Before vigil, pilgrims anxious to pray with Pope FrancisJanuary 26, 2019
‘You are ready for something greater’, pope tells young people at vigilJanuary 26, 2019
Sister Angela Wagner, a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ sister of Amarillo, Texas in the United States, was no stranger to Panama.
Having served in Panama three years prior to becoming a religious sister, she felt close with a city she had fallen in love with, working with underprivileged children at a youth center.
Waiting in St. John Paul II Field for the arrival of Pope Francis for the vigil Jan. 26, she said World Youth Day has greatly inspired her.
"I come because it energizes me to see so many young people so on fire for their faith," she said.
Even though it is tiring, the waits can be hours long and the crowds seem to never thin, Sister Angela was still motivated to follow her religious order's charism to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ, especially to young people.
"God loves each and everyone of them as they are, they do not have to be someone else," she said. "God loves them just as they are, and that they can have a relationship with him. That's the message we're spreading with the youth."
During World Youth Day, she had several encounters with young people.
Waiting in a line, a young woman started talking to her and shared a deep painful secret about her struggles with self-harm in her life within five minutes of meeting the sister for the first time. The catechesis the young girl had heard was extremely powerful for her, and she needed someone to talk with and help walk her through understanding the struggles and how to handle them.
Another moment came when Sister Angela wanted to trade the large U.S. flag for a young girl’s small Panamanian flag.
"She doubted that I would actually give my big flag," Sister Angela said. "Her eyes said caution as she slowly handed the Panamanian flag."
But when Sister Angela exchanged the flag, the young Panamanian girl leaped for joy, waving her new flag in the air. Caution, exchanged for hope.
In his message to consecrated men and women religious, Pope Francis challenged them to remember the moment they first saw the gaze of Christ and heard his call.
She smiled when she stopped to remember that moment.
"When I realized that the King of the Universe was asking me to be his bride, how could I say no?" she said. "It still is, even after almost thirty years, it still is a great honor. If I really think about it, God knew from the beginning of time that he wanted me to be his bride. I just want to be as faithful as I can be. I became a sister in gratitude to Him, for showing me the correct way to go in all the ways of the world and also because I wanted to tell others about it, young and old, about how He changed my life."
And WYD is perfect for that, she said, as she feels called to help young people make their journey to life.
"The beautiful thing about wearing the habit is that everywhere we go, people recognize us and know we represent God. It's a beautiful way to give example to the young people of the beauty of the consecrated life and to use that opportunity to evangelize for the Lord," she said. "We are recognized by everyone, especially at WYD. We're magnets."
Seeing young people proud of their country and happy to be Catholic and be with other young people inspired Sister Angela.
Still, she knows the struggle of humanity is real for everyone. Being a sister can be a difficult journey, she said.
"We're all human. Living in community, we deal with life's daily difficulties," she said. "When you enter the convent, you still have all the same problems before. But each and every one of us have gifts, and we must learn how to work together with our gifts. We are not a community of saints, but we are hopefully saints in the making."
We want to grow in patience and kindness and Christian charity, she said.
"That's what it's about, we want to grow in love."
While she's sad about leaving Panama, a country dear to her, she looks forward to sharing her WYD journey with those back home in Texas.