The event was extremely especial, and it involved a significant amount of young people from different backgrounds and cultures. Youngsters from different parts of Finland were together in an environment that helped them to share their faith with new friends of similar age, talk about their experiences as Catholics in Finland, clear some of their doubts about the Church, and the most important reestablish their relationship with God or strengthen it. I am extremely thankful to God and all the people involved in this festival, since I never saw a Catholic event in Finland that would gather young people from all over the country. Moreover, this event was specially designed for youngsters, making the spiritual life easy for them.
Therefore, this experience also helped me to realize the importance of events like the youth festival, and the need to carry out them regularly. Fortunately, after the youth festival in Stella Maris many of the participants manifested their desire to continue with regular youth meetings. Consequently, a group conformed by people from different cities of Finland under the guidance and supervision of father Gianni organized what we call nowadays “One Body in Christ Youth Weekends”. Thanks to the quick support of our bishop and the faithful people in our dioceses, these regular youth meetings started right after the WYD and helped to keep the holy atmosphere that brought my friends back to God during the WYD.
In my opinion this is a fundamental role of the Church as a mother of all young Catholics (and when I talked about the Church I refer to lay people too). She must nurture her sons and daughters that are close to her, but also those who are lost in the world. As the body of Christ, we should facilitate the contact of the sheeps with the Good Shepherd, so those who are lost can come back as the prodigal son. To me this is exactly what happened in Finland during 2016. The Holy Spirit and our Lady helped us to realize the need of having a well-organized program for young people where they could easily meet God, strengthen their faith, and know more about the teachings of the Catholic Church. The vision of Saint John Paul II when he founded the WYD was very similar but in a much bigger scale, and we all know the good fruits of this inspiration for the whole Church.
Finally, I have to say that all of the improvements with the youth in Finland during 2016 would not have happened within one year without the presence of Father Gianni at Stella Maris. He has been a key factor in the work with young people, and he has organized the structure of the teachings during our monthly meetings. Additionally, F. Gianni has been a missionary in different parts of the world, and one can easily notice that in his personality. For example, he is very easy to approach, and he can understand people from different backgrounds without any problem. Families from around the diocese have found in him guidance and advice, and young people have visited the community in Stella Maris outside the youth weekends just to spend some time in silence and prayer. Taking all this together, it has been amazing to see how the Holy Spirit has worked in different ways to reach young people in Finland during 2016, and I just continue praying every day for this inspiration to reach it fullness and bear fruit for the Glory of God.