Our catechesis continued in the mornings yesterday and today with English-speaking pilgrims from around the world. Yesterday, we heard from Bishop Alan Williams of the Diocese of Brentwood, England, just outside of London. Today, we went to a different catechesis site where some friends of mine were coordinating the programming and music – it’s always great to run into friends from home in a different part of the world. Today, it was Robert Feduccia and Steve Angrisano – the three of us have collaborated at One Bread, One Cup conferences at Saint Meinrad Archabbey, and it was good to be with them in Panama.
Our catechist today was Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida. Being at a different location for catechesis, we also encountered different groups of pilgrims – one that we had not run into before came from Tonga in the South Pacific. After catechesis, our group divided up around the city – many went to a large park where the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration were available, along with a vocations fair; others went back to the Old Town to explore more; and many went to attend the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis.
Speaking of Pope Francis, last night we all attended the official papal welcoming ceremony, where everyone in our group was able to see the Holy Father as he drove by in the popemobile. It was a bit challenging getting into the park where the event was being held – security lines were long and the crowds were tight – but we all eventually made it inside and were able to find a place to both see a screen and be close to the road where the pope would be driving by.
One final thought on these past couple days. Staying hydrated is always a necessity at events like World Youth Day, especially when held in a warm location – high temperatures here in Panama have been near 90 this week, with beautiful sunshine and high humidity. At the sites of the main events, it has been a bit hard to find places to fill up water bottles, although there are a lot of people standing along the streets selling bottles of water. But yesterday afternoon, we came across one place – the only place near the papal welcoming ceremony that I saw – giving away free water: a mosque. The local Muslim community was gracious and welcoming to all of these Catholic pilgrims. It was a beautiful sign of compassion and our shared humanity.
Tomorrow, many of us will begin the walk to the site of the Vigil and Closing Mass with Pope Francis, held in a field on the outskirts of Panama City. Please continue to pray for us along the journey.