Sr. Janet Santibañez Merlán, MSBT accompanied a group of young Catholics to the 15th international World Youth Day 2019 in Panamá. World Youth Day (WYD) is a gathering organized by the Catholic Church that brings together youth age 16-35 years old from hundreds of countries every two to three years. This pilgrimage experience recognizes the current and future role Catholic youth have in our Church, enriches their faith and introduces them, quite literally, to the worldwide Catholic community. Over a six day period Catholic youth gathered for prayer, catechetical workshops and festival events culminating in a final Mass celebrated by Pope Francis with over 600,000 in attendance. Below is a reflection written by Sr. Janet.
It was a blessing to be part of and participate in World Youth Day which was celebrated in Panamá in January 2019. Sharing our own experiences not just with the Diocesan Commission and the Bishop of Ponce, PR. Padre Obispo Rubén González CMF, but also with the parishes of Costa Rica and Panamá. They welcomed us with hospitality, care and love. The groups shared their experiences of mission as well as their culture, religious traditions and values, which were very significant.
“I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” Lk 1, 38
The theme of WYD 2019, was on “Mary,” the Mother of God and our mother, her vocation and mission in the world. It was an invitation to imitate her “Yes” to God’s call. Service was the main element in her life, service and mission which go together. We all have received a special gift or charism to serve our brothers and sisters as Christians, but service is always united with prayers. Nobody serves without prayer. Our MSBT founder, Fr. Thomas A. Judge, CM said, “To serve is to love.” We have to serve as Jesus served. He is our model. Prayer must be unceasing and fervent; this helps us to serve our mission with love and joy. This encounter in Costa Rica and Panamá gave me another experience of God’s love as I met the different faces.
The best vocational promotion that we can do is with the example of our own lives. The way you live and experience God in your daily life is the best example of vocation promotion. This is why our Pope Francis has made such a big impact on our youth. “We are on a journey” he reminded us, “keep walking, keep living the faith sharing it” and do not forget, said Pope Francis, that “you are not the tomorrow, you are not the ‘meantime,’ you are the Now of God.
Thank you for all yours support and prayers,
Sister Janet Santibañez Merlán, MSBT
The next World Youth Day will be in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022