“Life’s all about learning from new experiences,” says Gerard Lai, third-year seminarian at Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo, who grew up in Logan, and was among those pilgrims making the trek to WYD Panama 2019. He spoke to Mark Bowling.
Was this your first experience with WYD?
My first WYD was Poland 2016 and I went with the St Vincent de Paul Society, Brisbane. It was at that World Youth Day that I said my final “yes” to the priesthood. I had been discerning for two years before that.
How has the experience of WYD Panama 2019 been for you? (Asking the question after a two-hour walk in hot sun and tropical humidity and amid thick crowds leaving the John Paul II field – the site of WYD)
I loved it. I am usually a positive person, and mothering really gets me down most of the time. And I love being active. I love running. So I could do that twice, or even three times.
My favourite part was the Adoration (conducted after a Saturday-night prayer vigil with Pope Francis). I really loved the monstrance. It was in the shape of Mother Mary and in front of her stomach was the circular part where you put the Eucharist and it was shining with bright rays. And I thought it was very beautiful – Mary as the Christ bearer.
What did you hear from Pope Francis?
He said early on that if we were not grounded we would take just anything near us that would help us get away from reality or grasp for meaning. Even if it is something worldly like sex or drugs. And I resonated about that, and we really need rm foundations and we need love, hope and service and we need God. That’s the foundation we need.
Do you sense there’s a new direction for the Church happening?
Yes. I look forward to what is ahead, but I definitely can see what the Church is saying, and we definitely have to listen to what the Spirit is saying and what is God saying that we need to do for the Church?
Would you recommend WYD to the youth in Brisbane? The next WYD will be in Portugal in 2022.
Definitely. I totally recommend it. It’s a life-changing experience. You make lots of friends and you get to see the pope. You get to find out about yourself and sleep under the stars with “millions” of other people. That’s always fun.
What about your pilgrimage experience this time travelling the past few days with the Neocatechumenal communities of Australia?
Oh, yes, they are a good bunch. Always charismatic, always fun playing music. And to walk 10km with them because they have 10 guitars and tambourines.