As told by Yvonne Ting
POLAND (Krakow): It has been a while since my fellow Malaysian pilgrims and I returned from our World Youth Day trip. Everyone has a testimony to share. God has challenged each of us to question the role that we play in our life circumstances as pilgrims.
Eventually, our experience continues to lead us to God’s divine calling for our purpose in this life. Just like the introductory verse from Ecclesiastes (“Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses” ), God has a time and place for everything.
July 21-25: Youth Arise International – Katowice, Zory
It was a long-awaited journey to Poland, the home of Sts Pope John Paul II and Faustina! We first landed at Katowice, Zory, to experience the pre-WYD festival under Youth Arise International (YAI) programme. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the local representatives and met our host families . It was an amazing time meeting the local communities and World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims.
The activities included daily adorations, Eucharistic celebrations, praise and worship, catechetical workshops, open-air concert and our group’s mission focusing on street evangelisation as well as performances.
The pre-WYD line-ups gave me an insight and prepared me for the actual event, for instance, meeting new friends from all over the world, sharing of faith and growing spiritually together. Every inspiring message that I received from the Word of God intensified my desire to reach out to more people, hearing the challenges of each other’s life situations and how God played a significant role in our conversion stories.
Through these living testimonies, I learn that the Word of God is not an abstract idea for us; He truly speaks and moves in all dimensions of our lives. I feel blessed to share with you today that it is the same Holy Spirit in you that gives me spiritual understanding in life. God constantly reminds me that we are His chosen people. He calls each of us to be light of the world, just as how He has rescued us from our darkest times.
In the past, I had the misconception that WYD would take a toll on us due to rest deprivation and tight schedules. However, all that changed when we arrived in Poland and were shown extraordinarily great hospitality by our host families. We were blessed with delicious home-cooked meals all through the stay. They made sure we were warm and cozy.
It made me ponder on all that God has bestowed on me – a loving family back home who supported my studies abroad and allowing me to experience different cultures and lifestyle. The story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, left an impression on me during Mass at the YAI. The Gospel spoke about our search for God, how we may think that we have to “climb very high up in life” in order for Him to notice us. Then, Jesus tells us to let go of earthly possessions and luxuries, and “come down” from where we are and walk with Him as we experience the lives of those who are less fortunate.
Despite the physical, mental and spiritual struggles that each of us had to go through, God brought us to a deeper union with one another as we journeyed together in our mission. In some sessions, our team leaders would divide us into smaller groups to practice our clear purposes in this pilgrimage that no one is left behind.
It was a bittersweet moment when the time came to bid our host families farewell. We were very thankful to have them invite us to stay with them again when we visit Poland in the future. The simple gesture assured us that it does not matter how brief our stay with them was, they have already taken us in as part of their family.
July 25-Aug 1: World Youth Day – Krakow
Our next meeting was in Krakow for the pinnacle of the trip – the World Youth Day! We boarded the bus in the morning and left for Krakow from Zory, Katowice, which took one and a half hours. We took a pit stop at one of the local representative’s residence, the Renata Family, to join them for lunch before we set off again for Krakow. They taught us our first Polish song – “Niema Takiego Jak Yesus (There Is No One Like Jesus)”.
Along the way on the bus, we were asked to share what we have gained throughout the YAI programme in Zory. For me, it was a healing process in Zory, to let go of all uncertainties and the feelings that suppressed my confidence in my relationship with God. He has always been there for me along the way, walking with me step by step.
During one of the workshops I attended led by Jude Antoine, the message I got was, “Trust in Me.” This made me question God’s plans for me but at the same time completely trusting in Him that He knows what is best for me.
When we reached Krakow, we met other Malaysian contingents and settled with our respective host families. I was separated from my team members in our accommodation arrangements. The next thing we knew, my team members would not be attending the opening Mass the following day with me, so we were separated for different tasks – again!
