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A taste of World Youth Day at Panama in the Capital

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As thousands of their peers flocked to the dayslong papal gathering in Panama City, young adults in Washington got a taste of the faraway international celebration at nearby Panama in the Capital Jan. 26. From noon till night, the 1,400 participants from 30 dioceses listened to speakers, prayed, sang along to music from numerous bands and sampled Panamanian cuisine. The event was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and others, including the Diocese of Arlington.

Participants and sisters Kathleen, 25, and Mary, 21, Strycula also attended Krakow in the Capital in 2016 and the visit of the World Youth Day Cross to Washington in 2018. “It’s just (always) a really good experience so we keep coming back,” said Mary, who attended St. Ambrose Church in Annandale and now studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, where many of the day’s events were held. 

Both women most enjoyed the talk on finding healing and wholeness as Catholics. “Clinical psychologist (Jessie Tappel of Divine Mercy University in Arlington) talked about looking at the whole person, both spiritually and psychologically. Afterward, the priests prayed over each person who came up. That was a really powerful experience,” said Mary. Other speakers throughout the day lectured on religion and science, Christian leadership, building communities, and prayer.

During a talk on listening to God’s voice in daily life, one woman asked the panelists how they had heard God outside of contemplative prayer. Carmelite Brother John-Mary of Jesus Crucified spoke about an interaction he had with a man curious about his vocation. 

“I wasn’t feeling really excited about my vocation, I was just tired and wanted some coffee,” he said. “As I’m walking away, I hear the man go, ‘Dang, that man was happy.’ I couldn’t believe it. God was affirming through that man who saw something in me that I didn’t feel at that time. God was telling me that’s where (he) wanted me to be.”

Benedictine Sister Nancy Bauer spoke about closing her bank account as she was preparing to enter religious life. “The woman at the counter said, ‘Why are you closing your account?’ and I said, ‘Well, because I’m going to enter a monastery.’ She said, ‘Why in this day and age would anyone want to do that?’ ” said Sister Nancy. “I think it was the Holy Spirit’s words that came out came out of my mouth because I said, ‘Ma’am, this is the only day and age I have.’ ”

In the late afternoon, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, celebrated the vigil Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Later that evening, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori led candlelit Stations of the Cross in the crypt church. Opportunities for confession and adoration were available throughout the day. 

Dinner included Panamanian-inspired rice, chicken and beans, potato salad, fried plantains and coconut cookies. As they ate, young adults could choose to listen to a variety of bands, including Marie Miller, the Hillbilly Thomists, Jorge Zurita, The Clovers and the Arlington Diocese’s own The Restless. While performing at and attending the gathering, Restless singer Stephen Ng  said he experienced a great feeling of unity among the participants. “(We came together) as family, as each other’s brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said. “It was amazing. I just felt so much energy throughout the whole day.” 

The night closed with a performance from Grufolpawa Panamanian Dancers, and an alternative-folk concert from a family band of seven, The Hunts. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

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