This time, thanks to the encouragement of the young people, I ran a 5 km marathon with them and finished it! This was a great sign and affirmation for me, it changed my view of myself, I thought I couldn’t do what I thought I could do, but in reality I could do more than I thought I could, I wasn’t that weak, it was fear that was limiting me and Jesus was telling me all the time, “Don’t be afraid, just run hard, and keep your eyes on the prize you are going to fight for, Jesus Christ, and keep going.” When I reached the finish line, I deeply felt the joy of perseverance.
God is with us
During our stay at WYD we were accommodated in a communal place with only two toilets, a shower with hot water and a shower head on the balcony. I complained to God about it. After a few days of sharing with other organizations, I realized that God had prepared this place for us in the best possible way. Although not a host family, we have our own place for our small group, which is very adequate and fair.
Although there were times of tiredness during the pilgrimage, we still remembered to share our prayers. Through the “daily circle” sharing, we saw God is in us. I saw the seeds sown by God slowly growing in the hearts of young people. There were some weak members in our group who faced challenges and difficulties, but, surprisingly, I felt peace in my heart and a big part of that was because the young people supported each other so that we could complete the pilgrimage together and return home safely.
An expression of fraternity among the Provinces
During the third week of the pilgrimage we traveled to Salamanca and the sisters of the Province of Spain-Italy helped us a lot in the preparation of the trip, booking the car and providing accommodation. Everywhere in Spain we were warmly welcomed by our sisters, and the young people felt that being in Spain was like coming home . Especially during the week in Mostenses, Salamanca, in the house of Mother Candida we experienced the loving care of the Sisters. There we had a retreat – a time of reflection on our pilgrimage, a time of spiritual and physical rest, and also a time to get to know Mother Candida. On August 8 we celebrated mass together in Montellano and visited the museum of Mother Candida which was inaugurated in June and it was like being welcomed by her. We also went to Valladolid, the city where she lived, and celebrated Mass at the altar of the Holy Family, experiencing the emotion of revelation of her call.
Many of the sisters came to visit us during our meals and had brief conversations with the young people. The young people were very comfortable with our sisters and I experienced that the sisters were really rich in the charism of the Daughters of Jesus and were able to spend time with the young people. One day the young men wanted to play ball, so I asked the Sisters to let them play ball on campus. It was an unforgettable experience for the young people to play ball with their companions during their pilgrimage to Spain.
We are very grateful for all the graces that God has given us and for the prayers of the Sisters and all that they do for the young people. Continue to pray for these young people that the seeds they planted in these experiences will sprout and grow strong.
Teresita Tsai FI. Province of East Asia
Accompanying a group of young people from Taiwan to WYD