The World Youth Days are, for many young people, an occasion for a deep encounter with Jesus Christ and to change their lives.
PUBLISHED ONJul 2023
ome time ago I heard a fellow priest say: “Ah, this WYD is just a festival. It doesn’t make much of a difference in the lives of young people!” Of course, I did not agree with such a statement. I knew of many stories of young people who had experienced authentic encounters with Jesus Christ. Let me tell you about a recent testimony!
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting in Krakow, Poland, listening to testimonies of the experience of organizing WYD 2016, held in this city in Poland. Among the testimonies, I heard this one that I bring you today from Barbara Chmiel. Here is her incredible testimony.
“I’m Barbara, but here in Poland, they call me Basha. I am 21 years old and live in Krakow. The WYD pilgrimage to Panama in 2019 has changed my life forever. My life before Panama was bad…really! In fact, I attempted suicide. At 17, my life was a hell that I didn’t know how to get out of. I went to bed with several of my friends and soon got tired of sex. At this age, my friends just wanted us to enjoy life. Late nights, drunkenness, and foolishness of all kinds. We even spent a few nights in jail.
“How did all this start? My family was a traditional Christian and Catholic family like many here in Poland. I never stopped going to church on Sunday, but I did it out of tradition and to please my parents. I believe that my parents had left a seed in me that I kept well-guarded. It was there though hidden.
“Although I was not happy with the direction my life had taken, I didn’t know how to change. I felt so unhappy that I fell into a very deep depression. In the midst of this dissatisfaction, I felt that God was very far away from me.
“A year before WYD in Panama in 2019, my parish priest called me to invite me to attend WYD in Panama. I don’t know why he invited me. At the time, I did not belong to the youth group and I was very far from the environments and lifestyle of the young people in the parish.
“It was then that I attempted suicide. After recovering in the hospital, the depression got worse, but I was helped by a psychologist and medication until it was almost time to leave for the WYD in Panama. I thought it would be two weeks away from this empty life I was living. And so maybe I agreed to go somewhere at least for a while. A vacation.
“Little did I know that here would be the beginning of my return to the Father’s house. At that time, the Father of love and mercy made a big celebration because I was lost and found myself. Thanks to WYD I found my place in the church.”
Barbara’s experience in Panama changed her life because there she felt that Christ wanted to embrace her. She felt that she was not judged, that she was not pointed at, and above all, that she was immensely loved in her fragility by God. And this changed her life, she told me.