In Swaziland the King changes people’s names. Thoba was the name given at birth to a young man who today is 28. The King changed his name to Swatini. Together with another six youths he traveled from his country to reach Panama for World Youth Day.
When World Youth Day was held in Poland three years ago, 18 persons from Swaziland were present. This year in Panama they were reduced to seven. Because “Panama is too far” and it costs a lot of money to make such a trip. Those who are lucky to attend such events should thank God for that”.
“In my parish, they are waiting for me”, says Thoba. They want to hear everything that has been happening here in Panama. “This World Youth Day teaches us unity”, he explains, and he wants his parish and whole diocese to be a part of that, too.
He says he has learnt a lot, studiously taking notes during the sessions of catechesis. But he was struck most by what Pope Francis said about what the people in the Church are doing for young people: how they can help our youth grow spiritually.
Thoba explains why these words of the Pope stood out to him. “Some of our parents, at home, don’t support the youth”, he says. “So”, he continues, “I will tell them: ‘the Pope is saying you have to support the youth in order for them to grow spiritually.’”
A Bishop from Australia, who presented one of the cathechesis, “taught us that we must follow our callings”, he adds. This is what Thoba wants to help others understand. Because, “the majority of young people, especially in my country”, he says, “run away from priesthood”, from becoming nuns: “they have to listen to what God is saying to us”.
Thoba describes his own calling: to help other young people follow their vocation and grow spiritually, and “to be a leader to them”. He is already a leader in his parish at home. When the young people from his parish look at him, he says, they see someone who is “a brother to them”, a role model.
So, even if no one else wants to support young people, Thoba, encouraged by the words of Pope Francis, says he will.