NORTH SALT LAKE — The Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Office of Young and Young Adult Ministry hosted an October Bash on Oct. 26 in which attendees danced, participated in a costume contest, and supported the Utah youth delegation that will be attending World Youth Day in Panama in January.
Among the attendees was Liliana Rangel from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, who is one of the 15 young people who comprise the diocese’s WYD delegation.
Rangel heard about WYD from a friend. After learning about the event, which has been taking place every two or three years since 1985, “I thought, ‘Wow! This is going to be a lifetime experience, so yeah, I am down,’” she said.
Celebrating with thousands of Catholic youth from all over the world and getting to be in the presence of Pope Francis and thousands of Catholic priests is like a dream, she said.
“I think it hasn’t hit me yet; I think right now I am focusing on getting everything ready to go and I think once everything is set it will really hit me,” she said.
WYD will take place Jan. 22-27; it is intended for people ages 15-35, though everyone is welcome.
Pope John Paul II started World Youth Day in 1985. “I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people,” he said in Toronto in 2002, the last WYD at which he was present. “This evening, together with you, I praise God and give thanks to him for the gift bestowed on the Church through the World Youth Days. Millions of young people have taken part, and as a result have become better and more committed Christian witnesses.”
Darlene Garay, another of the Utah WYD delegation, decided to do the pilgrimage after being encouraged by her parish’s youth coordinator.
Like Rangel, the thought of getting to meet and be with thousands of Catholic youth and in the presence of Pope Francis was mind blowing, Garay said.
“That’s what kind of motivated me; it’s like being in a big retreat but this one especially for youth,” she said.
Being a Catholic youth in Utah has been challenging but at the same time very rewarding, she said.
“I love being Catholic. … People have approached me and talked to me about other religions, but I am Catholic; my faith is who I am,” said Garay who attends Mass every weekend, rain or shine. “Nowadays especially, my generation doesn’t believe in anything. … With all the social media it is easy to get lost, but thanks to my faith I have been able to see all the good and all the negative,” she said, asking other youth to “believe in God. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.”
She expects that WYD will help her grow in her faith.
“Personally, I think it’s going to be a great experience. I think I really need it, especially because of the generation I belong to,” she said.
“I never thought I would be part of something that is really going to be significant in your life,” said Victoria Palestino, another member of the Utah WYD delegation.
To collect funds to make the pilgrimage possible, the Utah WYD delegation has been doing events as well as food sales.
“WYD is a moment of grace where the youth can be renewed, cheered and strengthened, giving the joy and hope to the Universal Church,” said Junuee Castro, director of the diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry. She added that she is sure World Youth Day will be a time of renewal, prayer, reflection, community, and the celebration of faith.