The locals in Panama saved us several times over the week and were so friendly and amazing. They tried so hard to get us back to the hotel on our first day after we got lost. On the way to the final vigil we were saved from going too far in the wrong direction by a local in a pickup truck who drove us to the end of the queue. While we were in the queue, one lady opened her house for people to use the toilet and for people to fill up their water bottles. We were so warmly welcomed to Panama and it was so amazing to meet so many of the locals!
We met so many new people over the week that we were in Panama from all over the world, including people from England that we had never met before. It is an incredible experience to see thousands of young people gathered in one place for the same reason. It’s so inspiring to see so many other young Catholics when, here, it can sometimes feel like there isn’t that many of us around!
We had the great opportunity to take a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham with us. It was amazing how well the statue was received and how many people wanted to known about her. I wasn’t expecting the level of appreciation that people showed when we gave them Walsingham prayer cards or medals. As much as the statue wasn’t the easiest thing to carry around with us, it was well worth bringing it to show to so many people from all over the world.
During the Papal Welcome event, we waited with thousands of other young people to get a view of Pope Francis as he arrived at the site. It was amazing to get such a good view of the Pope as he drove past in his Popemobile. Not only this, but listening to all the things that the Pope had to say was also incredible.
My top moment from World Youth Day wasn’t a big event, or something that many would expect to be at the top. My top moment happened at the very end of a day when we decided to pop into a church just to see what it was like. It turns out that adoration was taking place in the church and people were being invited in off of the streets to light candles. The atmosphere in the church was amazing! Adoration is something that I do on a regular basis but it has never felt like it did that night. The time of prayer spent in the church that night is something that I will never forget.
You can read more of the group’s World Youth Day experiences on the Youth News & Blog page.
Find out what Jess’ fellow Ignite Team member, Mary, got up to in January in her blog about visiting the Missionaries of the Poor in Jamaica.