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placeholder September 5, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
World Youth Day

Pilgrims to World Youth Day in Poland: from left in back, Emily Lechuga, Angelina Cardoza, Lizette Suarez; in front, Rev. Ken Sales, Nahomy Cabrea and Adriana Rodriguez.

World Youth Day pilgrims:
'We will spread what we learned by being merciful'

We — Emily Lechuga, Angie Cardoza, Adriana Rodriguez and Nahomy Cabrera — are 4 of the 10 who traveled as a group to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day 2016, July 25-31.

We went to celebrate the youth and the faith of our Catholic Church. Honestly, at first, we chose to become a part of this pilgrimage because it was a great opportunity to travel to Europe. We would also want to enjoy a little break from our stressful daily lives.

However, God had much bigger plans for us resulting in growing our faith immensely. Although we did travel and of course, did some sightseeing, we learned a lot and experienced God more powerfully than ever before.

On the first day of Catechesis at Tauron Arena, we learned about something that really touched our hearts and had unforgettable experiences leading to a stronger faith for all of us.

First, we heard some life-changing stories about how people in Syria and other places are not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to practice their faith. This is something that most of us take for granted and do not appreciate. We do not realize how lucky and blessed we are to be able to pray in peace, without having to worry about being brutally tortured or even killed.

These stories were kept in our hearts and made us realize that we can and should pray at any moment we want. What is happening now in Syria reminds us a lot of what happened in the Holocaust: many innocent people being killed for all the wrong reasons.

When we visited Auschwitz, it made us become aware of the atrocities that happened. It is astonishing how merciful St. Maximilian Kolbe was with the people who killed him. His last words were forgiving those who killed him.

We learned a lot about mercy. Would you have done the same thing? Would you have mercy on the people who killed you? Think about it. Think about the mercy that Jesus had on us when he was crucified.

I thought about that during adoration. Adoration was an emotional time that brought us closer to God. We got this warm, loving peace that can't really be put into words. It's was like an acceptance hug, like it's OK. We thought about mercy and about how God never gets tired of forgiving, and we realized we are the ones that get tired of asking for God's forgiveness. We all need to realize this and spread the word.

We will spread what we learned by being merciful and forgiving or understanding. If we all took time to understand each other it would be amazing and peaceful. We will spread the word about God to everyone, but especially to all the youth.

Right now, many teenagers are not aware of the love God has to give them or they feel like they are not worthy of that love. It is our job to make teens feel welcomed and accepted in our church. We must remind them that God is with them every day no matter what.

(This reflection was offered by teens at St. Anthony Parish in Oakley. Other travelers to World Youth Day included Father Ken Sales, parochial administrator, and Lizette Nogueda Suarez.)

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