My World Youth Day Krakow, Poland 2016– Following the footstep of St.JP II

10 August 2016

The LORD is my strength and my song, my salvation. (Ps 118:14) Part I: Thanksgiving.


To express in words all my interesting and profound experience about WYD Krakow that I have been through is an impossible thing. I was overwhelmed and stunned when I first knew that I would be sent to a WYD by Sister Teresa - our District Superior in Australia. This is the biggest youth gathering event in the world. More than 3 million young people, full of faith and dedication to God travelled to meet up in Poland.
I had asked myself this question in the beginning of the WYD preparation “what made me come to ‘The journey, to the city of Mercy’ in this Jubilee year of Mercy?” I didn’t know what to expect coming to this pilgrimage apart from praying for my fidelity and vocation, for all the Sisters of the District of Australia and in a larger scale -my Congregation of the Sisters of St Paul de Chartres. I prayed that it must be a journey that leads to self- transformation and that I must put into practice what I would learn from this holy and blessed pilgrimage.

World Youth Day 2016
I believe that this predestined journey had been sown deep in my heart 8 years ago in Sweden where I had a plan to visit Poland, the birthplace of the great and eloquent Pope John Paul II who became a Saint not long after his death. Plus, this was a Communist country which made me think of and have hope for a better future for my mother land. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it as my study schedule was so tight. This plan was postponed for another time if there ever was going to be one.
The reason why I wanted to share a bit about my back ground in this reflection is that I wanted to emphasize the Providential plan and to express my grateful heart to all those who have helped me and sacrificed many things for me, so that I could participate wholeheartedly in my first WYD in Poland. I remember vividly the time I returned to Vietnam after a semester studying in the medical field as a student at Uppsala University in Sweden. I started working and having plans for my further study in USA for a PhD degree in Medicine. But, God had planted in me the call to search for something bigger than my career, something that was greater than the amazing countries where I have travelled too throughout my life at that time. I was so ambitious like many young people with the hustle and bustle of life. This call from God sometimes horrified me and bothered me very much, but it kept growing within me stronger and stronger, day by day, until I couldn’t resist anymore. It weighed me down; because I needed to sacrifice and forget many precious parts of what I thought at that time was life. My family, my career, to carry on with expectations, my friends and even my lover who shared the hope of having a beautiful family which was one of my dreams. I didn’t share this struggle with anyone. I ignored the horrified call to Religious life.

World Youth Day 2016
I was challenged and started to save money to attend WYD in Madrid 2011 to find out what God really wanted in my life, I persuaded Him that I might be a good witness without entering the Religious life. I didn’t like the thought of being a nun, but at the same time I felt no interest in being invited to come back to Sweden for a Master scholarship which would further my career. I was empty and lonely in many ways, because I was not really sure what really mattered. I wanted to experience something that was mighty, uncontrollable and most powerful. I still remember how my feeling was after listening to the song “receive the power of the Holy Spirit, Alleluia” (WYD 2008 Sydney song). I was definitely empowered with the daring spirit from God whom I couldn’t name.
World Youth Day 2016I finally entered the convent to give it a try, and my own father cried with joy and I was happy yet trembled and worried a bit (of course I received some clear signs of religious calling from solitude prayer and meditation). I love this memory always. I told my mother that I would go home if I got sick in the Convent but it didn’t occur once. So, I believed that this is my true calling in this life: TO BE A NUN.


