Traveling to World Youth Day may sound like a once in a lifetime experience, but for Daniela Diaz ’22, this was her second time at the famous event.
WYD is a worldwide encounter with the Pope celebrated every three years in a different country, where Catholic students and young adults gather to deepen their faith and renew their commitment to Christ. Daniela was one of more than two million pilgrims from around the world who traveled to Panama City, Panama in late January to participate in prayer, adoration and sacraments, topped off by a Mass led by Pope Francis.
She said she had an excellent experience at WYD in Krakow, Poland in 2016 (where she celebrated her 16th birthday) and decided then that she would attend the 2019 gathering. Her personal goal this time around?
“My intention when I went to Panama was to learn how to be more humble in my daily life,” she explained. “I want to always be aware of how others are feeling, how what I say and do can affect them, and how God is present in all of us.”
Daniela went with a contingent of 13 from her home parish of Our Lady of Sorrows in Corona, Queens, which held fundraisers to defray their costs.
The English education major said many pilgrims bring small items such as pins, wristbands and rosaries to trade with their new friends from other nations. They also hiked several miles in 90-degree heat to the countryside surrounding Panama City, where they set up campsites, sang praise music, and danced under the starlight.
The young men and women also heard vocational messages from seminarians and nuns, who shared how their choice to follow a religious life is “to be fully open to the unconditional love of God.”
Daniela is already planning to take part in WYD Lisbon, Portugal in 2022.
“I would recommend for anyone to go,” she said, “and to go with an open heart and mind. You can learn to accept that everything in life happens to you for a reason.”