Dozens of teen girls in Paraguay had planned to celebrate their 15th birthday – or Quinceañera – at Florida’s Disney World.
But the students at the Almenas de Asunción school ultimately called the trip off and decided to visit Rome so that they could attend the Jubilee of Adolescents with Pope Francis.
Quinceañera is a commemoration of the transition from childhood to adulthood, when Latin American girls reach 15 years of age. In Paraguay, many families give their daughters a special trip at this age, and these teens dreamed of visiting the amusement park.
However, one of the school’s teachers read on Aci Prensa about the celebration of the Jubilee of Adolescents in Rome held last month as part of the Year of Mercy.
“We saw the opportunity to change the idea for the trip from Disney and we wanted to give them the opportunity to experience a quinceañera trip in a different way to give them a new vision of themselves and their families,” said Ruth Cardozo.
“We thought that participating in an event with the Pope Francis and young people from all over the world would be very formative and recreative.”
The 35 students were thrilled with the idea from the very beginning.
“A lot of them told their moms that it was better to take a picture in Rome with the Vatican in the background than with the Disney castle,” the teacher said.
The student’s parents agreed with the proposal. Some of the students were volunteers during Pope Francis’ trip to Paraguay in July last year and wanted to see the pope one more time.
“The girls were delighted and motivated” to be able to attend the Jubilee of Adolescents with the pontiff.
The Jubilee of Adolescents was held in Rome this past April 23-25. More than 60,000 young people took part by going to confession, participating in pilgrimages, and a Mass presided by Pope Francis.
Judith Jaquet is one of the quinceañeras who had the opportunity to participate with Pope Francis in the encounter with young people in la Costerna riverside park area during his apostolic visit to Paraguay and who went to Rome.
Thanks to this experience, Judith said that she grew “a lot spiritually. We were blessed by being closer to Jesus and God. I also liked touring the Vatican to meet the pope and having a Mass with him.”
She was also able to walk through the Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Basilica, one of the most emotional moments of the trip. “You’re preparing spiritually and you’re asking God to give you the plenary indulgence. You feel free, it’s like starting all over,” she commented.
For Sofia Mendoza one of the most powerful moments was when Pope Francis said in his homily that happiness “is not an app you download on your cell phone.”
This was the first time she saw Pope Francis and for her “it was beautiful, I felt an amazing peace.”