A journey through Panama: Chitré e Colón

Greetings from Panama, described in a local song as puente del mundo y corazóndel universo (bridge of the world and heart of the universe)! Even though we’ve only been here a short time, it seems like an eternity. You may have seen some of our posts on social media, but we’d like to share a little bit more with you through this travel journal.

Day 1 What an amazing, heart-warming welcome we received on our arrival in Panama City airport from a big group of young people, many from other countries who came here to work for the World Youth Day – with their songs, banners and winning smiles, the tiredness of the journey just melted away! What a commotion! In this long-awaited moment our dream – shared by all those who worked so hard for this tour with commitment, enthusiasm, love and passion – has finally become a reality!

Day 2 – As we accompanied the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in procession through the streets of Chitré we entrusted our time in this Diocese to her. When we arrived for the celebration of the Eucharist at the Church of the Rosary we were truly moved by the welcome we received from the parish community. How much warmth in this city – for the people of Chitré it really is true that “no-one is a stranger to me”.

Day 3– In the workshops we found young people who were full of life, bursting with energy and who were committed to sharing the stage with us. The days that followed were very full – workshops with young people, meetings with the young pilgrims arriving for the WYD, press conferences and interviews, and animating Masses in different local churches… a very full programme which had as its true foundation the authentic relationships built with each one.

Day 4 – The concert was something the town felt strongly about and the local media were committed to advertising it. In the press conference held in a local shopping mall, we were accompanied by “our” young people from the workshops: living proof that Start Now is a project we are all involved in.

Day 5 – what an outpouring of joy that night at the concert, which some described as explosive and others contagious! Over 3000 pilgrims from all over the world and local people, chitreani,made this a truly multi-cultural event. One of the young participants told us: “Even though we are different, we could say that the unity we’ve built is like that in a family. Just like you… you don’t all speak the same language but you communicate your joy and your talent so much. And I can live this in my everyday life too…”

Day 6 – We’re off to Colón where we know that they are awaiting us with great joy. More than 3400 pilgrims out of the total 5000 expected have already arrived. Here too the local people have opened their homes, welcoming us in the street, asking where we come from… reflecting a people who not only open their houses but they open their hearts to give hope to all those who suffer.

Day 7 – at the dress rehearsal with the young people from the Start Now project we agreed: together we can give hope, we can make a difference – we can be builders of peace for all those who see us on the stage.

Day 8– young people from all over the world make up the vast audience in the concert in Colón. The young people from El Salvador were particularly moved to hear the song: Voz de la Verdad (voice of truth) which speaks of “their” bishop, Oscar Romero. At the end of the concert many expressed their desire to get to know Gen Verde and its message better.

In our final meeting with the young people from the workshops, their words really moved us: “What I will take away from these days we shared is the conviction that we are never alone, there is someone who is always with us, supporting us – Jesus, our families, our friends. There is always someone.” “I wanted to give up but you helped me to stay, you gave me courage.”