They would rehearse for the concert near Blonia Park. As for me, I was chosen by Jude to represent Malaysia to sit with the representatives from other countries in the opening Mass.
The moment I set foot on Blonia Park, my eyes were wide opened. All the imaginations in my mind came vividly alive! Meeting all my brothers and sisters in Christ, we all knew we came from different corners of the world. As I approached the altar, I was mesmerised by the gaze of Jesus Christ on the Divine Mercy image and I never felt so peaceful and relieved as if hearing Him calling me His daughter in His gentle voice and welcoming me home.
All the States’ representatives, including me, were ushered from the back stage to the front. It was one of the most breathtaking scenes that I have ever witnessed: I saw crowds and crowds of pilgrims walking towards their designated zones with their colourful flags blowing in the wind. All my negative feelings disappeared and I remembered what my youth leader Mirina Lim told me: to enjoy every moment that God has given us even when we feel undeserving. So there I was, enjoying every moment – from the drizzling rain to the perfect sunset reflecting on the cross, chalice and relics of saints Pope John Paul II and Faustina Kowalska.
It is not an everyday opportunity to have the chance to experience something so magnificent, to see such a big crowd of pilgrims coming together, let alone seated so up close to the altar celebrating the Eucharist.
My team members and I distributed rosaries and prayer books to our new friends. We also shared our testimonies and personal encounters with God, as well as performing songs, mimes and cultural dance.
I also took the opportunity to pass the messages written by the Sunday School students to the pilgrims that I got acquainted with. He also gave me the vision to make pillow prayers and little bible verse cards as a gift-exchange. The simple messages and gifts amazingly touched the hearts of those whom I met and I am sure that God has spoken to them in one way or another.
Archbishop Julian Leow kept us company on several occasions, which I later found out that it was also the first time in any WYD to have such a prominent spiritual mentor giving us support and guidance. He attended our second performance at Brzesko Town and offered to accompany us to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine, where he also celebrated the Eucharist.
Our leader later asked if the archbishop would celebrate Mass to send us off for our 12KM walk to Campus Misericordia. Not only did he gladly agreed to it, but to our surprise, he even had his backpack and sleeping bag prepared to journey with us in the walk practicing our street evangelisation and spent the night in Campus Misericordia. It may sound easy as though we have made it through our walk by singing worship songs and praying countless decades of rosaries.
Despite the physical and spiritual challenges, we made it to Campus Misericordia to take part in the Vigil Night Prayers and the closing Mass the following day.
On the Syrian refugees’ crisis, our Holy Father Pope Francis had been addressing their plights – have we responded to the cries of our brothers and sisters? It struck my heart deeply. Are we doing our best to help improve such situations, especially at home?
Our last Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Consolation Church. The next day, we left for Prague.
I had a dream on February 29. It was about a blue bird and it was crying. It made me think about the blessings we received which healed our brokenness.
Sometimes it may seem as if the cross that we are carrying is overwhelming us, the problem is not really the cross but how we perceive the situation and ask for God’s strength to overcome all our hardships through the power of the cross. With the WYD 2016 coming to an end, I hold on to this burning desire inside of me that is yearning to seek what God has installed for my future.
Indeed, it was very emotional for us to say our “good byes” but we will always keep in our hearts the times when we journeyed together and passing these memories on to others. Now is the time for each pilgrim to go wherever God is calling us to until we meet again. God bless you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ!
- Yvonne would also like to thank God for the people in her life: “My daddy and mummy, siblings, grandparents, Nenek Aivi Maraat, best friend Aerith Lee, boyfriend Eric, group leaders– Jude Antoine and spouse Veronica Antoine, Mirina Lim, Yvonne Lim and Nova Pillai, group members, host families, and the people whom I have met and made friends with along the way. Last but definitely not least, my St Simon parish priest Fr Cosmas Lee, Archbishops Julian Leow and John Wong, Sisters and Brothers, all lay leaders and also my Sunday School students for their prayers for us throughout our WYD mission trip.”