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I’d like to share three photos with you to summarize our trip to World Youth Day 2019 in Panama with Pope Francis.  First, of our entire group. The group becomes very close because we share everything together for a week straight, most especially our faith, our prayers, and our  hearts.

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Second, of what the crowds felt like to us on the Cinta Costera (the place we met for the big events Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday).  We are wearing the blue shirts.

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Thirdly, the reason we all gathered, my photo of how close the Pope came by our group (one of three times we got this close!).

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The highlights of each day were:
- Sunday Mass with Bishop Rhoades
- Going on a river tour through some of the rainforest
- Seeing the Panama Canal and having the opening Mass with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
- The Fiat Festival with Eucharistic Adoration and many inspiring talks, including from Bishop Barron
- The Pope’s arrival and having him pass right by us on his pope-mobile
- Stations of the Cross with the Pope
- The 9-mile hike to our overnight site and an extended talk to all the pilgrims from Pope Francis
- The closing Mass with over 500,000 pilgrims (a “tiny” number for WYD events) and our “last supper”
A day spent touring the old city with Mass in a church about five hundred years old before our return to winter weather

Our Holy Father’s final words at the Mass are a good summary of his message to us:

And to you, dear young people, a big “thank you”. Your faith and joy have made Panama, America and the entire world shake! ... We are on a journey, keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing the faith. Do not forget that you are not the tomorrow, you are not the “meantime”; you are the now of God. ... I ask you not to let the fervour of these days grow cold. Go back to your parishes and communities, to your families and your friends, and share what you have lived, so that others can resonate with the strength and concrete enthusiasm that is yours. And with Mary, keep saying “yes” to the dream that God has sown in you. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.

We will, Pope Francis, always keep you in our prayers and strive to follow Mary’s “yes” in our daily lives.

There were so many blessings on this trip that I will need lots of time to process them.  Every WYD I have been on (four now) has left its mark in my heart and in my life. I pray the Lord allows these graces to grow and bear much fruit.  Come Holy Spirit!

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