To get to World Youth Day 2019 in Panama this January, most Catholics will board flights a day or two before events begin. Some will drive, and spend a few weeks along the route on pilgrimage. A few might even spend weeks walking to Panama. But a crew of almost two dozen Catholics will take more than five months to get to World Youth Day, and that’s so long as they have calm seas and fair winds.
A French crew of 17 men and women, four skippers, and a chaplain will sail from France to the Central American country, arriving at World Youth Day under sail, and from the sea.
Though a majority of the group has never sailed before, the crew will take three boats and gain hands-on-experience along the way. Stopping at many European pilgrim sites, the crew will spend time as pilgrims, in prayer and reflection as they travel. The boats will carry a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, the patron saint of Panama.
The voyage is expected to depart from the Gulf of Brest, located in the north of France, on August 31. On behalf of all the country’s bishops, the crew will receive a blessing from Bishop Marc Aillet of Bayonne.
According the Vatican News, the team has labeled the journey a “spiritual, human, and missionary adventure.” The crewmates cited a variety of reasons for their lengthy journey. Some members are using the trip as a time to discern a vocation, better understand life’s purpose, or to focus on prayer.
The pilgrims also expressed desires to immerse themselves in the cultures of other nations, listening to the stories of local people and learning from shared experiences.
Until September 15, the crew will sail through France, Portugal, and Spain, stopping at pilgrim sites like Santiago de Compostela and the apparition site of Our Lady of Fatima. The boats will reach Morocco by September 30 to retrace the steps of Blessed Charles de Foucault.
In October, the crew will sail to the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago, and then to Senegal. The crew will be leading a mission trip in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar.
After an estimated 20 days of travel over the Atlantic Ocean, the pilgrims will arrive at the Caribbean islands around Christmas. The crew will sail to Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela. They plan will arrive in Panama before Jan. 22.