• Steph Unger

Providence: No coincidences at WYD... reflection by Jacinta Wilson

**This reflection was written by Jacinta Wilson EO - Literacy Learning and Teaching**

World youth day was something I wanted to experience to delve deeper into what my faith meant and to continue to build my journey. One of the biggest aspects of this trip was the notion that we were coming home with something to share with the Archdiocese and BCE. Archbishop Mark Coleridge made it clear, as did Doug Ashleigh when he reminded us there was no free lunch! The hustle of conversation throughout the pilgrims in the beginning proved evident that no one truly knew what it was we wanted to do... and only hoped that it would present itself along the way. 

The festivities of WYD began with a mass on Monday that we shared with other dioceses across Australia and then really ramped up on Tuesday with the Aussie Gathering and Opening Mass. The music, the bustle of people, the hum of excitement and conversation and the standing/jumping on palettes belting out tunes was an incredible feeling that united us quickly as one.

Wednesday began with catechesis and ended with Adoration with the Americans. I haven’t put my finger on what it was on this day, but I came home and felt completely deflated in my faith. What kind of a Catholic was I? What parts have I been missing and why? Why did I really not engage with any of this today? It also drew me to question how I pray and worship and understand the variety of ways. However I still felt underwhelmed by the lack of energy and buzz that WYD had kicked off with.

Thursday started slow. I didn’t want to go to catechesis because I didn’t connect with the messages and stories that were being shared. I hadn’t connected on Wednesday and to be honest, I just wished that I was going home because I didn’t know how I would survive the next 3 days if it was the same. In my style, I talked things through - and had some great conversations with the group leaders who questioned me further into different aspects of reflection.

The daily catechesis for English speakers was in a less than desirable location. We were blessed with a direct bus route close to our hotel and were often there early enough to scavenge some cardboard sheets to save our behinds from the dusty, gravel bowl we gathered in. The other saving grace was Unido, the cute coffee shop across the road with an incredibly lavish and vanilla smelling rest room!

On this day, the day I was lacking my usual spark and oomph, I popped across to get an iced latte with some of the girls. On leaving the shop, a guy signaled me over, asked where I was from and if I would Skype with his Grade 1/2 class back in Indiana. The girls and I answered questions about school back home in Australia and different things the students were asking.

As I walked away, it hit me. This was my answer to the ‘free lunch.’ In my early application, I had expressed that meeting people of faith across the world and making connections would allow us to use technology and build deeper real world context and understanding for our students. Here I was, standing in Panama, having my application played out in real life in front of me. They didn’t know I was a teacher nor that I had said these things to win myself a spot on this trip... I exchanged details with this teacher, who also happens to be the Elementary school Tech teacher.

Father Stanley had led us in a mass a few days prior to WYD, in a bush hut, where the homily spoke of Providence - the presence and grace of God.  Deacon Adrian (Broken Bay) has also reminded us that ‘there are no coincidences at WYD.’ In my moment of disengagement, questioning and doubt, I felt enlightened that my journey was in fact ok. It was a gentle reminder from above that what I was looking for may have been different but I was exactly where I was supposed to be!

Upon the closing of WYD I bring myself back to reflect on the week and the challenges, excitements and resignations I have encountered along the way. It’s interesting to consider Pope Francis’ words in that we can’t change the charge to be more ‘cool’ or ‘fancy’ to draw people in, but truly only through our continued actions and walking in faith.  Similarly, he noted that a disciple merely does not arrive in a location, but they take risks along their journey to the place. Perhaps I arrived and expected a ‘cool’ Catholic atmosphere that would be WYD and truly am just at the beginning of another adventure in faith as I take risks, keep walking and dare to say yes.

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