Teen who walked across continent still hopes to meet Pope in Rio
Facundo Antonio Sebastian Tolaba walked across South America to attend World Youth Day. Credit: Estefania Aguirre / CNA.
Facundo Antonio Sebastian Tolaba walked across South America to attend World Youth Day. Credit: Estefania Aguirre / CNA.
By Estefania Aguirre
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.- A teen who crossed South America in hopes of meeting Pope Francis walked by foot because he had no money – and now he wants to return by foot “to thank those who helped him.”

“I met poor people that offer you everything and rich people that don’t offer you anything,” Facundo Antonio Sebastian Tolaba said. “Since they helped me, I want to help them now.”

“I want to return and tell the people I’ve met, ‘look, I’m back and I’ve brought you something’,” he told CNA July 27.

He also hopes to continue “infecting people” with Jesus and, as Pope Francis advises, to make a mess of things.

“He said go to your parish and make a mess and I really liked that sentence,” said Facundo, who still has not been able to meet the pontiff.

“If a priest doesn’t let you do something, do it, if you want to create a group in the Church, do it, if you want to go and be missionaries, do it.”

The 19-year-old came to Rio de Janeiro hoping to meet the Pope, crossing 1,829 miles by foot because he had no money for transport.

He left his home in Jujuy, Argentina on July 1 and arrived in Rio on July 18 – an experience he says gave him “peace by going through different cultures, towns, cities and seminaries.”

With only $20 when he arrived at the border with Brazil, he went hungry and felt scared. However, he learned that while “money just gives you security, Jesus gives you trust and hope.”

“I’ve already learned everything I need to learn, but I want to keep infecting people,” said Facundo.

He noted World Youth Day has taught him that “people are different everywhere and that Brazilians are very happy people.”

“I think that this week is helping a lot of young people, like what happened to a girl that I met,” said the teenager.

He told how he met a girl that was on her way to Rio de Janeiro at the Argentinian town of Itatí, in the province of Corrientes.

“She didn’t want to go to World Youth Day, she just wanted to enjoy the beaches and have fun, nothing to do with the Church,” said Facundo.

“Just yesterday I saw her again with all the people of Itatí and I saw her crying and so I asked her what was wrong,” he added.

He said she answered him, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I just saw the Pope and I began crying.”

“So I told her ‘see, I told you that you weren’t coming here to have fun’,” told Facundo.

“She told me ‘yes, I told you I was coming for fun but I don’t know what’s wrong, I’m crying’ and I replied ‘that is Jesus that is going inside of you, enjoy’,” he remarked.

The Argentinian said he heard the voice of Jesus telling him to come to Rio de Janeiro.

That was during the time that demonstrations across Brazil were taking place against the government and the province of Corrientes was flooded with water.

“Sometimes we let ourselves go to what people tell us and they would tell me that Rio de Janeiro is very dangerous,” Facundo stated.

“I closed my eyes to not see what was happening, I closed my ears to not hear what people would tell me and I opened my heart to hear Jesus,” he added.

According to the Argentinian, he felt Jesus tell him “Go to Rio de Janeiro, stop wasting time, you will make it, I trust in you.”

“People don’t listen to the voice of Jesus out of fear and because they think that the Church is for dumb people,” said Facundo.

He has two brothers, one aged 20, who was born with a twin sister that died during birth, and one aged 11.

During World Youth Day, Facundo is staying with the Angelic Sisters at Sao Paolo School in Rio de Janeiro.

The boy says that many people staying there have offered to help him return home after the event, but he insists returning on foot once he reaches Iguazú, the border with Argentina.

He hopes to study veterinary and said smiling “if I reached Rio de Janeiro, why can’t I study? God will provide.”

He also hopes to start a group in his home-town that combines prayer with action, based on the “Good Samaritan” group he met in Corrientes.

Facundo explained that to listen to Jesus, all young people have to do is go to a calm place and ask him what he wants of them.

“Maybe he doesn’t respond you there, but he will later on and you just have to let yourself go,” he advised.

He hopes that Pope Francis “will continue being strict with priests and cardinals that live the good life so that they go to the streets and aren’t scaredy-cats.”

He also hopes that the next World Youth Day takes place in Africa so that “even the poor can participate.”

Tags: World Youth Day

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