World Youth Day Panama
Young adults can experience a taste of Panama in Washington on Jan. 26
Jan 6, 2019
On the same day that hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will be making their way to the site of the closing vigil and Mass for World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, young people in the United States will be converging in Washington for a Catholic festival called Panama in the Capital on Jan. 26.
The daylong celebration, held at The Catholic University of America, the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will include two blocks of time for participants to visit one of seven event stages, including one in Spanish and some that will be interpreted in American Sign Language. Each stage will feature a panel of speakers, time for prayer and live music, and will conclude with a coffeehouse, where participants will be able to walk around and interact with each other and with the speakers.
The evening will include a bilingual vigil Mass with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; candlelight Stations of the Cross in the basilica’s Crypt Church led by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori; a vocations coffeehouse; and live music. Adoration and Confession will be available throughout the day, along with a live stream of Pope Francis’s activities in Panama to connect the pilgrims in Washington with the pilgrims in Panama City. A full schedule can be found here.
“In this season of the Church, we need encouragement to support each other and the opportunity to celebrate the joy of the Gospel together,” said Jonathan Lewis, the Archdiocese of Washington’s assistant secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, who added that the day is “an opportunity for Catholic young people to be united and come together as a sign of hope for the Church and for the world.”
Though they are unable to bring Panama’s sunny 80-degree weather to Washington, the organizers of Panama in the Capital hope to “create a Panamanian landscape in the dead of winter,” said Lewis.
The Embassy of Panama will have a booth at the event to showcase different elements of Panamanian culture, and the day will include traditional Central American food, Panamanian sweets and coffee, as well as “tipico” dance by the Panamanian dance group Grufolpawa.
Andrea Mendez, a cultural attaché at the Embassy of Panama, said participants could expect to see the dancers wearing the traditional national clothing, which Panamanians wear on patriotic occasions. The men will be dressed in the Montuno, which includes long black pants, white button down shirts, and a hat. The women will be dressed in the Pollera, which includes a long skirt and an off-the shoulder shirt, both of which are handmade.
Women also wear gold jewelry, which Mendez said is often passed down from generation to generation, and can sometimes be traced back to old Spanish gold. On their head, the women wear Tembleques, which are the shapes of flowers or birds adorned with pearls.
“The whole purpose of the outfit is to display the natural beauty of Panama,” said Mendez.
When people think of Panama, they often think of the Panama Canal, but “it is more than a canal,” said Mendez. When people travel to Panama, they have the opportunity to swim in both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in the same day, to hike through rainforests, to surf, to go fishing, to visit indigenous communities, and to visit the modern Panama City, she explained.
In addition to the wide variety of activities in Panama, visitors to the country are able to experience a variety of cultures, including influences from the indigenous communities, from the Spanish, and from the Afro-Antillean communities, said Mendez.
“Our culture is a melting pot,” she said. “…All these aspects mixed together have created a very unique culture we are very excited to display at the event.”
While Panama is the main culture being showcased, Lewis said everyone is invited to bring their own cultural heritage to the day. Just as the World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama will be encountering other young Catholics from countries around the world, pilgrims to Panama in the Capital will have the opportunity to experience the rich cultural diversity of the Washington area and beyond.
The speakers and musicians for the event reflect some of the multi-cultural focus, including music by Pontem, a praise and worship band made up of Filipino musicians, and speakers like Gerald D. Smith Jr., the young African-American principal of St. Thomas More Academy in Washington; Daniela Zelaya, a Latina student at Trinity Washington University; and Brandon Vaidyanathan, a Catholic University professor who was born in Qatar and spent his childhood in Oman, India, and the United Arab Emirates.
Since the event is taking place in Brookland, which is often referred to as “Little Rome,” there will also be a diversity of spiritual traditions represented there, including the Capuchin Franciscan friars, Dominican friars, and Sisters of Life.
Megan Philip, the coordinator of campus and young adult ministry for the Archdiocese of Washington, said in choosing the speakers, the organizers of the event were “raising up awesome local leaders that represent the diverse cultural and spiritual traditions of the Church.”
Erica Pereira, who is one of the leaders of a group of about 25 coming from the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, said she is hoping the pilgrimage will be a bridge-building opportunity between the Anglo community and the Hispanic community of young adults in their diocese. Throughout their trip, they will be praying together bilingually.
Pereira noted that a lot of people who they serve in their diocese are unable to travel internationally to go to World Youth Day, sometimes because they do not have the documents to travel. She hopes this pilgrimage will give them the opportunity to experience what a pilgrimage is like without having to travel all the way to World Youth Day.
“I hope that the young adults that come with us can encounter Christ in the beauty of the diversity of the Church and can encounter that there are so many young adult Catholics there and we can feel part of that community,” said Pereira. “Especially here in east Tennessee where there are not many Catholics, it can feel kind of alienating… I think encountering that Catholic community in D.C will be fountain of strength for them in their faith.”
Michelle Scully, a campus minister at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, similarly hopes her group of about 15 students will be inspired by seeing the large community of Catholic young people and to have “an experience of Catholicism outside of just what they are used to at the university.”
“Obviously not everybody can afford to get to where World Youth Day is and have the time [to go]; I think it is good even if you can’t get to that to still have these gatherings as a reminder of something bigger than yourself or your small community,” said Scully. “Now is a good time to have one of those [gatherings] to remind us that there is hope; there is a reason why we do what we do, believe what we believe, and there are other people in it with us.”
To register as an individual or as a group, visit wyddc.org. Tickets cost $20.
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