Since 1986, Catholic teens and young adults from all over the world have been encouraged to meet and pray with each other during World Youth Day, an event created by Pope John Paul II to inspire youth to spread the word of Christ to their countries and each other.

The main event of World Youth Day is the papal Mass, celebrated in a remote area to hold the millions of Catholics waiting to share the Eucharist with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

There are also events before that: catechesis, Masses, seminars, Stations of the Cross - and, this year, a film festival sponsored by Goodness Reigns, a Christian film company based in Kentucky.

Goodness Reigns held a contest for filmmakers to show their work at World Youth Day. Among the filmmakers was Dave Oakes from Schenectady, whose "Good Samaritan Rap" video was noted by the group. I was in the video. Dave asked me to come along to World Youth Day, and I couldn't say no!

The film festival took place Aug. 17 at the Cine Paz. People from all over the world crowded into the theater to watch films created to spread Christ's message through modern depictions of Church teachings, dramatic scenarios, music videos and even clay animation.

The winning film for the high school category was a stop-motion film depicting the beauty and toils of faith, represented by common objects. The winner of the young adult category was a video about a fictional CIA - the "Catholic Integration Agency" - whose members spread the word of Christ by "kidnapping" people to go to Mass, carrying holy water and rosaries as weapons, and even using their confirmation names as aliases.

Our love of filmmaking brought everyone involved closer together. Whether serious depictions of real-life events like "The Pro" by Nicholas Smith, which displayed the martyrdom of Rev. Miguel Pro in Mexico during the early 1900s; or the creative and tender vision of Diana Lourdes Eroza Osorio's "Beauty," a "claymation" story about self-worth and inner beauty, we could all relate in some way.

I was especially excited about the feedback from the audience when "Good Samaritan" came on; my heart was pounding out of my chest every second that it was on the screen! No matter how many times I'd seen it and how many memories I had of filming in 103-degree heat, I laughed at every joke.

I was thrilled when the audience laughed with me. Everyone who saw it walked away with a smile. Even our group members from Goodness Reigns loved it, and some people told us they voted for it to win!

I had never expected for the video to go all the way to Spain from upstate New York, but I'm so proud. I was thrilled to have gone to World Youth Day because of "The Modern-Day Good Samaritan."

Aside from the film festival, my favorite part of World Youth Day was celebrating Mass with so many people. Coming from a small town, I had no idea what almost two million people would look like! What an incredible experience to be with so many people who shared my struggles, my joys and my love for Jesus all at once.

I didn't get to see the pope in person. There were always crowds waiting six hours in line to get the best spot, shouting his name and waving flags. Since he was speaking Spanish and I took French in high school, it was pretty much impossible to follow along!

However, the Knights of Columbus had set up an English-speaking place at the Plaza de Espana. That was great for anyone who didn't know the language or even for those who wanted to sit in an air-conditioned place for a while!

My experience at World Youth Day is something that I will always cherish. I feel so blessed for the opportunity to be with so many people who share my interests and love for Jesus, and I hope that more people from our Diocese have the chance to participate.

(To submit a film or watch videos submitted for this World Youth Day, visit www.goodnessreigns.com.)