World Youth Day pilgrims and their host family in Panama City, Panama.

Sister Sophia Peters, FSE, and Lauren Noce from the counseling staff of the Franciscan Life Center were part of a group from the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Meriden, who attended the 34th World Youth Day held in Panama City, Panama from January 24-27, 2019. Initiated by Pope St. John Paul II, World Youth Day is a gathering of young adults who celebrate their faith, and seek to be inspired by the thousands of others who likewise treasure the gift of their Catholic faith. Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have carried on the tradition of praying with and giving hope to young people as the future of the Church.

The theme of the 2019 World Youth Day was “ “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Pope Francis encouraged the 600,000 young adults from around the world to live their Catholic faith as witnesses in the spirit of Mary who said “Yes” to God’s invitation to be the mother of Christ. The group from Meriden attended the welcoming ceremony Thursday evening during which Pope Francis prayed with and spoke to the crowd. The climax of the four days was the all night prayer vigil from Saturday evening to Sunday morning which culminated with the Holy Father’s Mass on Sunday morning. The young adults were hosted by a welcoming local family. The experience was indeed a pilgrimage as they walked ten miles from their housing to the various events each day.

Sister Sophia is a marriage and family therapist; Lauren is a counselor at the Franciscan Life Center. Other pilgrims have been associated with the Center over the years as well. Sister Frances Zajac co-leads the Leadership LEAP Experience for youth in the summer; Alex Wells has been a part-time land maintenance employee; and others attended the Summer Enrichment Program when they were children. The priest-chaplain for the pilgrimage was Father Glen Dmytryszyn, Parochial Vicar of St. John Bosco Parish, Branford.