February 1, 2019 — An Ode to Joy: this is the expression that comes to mind when I describe my experience at the WYD in Panama: "You are not the future, but the now of God", Pope Francis proclaimed to young people all over the world. Time and again, he has encouraged young people to become the protagonists of today and tomorrow. Pope Francis called on the hundreds of thousands of young people present to "realize the dream that the Lord dreamed for [them]" "not tomorrow but now." Francis also used the figure of Mary, mixed with a technological expression. Mary was not "influential" but by her yes, she became the woman who most influenced history.
I had the opportunity to live this experience with the delegation of the Mission Jeunesse Montréal of the Diocese of Montreal with 225 participants, who proposed three ways of participating, between 7 and 15 days. Each participant will have had the opportunity to be welcomed into a Panamanian family. Some had the opportunity to live in modest families while others were housed in wealthier families. I had the opportunity to experience these two realities and I am grateful for it. It was a time of immersion in a land of mixed races where the hospitality is fraternal and welcoming. For some smaller families, welcoming pilgrims was a way of traveling. For wealthier families, it was an opportunity to discuss the different realities of our respective countries. It was a privileged way to get into people's daily lives.
On January 22nd, the Canadian gathering was held in Panama City to which all Canadian WYD participants had been invited. Most Reverend Lionel Gendron, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the participants. It was a festive time during which we sang and prayed together. The Mission Jeunesse Montréal team was also involved in leading this meeting, which was greatly appreciated by the participants.
At the end of the experience, many will have experienced a range of emotions, especially during the small ceremony organized to mark our departure: gratitude for having been welcomed simply and warmly in their daily lives, joy to have shared and celebrated these WYDs together and finally sadness to say goodbye at the end of this brief but so intense experience.
I will keep from this experience the strong memory of walking side by side with young people from all over the world in joy, sometimes singing sometimes in silence but always with my eyes fixed on Jesus.