WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-16th January 2019 (Part 2)

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-16th January 2019 (Part 2)

Yesterday was eventful! Our breakfast was croissants with Apple juice, sausage and one traditional Panamanian breakfast item called Almojabano that’s made from corn. After breakfast we went to the church and met some of the other members of the Ghana team assigned to Sacred Heart Parish. (Sagrado Corazon de Jesus). It was all fun as we took pictures and got ready for our excursion.
There was a rehearsal of a choreography about Jesus’s interaction with Martha about the resurrection going on so we watched and participated. It was great! Finally, we got into the bus and went to Boquete for an excursion. First stop was to a famous rocky/mountainlike structure at Boquete where we climbed up and wrote our names. (We were there some…lol). Just across was a waterfall which we explored as well. We also got some souvenirs. From there, we went to a restaurant for lunch. Some of the food items included rice, mashed potatoes, chicken, pork and vegetables. Most people also had a drink to go with their meals. After lunch we walked to a flower and coffee fair…It was amazing! There were flowers everywhere! There was horseback and pony riding available too! And of course some shops where we could buy souvenirs.
Next stop was to Capilla Navadid de Boquete where the Franciscans have a sublime nativity scene carved in stone. It’s a whole set up so there’s a voice over that takes you through the whole Christmas story. It was very moving and completely out of this world. There are some pews there for mass. Beautiful!
From there we came back to the Parish for a welcome mass for the pilgrims. We met some other pilgrims from Guatamela so all of us joined in the procession for mass. Randolf was the cross bearer while Maame Senti and Lawrencia carried the candles. Esther and I held the Ghana flag. All the priests from Ghana joined to celebrate the mass. Augustine took the first reading while Assumpta took the responorial psalm and Fr. Bernard took the gospel. So at least there was some English to balance all the Spanish :-). Everything else was in Spanish but it’s mass…so we responded in English. 😎. After mass, we went to another room for snacks. Then we came back to the church to have a taste of Panamanian culture. We were treated to some Panamaian orchestral music performances and folk dances. We enjoyed everything to the max! The Parish also introduced the various ministries they have. They have a liturgical, family life/counselling, youth and communion ministries.
From the church, our mum drove us to an aunt’s house for a birthday celebration. We had cake and ice cream! We also met more wonderful family members: cousins, aunties and uncles. We also learnt a new expression: “que so pas” said with swag. Back home, we shared Ghanaian and other West African music with Roy and Juan Diego (the nephew) before bed.
A full day indeed!
Today we have catechesis, sports and mass.

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WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-17th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-17th January 2019

So yesterday was another amazing day! Breakfast was Almojabano with cheese, turkey ham, juice and melon. Efua and I were late to the church (hiding my face) so we got scolded. However, all was forgiven. When we got there the others had already been taught some Spanish songs and their animations…sometimes with English translations. We had a time of catechesis where the Ghana team shared with each other their thoughts on the theme for the WYD : Luke 1:38 Here I am the servant of the LORD, let it be done to me according to your word.
Through the sharing, we were reminded of the need to say yes to God in faith and be obedient to His word. Other reminders were that we have to keep saying yes daily and to live congruent lives at all times. We were also taught how to say Hail Mary in Spanish. We had group dynamics where we animated “If you’re happy and you know it.” We also did some cultural dancing: adowa, kpalongo and agbadza. We also did “Kyekyekule” and generally had a blast. The Guatamelan pilgrims also did some animations. The catechesis for the day reminded pilgrims of God’s love in Jesus and the need to respond to that love. It also focused on the family and on learning through the family as Jesus did.
In between we had snacks and lunch. After lunch, the volunteers took both sets of pilgrims to a nearby school for games. The games included volleyball, football and basketball.
Next activity was mass. As usual, the Ghana team was well represented. All the priests concelebrated with Fr. Bernard Adjei-Appiah as the main celebrant. So the mass was in English! Yay! Philip was the cross bearer while two Guatamelan pilgrims held the candles. Angela took the reading, Efua the responses psalm and Fr. Emmanuel took the gospel all in English. The Guatamelan pilgrims did the same in Spanish. Fr. Davis in his homily reminded all to come to Jesus as the leper did. We are to bring all our problems to Jesus by whatever means possible…even if it means breaking convention trusting that He has the answer and will help us.
Families came for their pilgrims after mass. Our mum and sister took us out for some fries and a burger. Efua had lemonade while I took a pineapple smoothie. Over our late supper, we continued learning about each others’ countries and cultures. We then came back home to prepare for bed. Awesome day!

