World Youth Day Wrap-Up

Annie and Fr. Emiel, O. Carm

As I sit in the Madrid airport and wait for my flight to America, I can’t help but to reflect on this week. It feels like a dream that I have yet to wake up from. I experienced things I never would have imagined and accomplished numerous feats that pushed me way out of my comfort zone.

There are a few young pilgrims waiting to board in front of me, which instantly reminds me of the New Jersey Carmelite United group I met my first day here. From their trek on the Camino with Joe to experiencing every aspect World Youth Day had to offer, though I only met them for a short while, they inspired me more than they know. Many were headed off to college and reminded me of my life back then. At that time, I know I was not as brave as they are to travel to another country and explore their faith.

Annie’s favorite nun, Sr. Carmen,
Religious of Immaculate Mary

In high school I was fearful of the future. Where will I go to college? What will I do when I grow up? Who am I going to marry? I wish the uncertainty and questioning ended there, but I don’t think it ever stops, which is a good thing. You should never settle for comfortable. That’s something I experienced fully at World Youth Day.

You may not sense it in the videos, but I was incredibly camera shy at the start of the trip. As a kid I aspired to be Katie Couric, but this week I learned that being the face in front of the camera is not easy.

Worth the struggle

Joe threw me out of my comfort zone when asking personal questions on camera right before confession. I was so frustrated with him for this because confession is a quiet time for reflection and having not been in 10 years, so many thoughts were going through my head. After I watched the video and received many heartfelt comments, I knew this struggle was worth it.

I first decided to become a journalist because I wanted my articles to give readers an escape from their everyday struggles, even if it was just for a moment; I can only hope that my spiritual exploration in Madrid accomplished this.

While talking with Joe our last day in Madrid together, I had an epiphany:

If I never moved to Brooklyn with Monica and Farrah and started writing Girls Meet God, I wouldn’t be in Spain covering World Youth Day. If I hadn’t attended Rutgers University and joined the daily newspaper, I would have never met Monica.

Annie and musician Mike Mangione

While I’m the first to worry about the future, when looking back on my past everything worked out even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Exploring my faith

I explored my faith so much during World Youth Day. Having always been slightly fearful of nuns and priests, I spoke with many and learned that they’re regular people just like me. Who knew? I don’t know why I had all these preconceived notions of what nuns and priests would be like. After chatting with Sister Carmen and Father Emiel, I felt at ease and wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith and continue these discussions in my everyday life.

The Carmelite United Pilgrims from New Jersey

While World Youth Day was definitely a time for spiritual learning and reflection, it also was fun. I interviewed musician Mike Mangione and while I have talked with many artists in the past, we rarely talk about our faith and searching. My chat with Mangione was refreshing and made me more certain that music journalism is my path for now. But, with the first person articles I have written and with my experience on-camera throughout this trip, I am opening up to other opportunities I never thought of.

I’m not quite sure where my life will lead me but this week has given me more appreciation for the unexpected as well as a chance to re-evaluate where I am with my faith. While I can’t promise I’ll be headed to Mass every Sunday or make it to confession once a month, I do plan on praying every day. As my flight takes off, bound for America, and I stare at the beautiful landscape of Spain below, now is a good time to start.