Youth and young adults from the Tampa Bay area are about to experience a life-changing event: World Youth Day in Panama, January 22-27. This encounter with the pope, Jesus and thousands of other Catholics is a time of deep and spiritual renewal. More than 200,000 participants from 155 countries are expected at this year’s World Youth Day.
Sixty-five pilgrims consisting of teens, young adults and families will be participating from the Tampa Bay area. Ryan Phelan, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, is leading the pilgrimage and has helped the group prepare with fundraising activities and spiritual retreats. This will be his fifth World Youth Day experience.
“The youth and young adults are Courageously Living the Gospel by attending World Youth Day in Panama. They are opening their hearts to an encounter with God,” said Phelan.
During the first part of their journey, the pilgrims will be immersed in the local culture and visit significant Catholic landmarks that help strengthen their faith and broaden their understanding of the universal Church.
The second part of the trip involves the main events, the welcoming of the pope, the way of the cross, the vigil with the Holy Father and the final Mass.
The pope has been delivering messages to young people in preparation of World Youth Day, which is held every three years. In his message from 2018, he urged young people to have faith and to trust in God:
“God knocks at the door of our hearts, as he did with Mary; he longs to establish friendship with us through prayer, to speak with us through the Sacred Scriptures, to offer us mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to be one with us in the Eucharist.”
The theme this year is “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). Other themes to be covered include migration, indigenous people, the environment and the role of women in the Church. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima will be displayed at the event.
“For us, the emphasis will be on the role of women,” said Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama during a news conference at the Vatican, explaining that World Youth Day will be a “great opportunity to bring forward all the good that women have done through history.”
The pilgrims will receive a prayerful send-off and blessing on January 19 when they participate in a Mass with Bishop Gregory Parkes and commissioning at St. Paul Parish in Tampa.
To view photos of the pilgrims during their journey, check out #dospatWYD.
(Photo above from World Youth Day 2016)