California Catholics at World Youth Day

Summer break for Latin American students

Pilgrims from San Gabriel region pose with Bishop O’Connell (photo by Efren Rodriguez)

The following comes from a Jan. 28 story in Angelus News.

….Groups such as the pilgrims from St. John the Evangelist Church and St. Elizabeth Church kept their pilgrimage to six days, rather than the 10-14 day, multi-country treks they’d made for past World Youth Days.

But for their Latin American counterparts on the other side of the world, it came during the customary summer break for students — a welcome break for most in this part of the globe. While estimates are still sketchy, it was widely apparent that a majority of pilgrims had come from Central and South America.

It also came during Panama’s dry season. Pilgrims endured humid weather reaching in the 90s during the day, and also got an extra early wake-up call Sunday morning (compared to previous WYDs) so that Mass could finish before 10 a.m. and pilgrims could be on their way before temperatures peaked.

But they did not have to deal with rain (a real factor in the last two WYDs in Brazil and Poland), and were instead treated to a cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean.

That was a welcome relief for the thousands who slept in sleeping bags at the St. Pope John Paul II Field in the hours between the Saturday night vigil and the closing Mass the next morning.

Performers led some willing participants in Catholic-themed musical performances with the help of jumbotrons. But most pilgrims, it seemed, preferred to mill about the field, joining dance circles and guitar serenades, sharing a quick meal, and making new friends among other who shared their faith.

The thousands who walked miles to and from the park got a taste of hospitality, Panamanian-style: Pilgrims were treated to free bottles of water, cups of coffee, bus-shuttle rides to the city’s center, and even water-hose sprays for overheated passerby pilgrims….

In his homily at WYD’s closing Mass, Francis reminded the youth of one of the main themes of the synod’s final document: the need to “create channels and spaces that encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today.

“A space that is not simply taken for granted, or won in a lottery, but a space for which you, too, must fight,” Francis said.

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