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Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, Texas (USA) Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas, Texas (USA) 

WYD Panama: Catechesis in the Parish

Concerts, confessions, and catechesis in the parishes of Panama City help prepare young people to participate even more fully in the World Youth Days ahead.

By Seán-Patrick Lovett

The description “Catechesis in the Parish” doesn’t really do them justice. In reality, these World Youth Day morning gatherings are a multiple mix of things.

The idea is to aggregate groups, according to common languages and nationalities, in various parishes around Panama City, for three days of reflection, reconciliation, and recreation, ahead of the main WYD events with the Pope.

Listen to our report

What happens?

The catechesis itself involves a presentation by a Cardinal, Bishop, or other ecclesial authority, followed by a Q & A session. But there are also testimonies from young people themselves: often powerful stories of how they found God, or rediscovered their faith, or came to terms with a major life crisis.

Then there’s the music. Lots of it. All followed by the celebration of Mass, and accompanied by impromptu confessions that are heard by young priests, sitting or standing on the outskirts of the gathering. The overall effect is of a crowded, colourful, rowdy yet reflective, World Youth Day in miniature.  

Who is there?

On Day One, around one thousand young people crowded the Parish of San Francisco de la Caleta in downtown Panama City. They came from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and South Africa. They were there, partly for the sheer joy of being there, but mostly to reflect on the theme and challenge of the day: “Here I am, Lord”.

Leading them in that reflection was the Bishop of Dallas, Texas, Edward Burns.

What did the Bishop say?

Bishop Burns engaged his young audience with a series of anecdotes that ranged from his personal vocation and devotion to Our Lady, to how he overcame his fear of flying.

But, most of all, he focused of the theme of challenge: “The challenge for us is to really listen to the Lord”, he said.“With all the technology we have around us, to shut all that down so that we can be still in the presence of the Lord and listen to Him much as Samuel said: ‘“Speak Lord, your servant listening’”.

The Bishops’ challenge to “shut off your iPhones, shut off your iPads, all your electronics”, caused ripples of surprised and amused reactions among those present. But he quickly qualified his provocation: “Find yourself in the presence of the Lord”, he said, “open your heart, your mind, and your lives to Him, and let Him speak to you”.

23 January 2019, 22:54