I chose not to go to WYD in 2011 anymore, because I knew for sure that if I went to WYD that year, I would never enter the convent in 2009. So, my World Youth Day would be days with God, the Sisters and my mission for the poor instead. I was happy to make the choice to stop working as a University teacher even though I had a bright future with lots of expectations from many people. This turning point was the right one at the right time, because I know that SPC Convent is the place where I found that Jesus is my spouse, where I really feel at peace, the peace that God can only give and where I could find the meaning of all events that have happened in my life. This Congregation fits me like a glove from the way of life to the traits of my personality. All things are perfectly interconnected and all things can just be put in one place: the heart of Jesus.
And then God called me to Australia where I left my sisters in my country and meet the inspiring Sister Teresa Lau. How wonderful it is that from here, I went to Poland- a country which I have thought, to be WYD event only in my dreams. God and Sister Teresa have made all my dreams and desires come true in this Holy year of Mercy. I thought I had left too much behind at one time, but it is actually the reverse, God has left everything for me. He made all things happen with a click. He used many people who have come across my life to help me along the way, and especially this WYD. He has untied some knots in me so that I could once more say: I am Yours, Jesus, and You are mine.
I had maximum support and help from A to Z by Sister Teresa and the community, both spiritual and physical. Surely, I couldn’t make my WYD awesome without many days and nights of prayers from my community and from so many of my beloved ones all over the world. It would be a big mistake if I forgot to thank my leader of WYD Archdiocese of Brisbane Zach who helped support me in many ways to attain 6 training sessions before departing and joining together with 46 other youths from Brisbane, Darwin and Rockhampton Dioceses. It’s really amazing how God has placed me in this group where I experienced lots of fun and happiness. From inspiring Chaplains, leaders and many members who through their witnesses of faith enrich my life.

World Youth Day 2016
I am forever grateful for being given this lifetime opportunity to be with millions of people who share the same faith with me. Sharing the desire to proclaim the Good News, hearing the pain of being lonely and empty, listening to the search for future directions, receiving many requests to pray for the war-torn countries, and friends and so on has made my World Youth Day 2016journey of faith whole. With many other innumerable reasons that gathered us together in this special country with “Peter” - Pope Francis, a great man of the Church and of the Youth, I now have my WYD priceless and special memories in every way. I now pray not for myself alone but for the 3 million young ones whose struggles might be bigger than mine. 

I am now convinced that Jesus will always have big dreams for me and for any young person who want to be filled with his merciful love. They are the dreams of being unique, of being loved unconditionally, of being ever transformed and of being totally belonging to Him and his Church. These very dreams are exactly what I am experiencing in my life as a Religious. He has truly betrothed me to Himself from eternity. To me, my songs during this WYD and forever are “Jesus Christ, You are my light, Alleluia” and “Lord, you know that I love you”.

 

Part II: The impact of ‘The walk’- the Journey of Mercy


My first World Youth Day in Krakow-Poland 2016 has really been a transforming pilgrimage, which, if all my experiences should be written down, my language must be refined in many years of learning, praying and meditating. The mixed feelings of being both fascinated and haunted by what I saw and heard are interwoven each time when I talk about my personal participation in this event. This WYD will forever remind me of the love of God, from which my vocation is being renewed and strengthened radically. This sharing is about the 2 highlights that I hold close to my heart. They are: the very impacts that were drawn from moving constantly to the gatherings, and meeting the enthusiastic and energetic crowds. These are the jig-saws of my WYD’s picture.
THE WALK
World Youth Day 2016“Being transformed” and “Go and make a good system, experience the power of the crowd and mountain tops” are two main messages from the training and Commission Mass that I took with me to the journey.
Being foretold that long walking is one of the demanding characters of any WYD, my physical fitness was prepared by doing lots of exercise, good shoes given and 6 training sessions here and there with the Youth group of the Diocese of Brisbane. Had I not been walking for more than 240kms nights and days, especially in the scorching heat, muddy and stony road and even thunderstorm, I would not have determined to journey light from now on, nor appreciated much the companionship along the journey. The physical walk has left an unforgettable mark in my spiritual journey.
One of the vivid images aroused in my mind during the walk was the Exodus out of Egypt. I wished I could send my deep sympathy to the Israelites who made their walking in the wilderness for 40 years of days and nights to reach their promised land. My back pained, feet sored and body soaked-through were my blessed experiences from which I got its spiritual inspiration. I wished I didn’t need to carry anything at all on my shoulders. 5 kg weight was heavy enough for two walks of nearly 40kms to the last Celebrations in the scorching heat and pouring rain, especially after more than 2 weeks of walking. I felt guilty when Lodan and Jessica (my groupmates) offered to carry my bottle of water and sleeping bag on the last and most exhausted day. We had made a joke of calling an ambulance just to bring our slow walking group to the gathering at once, a wish to lie down just 2 minutes on the long walk and a recommendation for a post sign that signifies how many more kilometres we needed to walk. All these had busted us into tears and laughters. Then, after the wish of lying down 1 minute was fulfilled, we did not want to continue. We were so tired. But, we didn’t give up but kept encouraging each other to move on. Many had wished the WYD was over immediately during the walk, but when it came to an end, it was a reverse. We treasured every quality moment we spent. We had made our walk meaningful and joyful! Some of us had sung “Lean on me” to keep others cheerful and keep moving because we had no choice: no tram, no bus on the last day! (Tim, a member of tram group shared)
I now think it is OK to complain with trust, but we shouldn’t be discouraged, we should keep walking with faith and fighting for a good fight, we must help each other, because I had tasted the tiredness to some degree which I never had before, yet the physical exhaustion had led to uplifting spirit when we “lean on other’s shoulder”. A rubbing cream was what I could offer to my friends after we reached our accommodation. A congratulation was what other groups waiting could give us. The WYD in Krakow was over in happy silence. All were exhausted and a hot shower was what we could enjoy.

