By Tim Harfmann
Second graders at Saints Joachim and Anne School in Queens Village learned about their teacher’s homeland. Yariela Reid-Thomas was born in Panama and came to the United States when she was eight-years-old. Now, she’ll join thousands of young Catholics and Pope Francis at World Youth Day. “It was the perfect opportunity to do both, to pray with the pope, but at the same time be able to see my country again,” said Reid-Thomas.
She’ll travel with her younger sister, Yamitzla Reid. They’re parishioners at Saint Gerard Majella Church in Hollis, Queens. The sisters were in Poland in 2016 when Pope Francis announced Panama would be the next host. This will be their third World Youth Day — but this trip is extra special. “My mother passed away about two years ago and that was the last thing that she wanted to do, go to panama. So, my sister and I going there is like us representing her,” said Reid-Thomas.
But funding the trip hasn’t been easy for Reid, who said although Reid-Thomas is helping her out, and her church offered funding, she wanted to pay her own way. Reid worked double shifts at her job. “There’s other people in the church who want to go, who want to go to world youth days and other events around the church, that the church can help them with. I didn’t want to be selfish,” said Reid.
With World Youth Day just says away, these sisters are ready for their journey. “Going there and being a part of World Youth Day, getting to express my faith and be with other people, was actually pretty amazing,” said Reid.
The sisters will join nearly 200 other pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens. The delegation is usually one of the largest groups to attend World Youth Day.