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BRAINTREE -- About 100 people from different parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston journeyed to Panama City for World Youth Day, taking place Jan. 22-27.
Chris Donoghue, an evangelization consultant, and Elizabeth Feudo, a design production specialist, spoke with the Pilot by phone on Jan. 22 about their journey and first days in Panama City.
Their original plan was to fly to Miami on Jan. 20, but to avoid the forecasted snowstorm, they instead went to Dallas on Jan. 19, spent the night there, and flew to Miami the following day -- and from there to Panama.
"With all the challenges getting here," Donoghue said, "it's been really awesome how everyone is taking it in stride."
Feudo agreed, "Everyone's been very adaptable."
They called their first full day in Panama, Jan. 21, a day to "Play and Pray in the Rainforest." All the Boston pilgrims went to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.
There, they rode a boat in the canal, took an aerial tram to an observatory, and visited a sloth sanctuary, a butterfly garden, and an orchid exhibit. Afterward, they returned to their hotel for lunch and a time of prayer, with the opportunity to go to confession, followed by Mass.
On Jan. 22, the pilgrims had a free morning and many took the opportunity to explore Panama City.
Donoghue and Feudo said the joy and excitement are "palpable." People from different countries can be found singing, dancing, and taking selfies together, even on the buses and subways.
"Friendships have definitely already started to form between people who didn't know each other before the trip," Feudo said.
In the afternoon, the Boston pilgrims attended the World Youth Day opening Mass at Cinta Costera, a coastal walkway with views of the city skyline. Most of the Mass was in Spanish, but one reading was in English, and two radio stations simulcast live English translations.
"Flags were flying everywhere, people were dancing, everyone was smiling. And then [at] the opening Mass there were so many rows and rows of priests there," Feudo said.
The pilgrims could see flags from different countries, more than they could identify. They also saw different orders of religious in attendance.
"There's so much diversity. It's really cool to see," Feudo said.
At the same time, despite coming from so many parts of the world, all the World Youth Day attendees are connected by their faith.
"I think everyone being surrounded by people with the same beliefs and such joy and love for the Lord is really inspirational. It is for me, for sure. That seems to be the ongoing theme," Feudo said.