I decided to go to World Youth Day 2013 after attending the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid. At Madrid, I had been a small group leader and had loved that experience. But this time, I knew I didn’t want to be a leader just a pilgrim. Leading up to World Youth Day I was unsure if I was going as it was up to my school if they would send me. Then finally I was selected to go! I was thrilled. But then a few weeks later I was asked if I would lead a small group. I was unsure about it, having thought this time I really wanted to just be a pilgrim, but thought ‘Oh well, God must other plans for me’ so I said Yes.
I have grown up in a strong Catholic family where it was expected what we go to mass weekly. So when I left home I continued go to church weekly. However I sometimes struggle to listen to everything during the liturgy, as some of the mass is said in a local language and there are lots of distractions to catch my attention.
Coming to World Youth Day I was scared of going to confession as I had never been to individual confession before. I was unsure of what to say and even the correct way to go to confession. I missed the opportunity to go to confession in Madrid and knew that this time I had to go. As our pilgrimage started, there were several times I could have gone to confession however I kept on chickening out. I was even avoiding looking towards the priests while at our catechesis sessions in Rio. I told another pilgrim this and after getting to know one of the priests over our pilgrimage, I knew that this time I wanted to go.
Each morning at the Catechesis sessions, priests would sit at a special section at the back, making themselves available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). One morning at Catechesis, I decided I wanted to go. Of course the priest I wanted to speak to had a few other people waiting. However after walking away, another pilgrim said to me ‘You will be fine, just wait’. I waited and then my turn came and I finally went. Fr Peter made me feel comfortable about opening up, didn’t laugh as I didn’t know the prayers off by heart, and then gave me advice about what I should do. I never thought going to confession would make me feel happier but it did, it took a weight off my shoulders and I know I will be going a bit more regularly as there is nothing to be scared of.
Going back to the real world will be hard as the other people around me have not experienced the same thing. They might be thinking I have just come back from a holiday to South America and not totally understand how the events of the past 3 weeks have changed me. In general, I want to get to know Jesus better by listening more in Church, praying more and going to confession more regularly, looking for God moments in my day as something to be thankful for and lastly not to be scared to open up as people around me might be able to give me guidance and support.
(This pilgrim has asked to remain anonymous, please keep them in your prayers as they re-enter ‘normal’ life in their community in the Northern Territory)