Teen tells of his pilgrimage experience

Keanan in Panama on World Youth Day in January this year.

The 16th World Youth Day was held in Panama earlier this year; the first that was held in Central America. 

World Youth Day is a spiritual fellowship encounter organised by the Catholic Church, where young people get to see the Pope. 
It is celebrated every three years in a different country. Keanan August, 18, from St Timothy’s Catholic Church in Tafelsig, a member of the church youth group, Epic, was accompanied by youth
leader Denzel Swarts, who runs the non-profit organisation, Son of the Soil Leadership Foundation.
He tells us of his experience:

I got to meet new people from all around the world. I was on the fence about the faith, after I matriculated from high
school.

I went to World Youth Day because I saw it as an opportunity to go to Europe too.

Meeting all these joyful, spiritual people from around the world made me realise we are united through baptism.

I went to World Youth Day with my own hopes and expectations and I reached it.

I returned home from World Youth Day with a newfound courage, boldness and confidence to share the Gospel with others. Before I reached Tafelsig, I visited KwaZulu-Natal for a period of two weeks where I shared my experience with the youth from rural communities.

Looking back at it, I can honestly say that I had an amazing experience.

Gathering with many young people from around the world gave me hope. I felt inspired by Pope Francis’ words. I made some new friends, had some moving experiences, and created great memories.

Experiencing the presence of God, participating in the masses and prayer services – it’s a hope that you feel, the fact that we are able to come together from every country and be proud of who we are together, was amazing.

Coming back to South Africa, I was excited to see my family and friends and tell them about my pilgrimage.

Nearly a month after World Youth Day, it’s back to work, back to routine, and back to real life.

However, there is no reason why what I experienced at World Youth Day has to be limited to that two weeks in Panama. It’s up to me to make sure that I bring World Youth Day into my work, my routine, and my real life.

As youth, we need to have faith and power within ourselves. We need to take initiative. We are in charge of the future generations.

Pope Francis said at the closing mass of World Youth Day: “Dear young people, you are not the future but the now.”

Just because we are young doesn’t mean we are incapable of creating change and improvements in our parishes.

I am looking forward to attending the next World Youth Day in Portugal 2022 with a group from Cape Town through the leadership of Son of the Soil Leadership Foundation.

I got to experience more than just travelling.