World Youth Day a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage for local church group

Teens and leaders from St. Timothy's Catholic Church recently took a trip they will never forget.

They traveled to Panama to see Pope Francis for World Youth Day. 

Youth minister Justin Lantz said the group hung onto every word in the Pope's call to action for teens to serve.

"It was really incredible to see 500,000 people gathered in one place but there for a common purpose of prayer and unity for the Catholic Church," Lantz said.

The event brings together young Catholics from all over the world.  

"Colombia, Brazil, Canada, everywhere. It was surreal being with people that truly love God, love their faith and love being Catholic," said 17-year-old Josef Stooks.

Emily Gifford, 16, said the event brought strangers together as one big community. 

"I've never been surrounded by so many Catholics like at one single place, and just to see that truly made us feel like one," she said.

Volunteer leader Adrian Opinion said the day was a moving experience for the teens.

"In that experience, I just get to see them have that joy in their faces and to have them really think of this as a service rather than as a task," Opinion said.

The teens said the day created bonds out of a common faith. 

"People can come together no matter what you look like [or] who you are and believe in the same thing and just to love one another," said 16-year-old Becca Turner.

The group hopes to go back for the next World Youth Day, which will be held in Portugal in 2022.