The organizers of each World Youth Day choose patron saints to whom they entrust the celebration. Many of the saints chosen for the 2019 World Youth Day in Panama are from Latin American countries.

Saint Joselito was martyred in 1928 when he was 15 years old during the “War of Cristeros” in Mexico, when many Christians were fighting against an anti-religious law that forbade public worship. He was accepted into the Christian army when he was 13 years old as an assistant to carry the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He prayed the rosary at night with the members of the army. When the general’s horse was shot, he offered him his own horse. Saint Joselito was taken prisoner by the government’s army, and he told them he would rather be shot than give up his faith.
Saint Juan Diego was the man to whom the Virgin Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531 in present-day Mexico. She asked him to build her a temple at that site, but the bishop did not believe him. When he returned to the bishop the second time, he presented him his tilma, or cloak, which had the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. Roses fell from the tilma at a time when they could not bloom, and the bishop fell to his knees in awe. In the eight years following this apparition, almost nine million people joined the Catholic Church because of their renewed faith.
Saint John Paul II was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, he studied at a secret seminary and worked as both an actor and as a factory worker. He was an active member of a secret organization that helped Jewish people find shelter and escape persecution. He was elected pope in October 1978. During his time as pope, he visited 129 countries to spread the Gospel. He instituted World Youth Day because of his love for young people, and also established the World Meeting of Families because of his concern for marriage and families. He was canonized in 2014.
Saint Martin de Porres was born in Lima, Peru in 1579. At the age of 12, he worked as a hairdresser and dental assistant. He entered the Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary as a lay servant, because they would not let him be a religious brother due to the dark color of his skin. He was in charge of cleaning the house and serving the brothers, who did not all accept him. But whenever people insulted him, St. Martin responded with a smile. He was eventually granted permission to become a religious brother, and he dedicated his life to service of the poor and sick. He is the patron saint of hairdressers, public cleaning, pharmacists and nurses.
Saint John Bosco was born in Italy in 1815. Influenced by a dream he had when he was nine years old, he dedicated his life to educating young people. He founded a house for orphan children where he educated them and looked for jobs for them, and his mother took care of them like they were her children. He founded an order of priests called the Society of St. Francis de Sales, which is also referred to as the Salesians of Don Bosco, who still educate children in schools around the world, including at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland.
Saint Rose of Lima was born in Lima, Peru in 1586. She felt torn between entering a convent as a contemplative religious sister and remaining at home to help support her family. In order to do a little bit of both, she joined the lay movement of the Dominicans. She taught children how to play musical instruments, tended her home garden and did sewing work to help her family. She also dedicated a lot of time to helping the sick and other people in need. Because she spent so much time in prayer, she was known as the woman of “secret contemplation.”
Sister María Romero Meneses was born in Nicaragua in 1902. She joined the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians as a religious sister, and dedicated much of her life to serving people in need in Costa Rica. She established centers to distribute food to the hungry and medical clinics for the poor and vulnerable, and founded a boarding school for girls who had previously lived on the street. Later, she also began a village of houses to shelter families who previously lived in poor conditions. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Saint Oscar Romero was born in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador in 1917, and entered the Minor Seminary of San Miguel when he was 12. He was appointed archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, and during his time as archbishop, he stood up for the poor people of El Salvador who were being treated unfairly by the country’s government. He called for peace during a very violent time in the country’s history and encouraged everyone to follow Jesus’s example of forgiveness and mercy. He was killed while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980, and was declared a saint in October 2018.