Fr. Bafana, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate from South Africa, participated in the World Youth Day activities in Lisbon with young people from his parish. This was his first World Youth Day experience. He shares with us how this Experience quenched his spiritual thirst.

“Lord, it is good for us to be here!” (Mt 17:4).

“Indeed, how good it has been to share this experience with Jesus, with one another, and to pray together with joyful hearts,” said Pope Francis. World Youth Day is one of the most incredible experiences I have experienced so far in my faith journey. It was my first WYD.  I was amazed to see thousands, mostly young people, coming to see the Holy Father and meet other young people from all over the world. The experience was filled with love, joy, mutual faith experience, and unity; indeed, the church is one foundation, and Jesus Christ is her Lord. It satisfied a spiritual quench that brought God into our daily lives. Meeting the Holy Father brings hope for answers to our daily struggles, crossroads of life, and faith, as life is troubled by a thirst for answers to our daily struggles.

My faith was shaken to its core

In the Pope, I saw the ancient church that continues to be alive.  He is the link between us and the Apostles, from whom Jesus chose a leader to build the church. The Pope is the same person who sits in that leader’s chair as Jesus’ successor. It felt like my faith was shaken to its core. I was lucky to be so close to him on the barricades when the Popemobile passed by me. I was recording the event, but I was so caught up in watching him that my phone missed some parts.

“Todos, todos, todos!”

It was even more faith-enriching to have concelebrated at the Mass presided by him. My Mass intention at the final mass, of course, was for the people of God that I serve in North Riding, Johannesburg (Populo Dei). These people made it possible for me and other young people from my parish to have this wonderful experience. In his speech on Wednesday at the welcoming ceremony, the Pope urged young people to integrate with the Church through their youthful life experiences. He expects the Church to be welcoming and understanding to the youth. He said that the Church is for everyone: “todos, todos, todos!” He then asked everyone to repeat after him. In a nutshell, the young ought to live their youthfulness and express it freely, but guided by the values of the Gospel.

One must visit Portugal and experience Fatima

We also visited Fatima, the Holy place where the three kids, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, had an experience with Our Lady who appeared to them. Though this was short-lived with the group, I had an opportunity to go back and stay for a weekend. It was the weekend dedicated to praying for immigrants. Visiting their houses was a spiritual uplifting experience. One must visit Portugal and experience Fatima. Indeed, one senses holiness as they set foot on those grounds.

Spiritually fulfilling experiences

The next youth gathering will be two-fold: 1)  Rome for the World Youth Day Jubilee celebration in 2025 and 2) Seoul, South Korea, for World Youth Day 2027. I highly advise anyone to take part in this wonderful faith-enriching experience. It involves a lot of walking and partaking in many activities which we walk miles to, but joyfully say that this is very spiritually fulfilling.

Frs. Chicho, Zukisani, Bafana, Abel and Vusi at Campo da Graça, Lisbon

May God continue to inspire faith in the young to protect the future of the Church and its teachings. May he call within them those who will lead his people in different ministries but mainly in a holy way of life that expresses the richness and depth of his love for us.

Fr. Bafana is a Parish Priest of St. John’s North Riding, Johannesburg-South Africa.