Panama City, Panama | The pilgrims who are participating in World Youth Day 2019 in Panama this week are representing the Diocese of Venice well, showing their passion and joy for their faith.
In talking with one participant from Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, the entire World Youth Day journey was expected to be life-changing for him. “How can it not be? It’s will be exciting to be surrounded by so many people, like me, who are passionate about their faith. The love of our Lord that we all have will be invigorating.”
WYD 2019 runs Jan. 22-27 and is expected to bring 1 million people from around the world to the Central American city. The theme is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Some 12,000 Americans are expected in Panama. Each morning is spent in catechesis and afternoons in festival of faith activities, including cultural exchange, prayer, and visits to holy sites. There will be ample opportunity for Mass and for confession. Pope Francis is expected to arrive Jan. 23.
Departing from Tampa and Miami, the 66 Diocesan pilgrims met in Panama Jan. 19, with the group from St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres going directly from the National March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The diocese group includes representatives from eight parishes, including: San Marco Parish in Marco Island, St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston, St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Cape Coral, St. Francis Xavier and Our Lady of Light parishes in Fort Myers, St. Agnes St. William parishes in Naples, and St. Raphael in Lehigh Acres. Leading them throughout the week is Nina Kozuik, the Diocese Director for Youth and Young Adults.
Among the pilgrims is Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who is attending his fourth World Youth Day as Bishop of Venice. He is one of only 32 U.S. Bishops attending. In addition, two priests of the diocese are in Panama — Father Anthony Hewitt, Pastor of St. Francis Xavier, and Father Kris Piotrowski, Parochial Vicar at St. Agnes.
Early reports from the pilgrims was that while they were tired from the long flight, they are enjoying the pilgrimage. Upon arriving in Panama City, which lies on the Pacific Ocean, the group explored and took tours of the city and the surrounding area which included the Panama Canal. They also will be visiting several of the historic churches and religious shrines.
The pilgrims will be doing a lot of walking for various events, with activities taking place from one mile to up to 10 miles away from their hotel.
The high point of each World Youth Day is the closing events on Jan. 26-27. To help the diocesan group prepare for the closing of World Youth Day, Bishop Dewane is going to celebrate Mass Jan. 26 for the diocese group at El Carmen Church. They will be joined at the Mass by pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Boston and Diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Following the Mass, pilgrims will then walk to the site of the vigil. There, the pilgrims will participate in a candlelight prayer vigil led by Pope Francis and then stay overnight before the closing Mass is celebrated by the Holy Father on the morning of Jan. 27. At the conclusion, the Holy Father will announce where the next World Youth Day will take place.
After the Mass, the group will journey back to their hotel and have a meal with Bishop Dewane. They are returning to United States on Jan. 28.
To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or @dovwyd or follow the listings at #DOVWYDPanama #DOVWYD2019 #DOVPanama2019.