World Youth Day Experience At Cologne

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Guten Tag in German, means Good Day.

Doha, Sept 6: “WE HAVE COME TO WORSHIP HIM” – was the theme for the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany 2005.  Prior to our departure, our Parish had adequately prepared us for two weeks with inspiring spiritual talks. The three Magi who had followed the guiding Star to worship Baby Jesus, kindled the spark in us to make this pilgrimage and share our faith with people from different cultures and countries with one Motto; Worship Christ.

After attending mass on August 9, 2005 at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Doha, and the long journey by plane and train, we reached Limburg where we were split in 2 groups. For the first five days, we were put up in twos, with religious homely, loving, Roman Catholics, in a serene, beautiful town near Limburg .I am sure all the youth will never forget our host parents, the comfort and warmth they gave us not only in their homes but also in their hearts. What touched us most was that people of a totally different place and culture welcomed us with open arms. We have to thank our parish priest who had advised us too on the souvenirs representing our country. They really appreciated the small gifts we gave.

During these 5 days in Limburg we were accompanied by the youth of Poland and Canada where we all mingled for various social work like garbage cleaning, preparing muffins, building a play house, presentations and parties. During these days of encounter there was also spiritual togetherness of people of different nationalities and culture but one faith in Christ which bound us all together.

On August 15 the feast of Assumption of Our Lady we left these small towns, to continue our pilgrimage, in Cologne. Here we met youth of many different countries. This was a truly memorable experience to be able to communicate with people of different countries, despite the various barriers of language, color, culture. The youth were friendly and mingled with each other without any discrimination; we also exchanged souvenirs of Qatar with those of other countries.

Finally, the big day, which we were eagerly waiting for –  on 20th  the Pope journeyed by boat , where he preached like Jesus on the boat  from the River Rhine to the Cathedral of Cologne, due to travel constraints we waited at the Cathedral rather than near the river.

We saw the Pope at the Cathedral at Cologne. Words cannot express our joy and feelings, to see the head of our Roman Catholic Church with our own eyes.

The final relay of our pilgrimage was the night vigil with lit candles in our hands, this not only gave us spiritual light but we warmed ourselves also in the small heat of the candles. On the concluding mass with the Pope on the following day, the theme was taken from Bible, Mathew Chapter 2:12 “THEY DEPARTED FOR THEIR COUNTRY BY ANOTHER WAY”. This was in reference to the three kings who came to visit Jesus and worship him and then departed in three different directions, this seemed to apply very well with us and left a lasting message as our parish had already sown the seed in us before we left Qatar. It was a message for 1 million pilgrims who would be departing in various directions in the universe. So the Pope in his homily, said, though this trip is ending,  we are only beginning our journey to live our faith with more sincerity and without fear. Another important message of the pope was that there should be unity among people of different religions in the world and this would be one step towards justice and peace in the world. We also recollected the message left behind by Pope John Paul II for this world youth day i.e. just like the magi followed the star we as Christians should follow the cross which has become a sign of our salvation and is the sign of light.

We had to face a few uncomfortable situations during our stay in Cologne which was understandable with over 1 million people at the same place. We had to sleep in a big hall and to experience delayed food, cold weather and poor sanitation. During the week we had difficulties reaching our venues. We had to walk for hours and were still unable to attend the venues in time.  The situation was even worse when we had to spend one night in the pilgrim field prior to the night vigil and the concluding papal mass. The weather was chilly and not favorable, the ground was rough and mucky and the sanitation was poor. These unpleasant circumstances taught us to share and care for the others in the group. The things we learnt here are what no books or universities will teach us i.e. to face life practically and be tough, to thank god for the daily comfort we have and to think of the poor in the world. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our parish priest Fr Lester, for organizing this trip and making it possible for the youth of our parish. We would also like to thank our parents who went that extra mile to send us on this pilgrimage, our coordinators, Fr Tom, Fr Selvaraj, Severin, Nerry and Jovy, for accompanying us, taking care of us and guiding us on our trip. Most importantly we want to thank God for giving us the spiritual strength when we were physically tired, keeping all of us healthy, safe, and protecting us and bringing us safely back home. This trip will always be the most touching, unforgettable, cherished moments in our lives. Most of us have already decided to travel to the next World Youth Trip which is to be held in Sydney.

This is not the end of the World Youth Day, but the beginning for the Christian youth of the world to spread the Good News of the Lord.

Dankeschon. (Thank you in German).

Author: Pooja and Priya DSouza

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