A look ahead to World Youth Day, Panama

In August 2011, I had the great privilege of attending World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. It was many wonderful things, but it was also very, very hot. Climate is one of the reasons why this year’s World Youth Day, taking place Jan. 22-27 in Panama, is being held at an unconventional time. The country’s rainy season runs from May through December, leaving a short window for major outdoor events to take place in a somewhat comfortable environment.The following is an overview of what can be expected at the upcoming gathering centered on young people ages 18-35.


The theme of this year’s event is: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Pope Francis

The Holy Father will be in Panama throughout the majority of the event, beginning with his arrival on the afternoon of Jan. 23. In addition to meeting with various country officials and the bishops of Central America, Pope Francis will celebrate a penitential liturgy with juvenile delinquents at a detention center, attend a Way of the Cross with the young people, celebrate Mass with priests, religious and representatives of lay movements, and share a meal at San Jose Major Seminary. The visit will conclude with a vigil with the youth Saturday night and an outdoor Mass on Sunday morning.

Patron saints

World Youth Day — Panama is under the watchful care of eight patrons: St. John Bosco, Blessed Sister Romero Meneses, St. Oscar Romero, Pope St. John Paul II, St. Joselito, St. Juan Diego, St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres.

Pilgrim kit

Every pilgrim attending World Youth Day receives a backpack, wristband, reusable water bottle, a badge holder, a hat, a rosary, a multiuse scarf, a shirt and three books: a prayer book, a pilgrim guide, and an “online with the saints” book.

Forgiveness Park

An initiative called “Renew Me,” or “Forgiveness Park,” will offer daily confessions in all official World Youth Day languages from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Prior to making a confession, penitents can make an examination of conscience in a Marian Grotto. And afterward, they will receive a momento of their visit and will be able to attend a nearby adoration chapel.

How to participate from home

If you’re not heading to Panama, but want to keep up on the goings-on, follow the hashtag #Panama2019 or visit: panama2019.pa.

As World Youth Day commences this week, please pray for our young people and all bishops, priests and religious sisters and brothers attending this important event.


Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.