(VATICAN CITY) — A young man from American Samoa is on a spiritual high after meeting Pope Francis on Palm Sunday, World Youth Day, and being chosen to present him with a special document in Vatican City.
More than 300 youth leaders from around the world, representing various religions and cultures, met in Vatican City March 19-24 for a prelude to the 2018 Synod of Bishops scheduled for October.
Speaking to tautalatala from Honolulu, enroute home to American Samoa, Paul Collins said he was rendered "speechless" when, from several hundred youth, he was selected to welcome the Pope. Following the meeting, he placed the special document in the hands of Pope Francis during Palm Sunday Mass.
"I was selected to welcome him in the opening pre-synod meeting and I was just speechless," said Collins, a 2015 graduate of Faasao Marist High School. "I didn’t know I was going to welcome him to the pre-synod meeting."
Pope Francis called for a Synod of Bishops to take place in October of 2018 on the topic of "Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment."
Collins, a Youth Development Professional for The Boys and Girls Club of American Samoa, joined other youth at the pre-synod to create a document that will assist the Catholic Church as they strive to engage youth in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Collins spent nine days in Europe, representing the Pacific Islands and Oceania at the pre-synod.
"Basically everyone worked together on the document and when they wanted to present to the Pope, they looked at me up and down, in my Samoan wear (ie faitaga and ofu tino trimmed with elei) and then they asked me if I could present the final document to the Pope," Collins said.
The 16-page document bears the title of the October synod for which it was created: “Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
Collins urges Samoan youth to "take risks with courage and start to use your voice."
"Always speak in three languages: First the language from the mind, second the language from the heart, and last the language of action," he said.
Collins is an athlete and plays on American Samoa's national soccer and basketball teams.
He is from Ili'ili, very active in his Church and serves as President of the Sacred Hearts Youth at Fatuoaiga.
"It was a very great honor to meet the Pope," Collins said, "and we asked if he could visit American Samoa...later on this year and speak to young people of American Samoa."
Last year, the Pontiff asked young people to reflect on their past and how "the Almighty has done great things" for them, Catholic news sources report.
This year, the Pope encourages young people to be aware of the present moment – not to be frightened by it or by their own self-doubts, but to take courage and be open to accepting the Lord's invitation to engage and to lead in Church and in society.
On Facebook, Collins expressed "tears of joy and love," in meeting Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square on Palm Sunday.
"I never thought that I would get the chance to shake his hand and give him a big hug," he wrote.
"The first thing the Pope asked was (about) my traditional wear. He said 'keep your roots close to your heart because your culture and tradition is beautiful'."
See more at Vatican News.