By Francesca Merlo
On the 31st of August the young crew – consisting of 17 Frenchmen and women, 4 skippers, and a chaplain - will leave from Notre-Dame de Rocamadour on the gulf of Brest, after receiving a blessing from Bishop Marc Aillet of Bayonne on behalf of all French Bishops. They will sail all the way to Panama to join Pope Francis for World Youth Day in late January 2019.
Hailing from varied backgrounds, the crew members have different reasons for joining this mission – all of them, however, share a desire to reach Pope Francis in Panama on this special occasion. They say they are embarking upon this life lesson in the hope of finding their vocation, understanding their purpose in life, and focusing on their future.
On their website, the team calls it a “spiritual, human, and missionary adventure”.
Though they have never met - and despite the majority of the crew having never sailed before - they must all learn to sail together, live and work together, and learn the way of the sea and nature.
A missionary journey
The pilgrims say their aim is to immerse themselves in the lives of the local people, listen to their stories, and learn from their experiences as they travel from country to country and continent to continent.
From the 1-15 of September they will sail through France, Spain, and Portugal, stopping off on pilgrimages first in Santiago de Compostela and the Sanctuary of our Lady Fatima, in order to share and explain the purpose of their mission.
On the 30th of September, once in Morocco, they will follow the steps of Blessed Charles de Foucault, in an attempt to learn about his life.
From the 1st to the 15th of October they sail through the Canary Islands, before travelling to Senegal where they will lead a mission in Dakar.
Then onto Cape Verde, and from the 15th of November to the 5th of December they cross the Atlantic Ocean.
On the 25th of December they will arrive in the Caribbean Islands – Saint Lucie, Martinique, Dominique, and Guadeloupe where they will spend Christmas.
Leaving there on the 27th of December they will arrive in Curacao on the 15th of January, sailing on through until reaching their final destination: Panama, arriving in time for WYD from 22nd to 27th January.
Return of the patron saint
On board they are carrying the statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, offered by the Archbishop of Panama.
The statue, representing the Patron saint of Panama and originally from Seville, will make a symbolic journey acrosss the Atlantic Ocean with these adventurous, young pilgrims.