World Youth Day 2016
Even now, post WYD, after months, few members of my group are still struggling to walk on the ground, to be down-to-earth again after our “mountain tops experience”. What’s more, we are sharing our reflections on “the secret group of 48 members” in parishes and universities. Our relationship is deepened unambiguously. I enjoyed and cherished every single minute with God and with young people. Yes, in all things I do without community, it doesn’t make sense!
For me, this intense experience is the momentum for my life as a Religious, it is one of the most impactful things about travelling to WYD Krakow - the city of Mercy, the birthplace of the Pope of the Mountain- St. John Paul II. God has indeed redirected my journey out of his ever watchful eyes and merciful love. Yes, there are things which had weighed me down that I must admit, but travelling light by letting go is my absolute option. Taking some risks to speak out or in another words, “not to be a couch potato” as Pope Francis addressed to the youth at the Campus Misericordiae is one of the messages that I picked along the way, and it will forever echo in my heart.
Bringing my walking lesson into practice meant detaching totally things which could outweigh my goal to be with Jesus. For me, spiritual pain is relieved by constant taking out the unnecessary things by trying to categorise and disencumber all the hindrances from my spiritual luggage. Gracefully, Jesus and community are my best companions lightening my heavy back bag, but I will not let them carry too many. He and my community will call ambulance when it is necessary for me, and surely in God himself is my best resting place that I need, not only 1 minute of rest but 24/7.

 

MEETING THE CROWD
Meeting so many exciting young people but never old people from so many walks was God’s way of communication with me indeed. The presence of 3 million peoples is the sure sign of hope for the future of the Church. The Church is alive, The Church will never end. Whoever doubts, go to WYD at once!
I was blessed to listen to the spontaneous responses, the innermost concerns and secret stories unfolded from those I have never met before, yet the daring spirit of openness of everyone was the driving force for those who are in doubt or searching for a direction or confirmation. Non-stop walking has opened my eyes of faith to see more: not being stuck in one place, to meet new people and to smile, to be aware of my surrounding, to be more fully present and most importantly, to see the face of God in people passing by … these I have experienced every day, not only during WYD but also after that.

World Youth Day 2016
I had asked myself ‘What is the most important message I would bring home?’ - to be a missionary of mercy was my message.
I have often heard the repeated message of mercy at the Catechesis, the gatherings, in songs and especially from Pope Francis. Through the merciful spirit of the Poles and the Polish Saints, I have learnt that to be more merciful and compassionate with myself is the most important at the first place, let myself travel lightly and courageously while knowing the basic truth of my radical needs and dependence on God and the Congregation. From this start, I believe I can be a loveable person and love others around me with God’s merciful love. To be able to do this, I must integrate the message of mercy into daily life: look for and reach out to those who are less loved, lonely and disconnected from community in the first step. At the same time, redirect my renewed energy and enthusiasm into daily activities which I involved to set myself on track.
Now, bringing WYD home is my task because the adventure will continue in many years to come. To Continue and preserve this experience in an entirely new environment after having lived in the mountain tops with God and with 3 millions of young people is not easy, but with all external helps and God’s grace, I believe that I could.


Sr. ROSARIO


 


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