Estrada sisters see Pope Francis
by Joseph Izampuye
“World Youth Day is a worldwide event, where thousands of Catholic youth gather in a single area and celebrate being Catholic. Last year the Diocese of Salt Lake was putting together the group they would send to the event. My mom was actually the one invited by the diocese. She couldn’t attend, and so, they extended the invitation to her daughters...”
Mass at World Youth Day
Patricia and her sisters said that there were countless temporary structures like these built for the Pope’s visit.
I sat down with Patricia Estrada, a Peer Minister, and participant in the World Youth Day retreat to recall the experience.
Commenting on the cause of the trip, Patricia recalled “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. My mom was invited to attend in January of last year. We’d been planning since we accepted that invitation, fundraising all year until we attended this January. There was a lot of preparation.”
Patricia described her first impressions arriving in Panama, saying “The day we had landed. we were able to see the famous Panama Canal, its fascinating architecture, and beautiful beaches. We visited Omar Park, where we met people from around the world.”
“Seeing people from Brazil, dancing and singing with people from the Philippines, chanting their country’s names, giving us their bracelets and flags was the most exciting part of the trip,” Patricia said. “Just being people with other people, it was an instant connection that had to do with being Catholic. Catholic means universal, being connected with people from around the world. You can always learn something from the people you meet, you can make them a part of your story.”
The first mass, presided over by the Bishop of Panama City, exemplified this theme.
“They held the mass along the coast of a beach. There were multiple stages set up across miles, and miles of flat land. Every single soul in attendance seemed to understand the words of God, the readings, and responses given in Spanish, English, Korean, French, Portuguese,” Patricia said.
“It was wonderful that I could have walked up to anybody there and know that we shared this powerful link, and that link is God. These people were passionate in the presence of one another, and we loved each other in the presence of God.”
Patricia considered the most important part of the trip. “I’ve been Catholic my whole life. I can remember my mom would always have us pray the rosary at night with her. It became something that my siblings and I did with her, our special moments. Being Catholic is being able to share the faith with people around you.”
The priests in Panama, personifying this theme of faith in unity, celebrated every Mass, through the diverse, worldwide languages of the people participating in the event.
“We might not look the same, we might not speak the same language but we’re human”
The Masses culminated in the final liturgy, which was given by Pope Francis. Pope Francis is a man appointed by God, a pacesetter in faith, eloquence, and understanding. Pope Francis, who had explored the principles of a universal faith in various Vatican encyclicals, now expanded on those principles during his sermon, on the Estrada sisters’ last day in Panama.
“It was technically the last day of World Youth Day. We had to go on this huge field. It was miles long with forty different sections. The space was for World Youth attendees to sleep, and wait for the last Mass that the Pope was going to give. They was camping outside with thousands of people around them.
“The night ended with a vigil. It was like praying the rosary. Where I live, you see these stars that form an L shape, and I was able to see that in Panama. My mother and my sisters were in two different parts of the world, but we were still able to see the same sky. These stars looked like a rosary. The rosary is pretty significant for me because it reminded me of my mom.”
She continued: “It made you realize how different we are, and how we are the same. It was so human. There was still music going on, at four in the morning, there were people jumping around, and then at six they told us to get up because the Mass was going to begin. People that were a couple feet away from us literally jumped up, just started doing jumping jacks. They wanted wake up for the Pope’s mass.” In the end 700,000 people attended that mass.
“Why was this man so important to me and the many Catholics there? I realized that it was because he’s our link to God. Pope Francis is the one that God had entrusted the Church to. He was THE link and just seeing this man so close to God, was remarkable. I just smiled the biggest smile I could make, and I waved so much that my wrist hurt afterwards.”
Patricia then talked about the theme of the event.
“This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from Mary’s affirmation, ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word.’ This message, of following Mary’s example to do what God is calling us to do, was woven into every moment of our experience. Attending this event, it was clear to me what God was asking: Pope Francis’ final message of ‘not tomorrow, but now,’ inspired that. It’s time to take action.”
Patricia’s story is a powerful depiction of our human capacity to connect with one another, through the sincere desire for faith in one another we extend a universal body of belief.
Youth enjoyed the time in between the events by hanging out on the beach with others from around the world