This afternoon, our pilgrimage group arrived safely in Panama City for World Youth Day 2019. Also on our plane were pilgrims from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and we encountered many other groups of pilgrims as soon as we set foot in Panama. It is a busy and energetic city this week, and the streets and sidewalks are already filling up with young Catholics from around the world.

Our itinerary today was pretty simple – get settled at our hotel, celebrate Mass, and eat dinner. The picture above is taken from our hotel and gives some impression of Panama City – marked both by countless skyscrapers and a vibrant faith community. The church in picture, Iglesia Neustra Senora del Carmen, is where we celebrated Mass tonight – which gave us a vintage World Youth Day experience. Our pilgrimage company had arranged with the church for our group to celebrate Mass at 7pm – one of a succession of Masses in many languages held throughout the day. There are only 20 of us, and it is a big church, but as we arrived and prepared, we ended up being joined by a group from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, including an auxiliary bishop and the vocation director of that diocese; a missionary priest from Ireland; a group from Brazil; a large group of women religious; and several other smaller groups, so that the church was over half full! Again – a very vintage World Youth Day experience.

In the morning, we plan to tour the old city of Panama and then make our way to the opening World Youth Day Mass with the Archbishop of Panama.