Young Catholic Pilgrims Journey to See Pope Francis

Originally Published on the Missionary Oblates JPIC Blogspot.com

When Pope Francis addressed an estimated 50,000 in the city of Morelia in Mexico recently, present in the crowd were young parishioners from St. Eugene de Mazenod in Tijuana, Mexico. But according to Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI, youth minister and group chaperone, mental preparation for this once in a lifetime event started way before leaving Tijuana. Before beginning the trip Fr. Jesse gathered the group on several occasions to study Pope Francis’ writings and encyclicals. He also spoke to them about potential hardships during the trip: flying from Tijuana then driving two and a half hours by car to Morelia; being outdoors in the hot sun; limited access to food and water; and waiting in long lines for restrooms. He reminded the young men that they were ‘pilgrims not tourists’ and a certain degree of sacrifice was necessary for their experience to be successful. When they returned they would be expected to share their experience with others in their home and church community.

(L- R): Miguel Munoz, Alan Walle-(on one knee), Pedro Verdugo, Fr. Jesse, Luis Herrera, Luis Alberto Zepeda

(L- R): Miguel Munoz, Alan Walle-(on one knee), Pedro Verdugo, Fr. Jesse, Luis Herrera, Luis Alberto Zepeda

The Oblate Mission in Tijuana, Mexico is a large parish consisting of fifteen communities: one church and 14 chapels. About 200 young people participate in youth ministry, not counting children in the Confirmation program.

The five young men selected for the trip range in age from 18 years to their early 20’s. They are either in college or about to attend college. Two are studying to become engineers. All are discerning a vocation with the Church.

Excitement grew as departure day approached. A day before the event they first traveled by air then drove two and a half hours to the city of Morelia. They spent their free time exploring the city, interacting with other young travelers and praying. One of the young men brought his guitar and played to small crowds. Being in a city renowned for gangs, drug violence, kidnappings and poverty, the young men suddenly realized that while Tijuana was similar to Morelia in many ways, in other ways Morelia’s youth maybe had it even worse.

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