Dozens of youth and young adults from the tri-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles have embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, traveling to Panama, with a quarter of a million Catholics and the Holy Father Pope Francis to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD) 2019, through January 27. 

“In these days, Panama … will turn into a hub of hope,” said Pope Francis. “The younger generation, with its joy and enthusiasm, with its freedom, sensitivity and critical capacity, demands that adults, and especially all those who exercise roles of leadership in public life, lead a life consonant with the dignity and authority that they possess and that has been entrusted to them.”

Since Pope John Paul II launched WYD 35 years ago, it’s become not just the Catholic Church’s biggest event, but also the world’s largest gathering of young people. WYD is a transformative pilgrimage experience, targeting those ages 16 to 35, offering youth and young adults the opportunity to deepen their faith as they celebrate their Catholic identity with peers from around the world. 

“It was uplifting to spend time in a poor neighborhood of Panama City, being with other young people witnessing the love of Christ in our lives. I felt at peace in that moment, and was reminded of how blessed I’ve been,” said Enrique McDonald who is traveling with a group of pilgrims from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Los Angeles. “Despite the heat, the tiring trip, and all the walking, it's a blessing to be here. Now comes the best part: hanging out with Pope Francis!”

The culminating World Youth Day events will be time spent with Pope Francis at an evening prayer vigil Saturday night and the closing Mass the next
morning at the St. John Paul II field.
In between, Los Angeles pilgrims will be among the thousands of pilgrims sleeping under the stars at the same field.

Bishop David O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop for the San Gabriel Pastoral Region is leading 35 young people in pilgrimage to Panama. Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop for the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region and Ernesto Vega, Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles are among this year’s World Youth Day speakers.   

The patron saints for this year’s edition include St. John Paul II, St. Oscar Romero, the Mexican child martyr Jose Sanchez del Rio; Peruvian St. Rosa of Lima; St. Juan Diego and Peruvian St. Martin de Porres.

Though participation is usually led by Italy, this time the second-largest number comes from the United States, followed by Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Poland.

Be sure to check back with Angelus News throughout the weekend for more photos and updates!

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