Day: February 1, 2019

With the Holy Father in Panama

Hello and welcome!

As I left off last week, the Holy Father was just arriving in Panama to attend World Youth Day.

Of course, there were a number of events connected to his welcoming and arrival and the Holy Father’s talks, particularly on Friday, were very beautiful.

There were about 30 American bishops with us in Panama and, as I mentioned last week, the U.S. had the largest delegation of any single nation at World Youth Day except, of course, for Panama.

The theme was “Be It Done To Me According To Thy Word,” and they even had those rubber wrist bracelets with that theme on it.IMG_9930


Saturday morning, before the vigil with Holy Father, I gathered with all the pilgrims from Boston attending World Youth Day at the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, a beautiful Carmelite church in the center of Panama City.IMG_9806IMG_9807IMG_9809IMG_9816IMG_9818

In addition to the group traveling with the archdiocesan pilgrimage, there were parish groups from Revere, Lowell, Marlborough, East Boston and the cathedral who are part of the Neocatechumenal Way, the LifeTeen group from Hanover and Norwell, and a group from the Brazilian community at St. Tarcisius Parish in Framingham.IMG_9813IMG_9819IMG_9841IMG_9843This t-shirt was a gift from the group from St. Tarcisius

In all, there were about 200 pilgrims from Boston with us at the Mass, which is many more than I had been expecting.IMG_9828


Saturday afternoon we gathered with the Holy Father at Metropark. We were very blessed by the weather because, although it was very hot, we had no rain.IMG_9845The vigil on Saturday evening was very impressive. There were a number of testimonies given by individual young people about their faith. There was also a testimony of a family, who spoke about their daughter who has Down Syndrome.IMG_9853IMG_9854IMG_9856IMG_9871IMG_9858IMG_9860

There were several musical numbers and then the Holy Father gave a talk, which was followed by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.IMG_9863 (1)It was very inspiring to see hundreds of thousands of young people in complete silence during the adoration.

Then, throughout the night, they had concerts and prayers.WYD2019-LFeudo-22WYD2019-LFeudo-24WYD2019-LFeudo-26

Our pilgrims from Boston stayed overnight on the site, though we bishops headed back into the city until about 3 a.m. when we headed out again to attend the Sunday morning Mass.01-WYDLocal-LFeudo-0110-06-WYDLocal-LFeudo-Image-24

There was a crowd of about 700,000 people for the Mass. The music and the participation were, as always, very moving.IMG_9890

At the Mass, they had relics of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was one of the patrons of this World Youth Day.IMG_9895

At the Mass, I met the pastor of Easter Island, Father Bernardo, who sought me out. (I can call him the “pastor of Easter Island” because he is the only priest on the island.) He himself is a member of the native peoples of Easter Island, the Rapanui, and told me he is the only Rapanui priest in his archdiocese.IMG_9917

He introduced me to one of his Rapanui parishioners who was with him, as well.IMG_9921

They gave me a necklace and a flag because they knew that Easter Island was my first assignment and they are still waiting for me to come and be the assistant pastor there!IMG_9950IMG_9949

As we concluded, the Holy Father made the announcement that the next World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. IMG_9907IMG_9904There were a number of Portuguese there, including the Patriarch of Lisbon and the head of the Portuguese bishops’ conference.IMG_9901

I spoke to the patriarch, and he told me that there is great excitement in Portugal over hosting World Youth Day in 2022. He told me that one of the ideas he has is to reach out to the Portuguese speaking countries in Africa and, hopefully, bring many young people from that part of the world. They also have a very close relationship with Cape Verde and Brazil, as well.

The presence of Fatima also makes Portugal an attractive location for World Youth Day, as well. So, I think it is a very good choice.


Sunday evening, after everyone had a chance to rest and refresh themselves, I gathered with the group of pilgrims traveling with the archdiocese for a farewell dinner at the visitors’ center overlooking the Panama Canal.IMG_9925IMG_992710-08-WYDLocal-LFeudo-Image-35

At the center, they have a museum with different exhibits explaining the history of the canal. IMG_9778IMG_9797IMG_9798IMG_9799IMG_9802

As I explained last week, the French were the first to try to build the canal, but were impeded particularly by the mosquito-borne diseases of yellow fever and malaria. They have a number of items in the exhibit illustrating this, including this picture of a hospital ward — and of course a huge picture of a mosquito!IMG_9783IMG_9784

Because I had been bishop in the Virgin Islands, I was particularly interested in this plaque donated by the British government which speaks of the many West Indians, particularly Jamaicans, who participated in the canal construction. IMG_9777

It was wonderful for our young people to see the Panama Canal and see how it is prospering. Americans can be very proud of their participation in its construction but, of course, there was great anxiety over returning control of the canal to Panama. However, today, we can see that Panama has done a great job managing and even expanding the canal, and it is just flourishing. So, that is a great blessing for Panama and the world.


Then, on Monday, I was honored to be asked to preside at a vocational encounter held by the Neocatechumenal Way in Panama City. There were over 20,000 youth filling Rommel Fernandez Stadium in Panama City, including about 150 from Boston.PHOTO-2019-01-31-10-35-48

Archbishop Ulloa, the Archbishop of Panama, was with us and offered some remarks to open the gathering. IMG_9933

Kiko Arguello, one of the initiators of the Neocatechumenal Way, gave a very inspiring address and led us in song before the altar call for vocations.IMG_9934

First, they called forward the young men considering a vocation to the priesthood, then the young women considering religious life, and finally families who are discerning the call to going on mission. There were several hundred people who responded to each call.IMG_9937IMG_9940It was a very inspiring and beautiful event.PHOTO-2019-01-31-10-36-10

At the end of the gathering, I offered some remarks and then they concluded with fireworks. PHOTO-2019-01-31-10-36-23 (1)IMG_9945

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

February 2019
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