Latin America

The isthmus of the American continent prepares WYD 2019 as a call to joy

World Youth Day (WYD) Panama 2019 will take place from January 22 to 28. Thousands of young people will attend the event with the Pope. Panama, Central American Isthmus, joins forces.

Eduardo Soto-January 9, 2019-Reading time: 6 minutes

When asked why the Archbishop of Panama, Monsignor José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, accepted the challenge of organizing a World Youth Day (WYD), with all the logistical complications and the exhausting human and intellectual effort involved, he responds with brevity and lucidity: "Because young people (all, regardless of creed, race or social status) are the present and at the same time the hope for a better future. Without them, change will not be possible".

Monsignor Ulloa thus coincides with Pope Francis, who is determined to show the capacity of the little ones to make great transformations. Yes, the little ones, those are the ones who are in His Holiness' sights. In this group are also the young, whom the Pope identifies as victims of a "throwaway culture".where only those who allow themselves to be manipulated and molded to the whim of the "globalization of indifference".

World Youth Day (WYD) is a meeting of young people from all over the world with the Pope, in a festive, religious and cultural atmosphere, which shows the dynamism of the Church and gives testimony of the actuality of the message of Jesus. It was created with the aim of fostering a personal encounter with Christ, which changes lives; promoting peace, unity and fraternity among the peoples and nations of the world, through youth as ambassadors and; developing processes of new evangelization aimed at young people.

For that reason, it would be a mean thing to look at WYD as an opportunity exclusively for economic reactivation. Those 300,000 young people who could arrive in Panamanian territory bring a much more comprehensive revival, especially of illusion, to a Central American isthmus plagued by war, tyranny and corruption.

It is true that for every dollar invested, the return can be three or four times that amount, assuming a budget in which 80 % of the funds come from the young pilgrims, who pay for their registration, food and transportation. It is also true that tourism and country image will be the great material winners.

With the protection of Our Lady

WYD is celebrated every year on Palm Sunday, and every two years the Pope chooses a theme and a venue where young people from all over the world will meet and celebrate their youth, their beliefs, their culture and much more. The imminent WYD will be held in Panama from January 22 to 27, 2019, under the motto "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to Thy word."(Lk 1:38). Of course, this great event involves a great deal of organization and preparation. For this reason, a local organizing committee has been appointed with different directions that support, mostly voluntarily, the formation of the scheme that will work in this important week.

Activities: catechesis

Within WYD there are activities that are proper to the event, both religious and recreational. On the first day, pilgrims begin to arrive at their place of lodging, either with a host family or in a school or gymnasium that has been designated for this purpose. On Tuesday, the catechesis begin, which are given by bishops and cardinals from all over the world, and will also be in the official languages of WYD, which are Spanish, English, Italian, Portuguese and French. The catechesis only take place during the morning hours; in the afternoon the pilgrims decide what kind of activity they want to do. They can do some sightseeing, pilgrimage in the churches and monuments known in the host country, or attend the Vocation Fair or Youth Festival that we will explain later.

 Events with the Pope
The Holy Father arrives in the country on Wednesday the 23rd, and on Thursday his first meeting with the youth takes place. Following this, on Friday, there will be a Way of the CrossThe WYD's characteristic element, to remember the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The most popular event is the vigil that takes place between Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of youth and adults attend and stand in prayer, vigil, and with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. It is customary for tents to be erected and for people to bring sleeping bags to stay overnight at this vigil and be ready for the Mass of sending forth presided by the Holy Father on Sunday morning.

Youth Festival and Vocational Fair

Two of the activities that characterize WYD and that are important for the recreation and knowledge of the pilgrims are the Youth Festival and Vocational Fair. The Youth Festival was created with the purpose of uniting young people from around the world through the sharing of their artistic and religious talents, faith and life experiences. This expression will be manifested in a variety of artistic, musical and theatrical events, art exhibitions, meetings and much more. The festival will be held in different strategic and touristic points of Panama City so that all pilgrims can enjoy the festival, regardless of the distance from their lodging.

