Amigos de Jesús Group Attends World Youth Day in Panama
“We had a chance to experience something that is written in the Gospel when Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God — He says the last will be first,” recounted Father Patricio upon reflecting on the World Youth Day experience in Panama.
(Father Patricio is the Servant Director, Mission Integration for Amigos de Jesús)
In January, eight young men from Amigos de Jesús, along with Father Patricio, his niece, the Amigos de Jesús Bilingual School principal Professor Osman, and Padrino Carlos, had the opportunity to travel to Panama to participate in World Youth Day.
The event saw nearly 1 million Catholic youth from around the world gather to grow in and celebrate their shared faith.
During their time in Panama, our Amigos de Jesús group participated in the events of World Youth Day and spent time exploring the culture and sites of Panama City.
Thanks to the generosity of Amigos de Jesús benefactors, the group stayed in an all-inclusive 5-star resort.
During the days before and after the World Youth Day events, the group enjoyed exploring Panama City and sharing in the cultural exchange between the pilgrims.
For David Sosa, one of the university boys studying in San Pedro Sula, visiting the Canal was the most exciting because it related so closely with his mechanical engineering studies. “I loved learning about how it worked,” he described.
For Joan, an architecture student, getting to see Panama City and exploring the old part of the city was a fascinating experience.
Their travels around the city was an area they witnessed God providing for them as they had no transportation set up for their travels around the city and to and from the World Youth Day events. Nonetheless, every day, God provided and someone always offered transportation services free of charge.
Profe Osman reflected that “From the moment of arriving to the airport, you could feel the excitement.”
“We were walking in the streets of Panama meeting people from all over the world. Every time we met someone from another country, they were singing and asking where we were from,” shared Father Patricio.
“It was an atmosphere full of joy and adrenaline that made you jump and shout, even if you didn’t want to. There was a great excitement that you could see in the moments of meeting other people from other countries” said Joan.
A memory that stuck out for the group was when they walked into a church a few days before the festivities started.
A meeting was underway, but once they realized the Amigos de Jesús group was a group of pilgrims, they called them to the front, started singing, and received them “like Jesus,” as Father Patricio shared.
They were even asked to share a few words and overall felt the overwhelming hospitality of the Panamanian people.
One of the greatest excitements was getting to see Pope Francis and listen to the words he shared with the young people. One of the first days, after waiting only an hour, Pope Francis passed right in front of the Amigos de Jesús group.
As Profe Osman described, “The moment when I saw him pass for the first time, I could feel something different.”
For David, it was a similar sentiment. “The whole world was excited. We were all hot and tired from walking around all day, but when the Pope passed, all our energy came back. I have no idea where we got it from, but it came back.”
Pope Francis’s message for the young people that they are not the future Church but are the Church of today was inspiring for Father Patricio.
“Usually when people talk to young people, they tell them they are the future of the world,” Father Patricio said.
“But the Pope said something different. He said you are not the future, you are the present.
“You are the present and you are a gift from God now in the present for humanity. The Pope said that there is a new logic, that people are trying to build walls to separate countries. This event is a sign of God that young people are showing the world something different.
“These young people from all different countries were building bridges—connecting and building a huge sense of fraternity that we are just one human family.”
For Profe Osman, Pope Francis’s call to action was most impactful. Profe Osman reflected that it was “not just to come, sit for a while to listen to the Pope, to sing, to dance, but to become involved and ask for changes. That we need to be the people who work for the common good.
“And now I am thinking what I can do from here at Amigos de Jesús from my community to help answer this call for change not only for the church but for the society overall.”
As Joan was reflecting on some of the most striking words of Pope Francis, he shared, “The Pope invites us to unite for peace in the world and that instead of constructing walls, we construct bridges for being one in the world. A question the Pope asked that impacted me was ‘Why are there so many young people that believe God don’t exist?’
“This is because many young people feel invisible and that they don’t think they have much to contribute. We have to be like Don Bosco. His heart was hurt by the needs of the young people and what he did was embrace life as it presented itself and gave the young people roots so they could reach for the sky.
“One has to be like a tree that can repeatedly give new life to be an influence in the 21st century so that the young people can be the custodians of what belongs to us.
“It is like Mary, our mother, who said that she was the servant of the Lord and to do in her according to His word. It is only love that returns us more to humanity and that can fill us. We should not be afraid to open our hearts to God so that He can refill us with the fire of our being,” concluded Joan.
The World Youth Day events closed with an all-night vigil where all the pilgrims worshiped and slept out under the stars before the closing Mass the final day.
For one of the young Amigos de Jesús pilgrims, Oscar, it was one of the most impactful experiences.
“The vigil was a spectacular night. We shared between countries, and it was the best thing we could have expected. We were awake most of the night, and then the Pope came, and he announced the next place to host World Youth Day,” reflected Oscar.
“The vigil and last Mass were some of the most powerful experiences. To see and experience such a deep beautiful silence during the 1 hour of adoration with 1 million people was so moving. And for the kids, it was a fun night, because to sleep in a place that you are sharing that place with 1 million people from all around the world under the stars in an open area is just fantastic,” shared Father Patricio.
After World Youth Day ended, the group still had time to enjoy the experience of staying in a 5-star all-inclusive resort. They undoubtedly enjoyed the luxuries this included, but after a few days, the Amigos de Jesús pilgrims were expressing desires to return to Amigos de Jesús and to their life in Honduras.
“Almost everyone said they were ready to return—that it was lovely to be there for a time, but that it was an empty lifestyle to only be receiving. We realized that it is more beautiful to be in our routines, facing challenges. They missed the university, Amigos de Jesús, and the food of Honduras. It’s good to leave, but it’s even better to return,” recounted Profe Osman.
“I missed Amigos de Jesús, I was ready to come back,” echoed Oscar.
Upon returning home to Amigos de Jesús in Honduras, the challenge is to bring that same excitement and recommitment to their faith to their daily lives. The true work of living out this World Youth Day message has just begun.
As Father Patricio shares, “This event helps to remind us that Jesus, when he came, created a movement of people that wanted to embrace the message of the Kingdom.
“And that is the reason why the Church exists, we are here to be a sign of the Kingdom and the Kingdom is the Kingdom where the last are the first.
“It is an experience where God can be the King and it’s not a Kingdom about power or a Kingdom about prestige.
“It is a Kingdom about fraternity, compassion, about bringing healing to the world. It’s about hope, about transformation, about inclusiveness, and that’s the message of Jesus.
“If we want to be faithful to his teachings, the Church has to be a sign of that. And we need to transform our structures of power into a movement of fraternity, compassion, and love to the world. Because that’s what the world needs—love.
“The Church is called to be a sign of the Kingdom of God. And the young people are teaching us that.”
*The individuals in this article are over 18 years of age and gave permission for their names to be used.