The festival will begin on Monday, January 22, 2019, before the start of the main WYD activities, and will last until the Sunday after the final Mass, in the afternoon and evening hours.

The Vocations Fair is an event that promotes all the charisms and vocations offered by the Catholic Church, and religious congregations, ecclesial movements and lay associations also participate in it. It will be held in a well-known park of the city, called Parque Omar, which will also serve as the venue for the Park of Forgiveness where the sacrament of reconciliation will take place.

Days in the dioceses

A week before World Youth Day, the Days in the Dioceses or pre-Day will take place, created with the purpose of getting to know a little more about the host country and all the dioceses that make it up. In the case of Panama, because it is a small country, with only 8 ecclesiastical jurisdictions in its geographic territory, Costa Rica has joined.

The pre-WYD is an optional activity that is not attended by the same number of pilgrims that attend WYD. However, it is an excellent opportunity to create a beautiful experience, make an evangelizing mission and meet people who will remain in our hearts for the rest of our lives.

Volunteers, key

One of the elements that make a WYD possible is the volunteer work that thousands of people offer for the love of God and WYD. For the Panama event, registration closed with more than 30,000 volunteers on the list, of which 5,000 are international. There are several types of volunteering, among which stand out the local volunteering, which focuses on the parishes of Panama, companies, universities and non-governmental organizations; the diocesan volunteering, which includes all the people who want to volunteer in the dioceses of Panama and Costa Rica; the international volunteering, which can be both short stay, that is, during the period of WYD, and long stay that are in the country several months before the day and are validated by their episcopal conferences.

On the other hand, the local Organizing Committee is accepting virtual help with translations, graphic design, editing, and any other work they feel can be done long distance.

All these aspects have the Central American isthmus as electrified. Every day thousands of e-mails, chats and posts on social networks shake tens of thousands of young people who are in the final stretch for a spiritual reactivation. They know that the history in their countries will change, and that it will be like that in the whole Church, with them as protagonists.

Promotion of boys

For Pope Francis and Archbishop Ulloa, the most important benefit is in the human and spiritual promotion of young people. In August of last year, during his visit to Colombia, His Holiness pointed out: "I have chosen Panama, the isthmus of the American continent, to host World Youth Day on the 19th. I am certain that in every young person there is an isthmus hidden; in the hearts of all our young people there is a small and elongated piece of land that can be traversed to lead them to a future that only God knows, and to Him belongs. [It is up to us to pre-establish new proposals to awaken in them the courage to take risks, together with God, and to make them, like Our Lady, available".

In a Central American region where the majority are young people, these words of the Pope, in addition to consolation, bring with them the hope of better days in the context of WYD. To these young men and women, the Pope reiterates: "I am sure that, although noise and confusion seem to reign in the world, this call [Jesus'] continues to resound in the heart of each one to open it to full joy."

The service "revolution

In the video message in preparation for WYD in Panama, the Pope also exhorted young people to disrupt the powers of this world with the "service revolution", in dialogue with God and in an attitude of listening, like Mary.

The "yesThe courageous and generous example of the Virgin Mary is the example the Holy Father uses to explain the meaning of "the Virgin Mary's courage and generosity". "going out of oneself" and "putting oneself at the service of others". Francis emphasizes that the desire of many young people to "helping others," of "doing something for those who suffer." is the "youth strength", able to change the world and "disrupting the great powers of this world: the 'revolution' of service".

And it is in the "dealing with God and in the silence of the heart". where you discover "one's own identity and the vocation to which the Lord calls", expressed in different ways, the Pope explains, underlining that "The important thing is to discover what the Lord expects of us and to be brave enough to say yes. When referring to the Virgin MaryShe was a "happy woman because she was generous with God who was open to the plan he had for her", the Pope explains that "God's proposals are to make our life fruitful and make many smiles and hearts happy".

The authorEduardo Soto

Director of Communications at WYD Panama 2019

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