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-18th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-18th January 2019

Today started very early with a dawn rosary procession in the neighbourhood of the Parish. The rosary was in Spanish. Louisa led the second mystery while Angela led the fourth. The Guatamelan team led the other mysteries. Fr. Alphonse led part of the litany…also in Spanish.
After rosary, we had breakfast. Then we went in a bus to a city called Vulcan. Apparently, there’s a mountain that used to be a volcano there. We went to a beautiful chapel that used to be of the Byzantine rite. There’s also a Catholic Agricultural School there. We had group dynamics where the various pilgrims and volunteers were divided into teams to learn and teach dances from each other’s cultures. These were exhibited afterwards. It was a sight to behold! Foreigners dancing adowa and kpalongo.
There was also some singing: in Spanish and English. The Ghanaians sang the first and third verses of the song in English while the second, fourth and fifth verses and the chorus were sang in Spanish. Lunch followed. A form of rice as usual.
Next, we went to the church of Nuestra Senora de la Caridad. We met other pilgrims from Brazil, Colombia and other countries. The rest had already planted trees so we only joined them to sing and dance for a while. The Parish Priest then gave a message of solidarity to all pilgrims and expressed his delight at our presence.
From there, we went to Hotel Bambito for sightseeing and them back to the Parish for mass.
Fr. Moses (the Parish priest of Sagrado Corazon) was the main celebrant so mass was in Spanish but the homily was translated into English. Louisa took the first reading, Randolf the responsorial psalm and Fr. Davis the gospel in English. Fr. Moses reminded pilgrims about the need to persevere in faith. On behalf of the parish, he thanked all pilgrims for their presence. Lawrence, Maame and Philip assisted with the offering while Rita and Araba assisted with offertory.
During communion, the Ghana team gave a repeat performance of the song.
After mass pilgrims went back home.

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-19th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-19th January 2019

19th January 2019 was an exciting day! We finally got our WYD Panama T-shirts! Yay! The other group already had theirs. We all met at San Agostino (a high school) for a vocational and cultural fair. Various groups of pilgrims exhibited dances from their countries. Team Ghana did some serious jama too! I met a Ghanaian SVD priest working in Panama. There were other missionary groups and a family ministry. Unfortunately, most spoke only Spanish so we the non-spanish speakers could not engage much with them.
Serracin
From there, we went on a walk through the city. It was an amazing experience with the different groups of pilgrims and the volunteers. We stopped to pray the rosary and then walked to the Kenny Serracin stadium for mass.
The pilgrims present were over 5000. Some of the countries represented were Ghana, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Korea, Guatemala, USA, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Poland, France, Senegal, Peru, Argentina, Belize, Chile and Panama.
With the preponderance of Spanish speakers, most of the mass was in Spanish. The first reading was in French and the second in German. One of the bidding prayers was in English. Apparently, there was a testimony. And we think the gospel was on the wedding at Cana. Otherwise, we did our best to follow.
The volunteers were wonderful! They kept tabs on us and kept bringing around water…given all the walking we did. The health professionals were also on hand to take care of the sick. Everyone also got a Panamanian flag!
Thus the mission days in the diocese of David officially ended.

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-20th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-20th January 2019

Final day with the Parish always comes with lots of mixed feelings. You’re happy to be leaving for the main events but sad to leave your new family.
Fr. Joshua, the co-ordinator for the WYD was the main celebrant while the other priests and Fr. Moses concelebrated.
Louisa took the first reading, Augustine the responses psalm and Eric the second reading. Fr. Alphonse took the gospel in English. Fr. Moses in his homily asked pilgrims to take the joy they had experienced back to their countries. Virginia from Guatemala translated. Efua and Mildred took the offering while Lawrencia and Araba presented the offertory.
After communion, Joshua shared briefly about some of the stuggles encountered in preparing for the mission days.
Fr. Alphonse also led the Ghana team to make a presentation to the Parish. The presents were a frame with the “Gye Nyame” symbol, a chasuble and stole (which Fr. Moses promptly changed into) and some souvenirs for the youth. In his remarks Fr. Alphonse expressed appreciation to the Parish for their hospitality and summarised all they had taught us in Dom Cisco’s four things: God/church, family, school and playground. Through our interactions, they have shared their faith in God, showed us their culture through the family and played with us. The Ghanaian youth also expressed their thanks in Spanish.
After mass, both Ghanaian, Panamanian and Guatemalan youth did some cultural performances. The Ghanaian youth danced Bawa, Kpalongo and Adowa. The Parish also gave a JMJ/WYD keyholder to each pilgrim. Some families took their pilgrims out for lunch. There were a lot of goodbyes and some tears shed. Contacts were also exchanged.
Soon the bus arrived and pilgrims left for Panama city.

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-20th to 30th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-20th to 30th January 2019

After more than 5 hours of travelling, about two stops, discussions of all kinds on the bus and of course people sleeping we finally arrived in Panama City! Yay! We were assigned to the Parish of Neustra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) at El Ingenio. We got to the Parish and were warmly welcomed. They gave us juice and snacks. Some people didn’t drink because they realized the juice was expired. It wasn’t the biggest deal but when the Parish priest realized it, he took back the bottles. After the welcome, we were give our pilgrim backpacks and assigned to our families. Our pilgrim back packs contained: a wrist rosary, a pilgrim prayer book, guide and the profiles of the patron saints of this WYD; a T-shirt; a water bottle; a transportation pass; booklet containing our meal coupons; a map of the city; a handband; an ID and its tag and a multipurpose scarf like thing.
I was paired with Assumpta. Our new parents are doctors. They have twin girls: Maria Victoria (Vicky) and Maria Gabriella (Gabby). They also have a little boy named Jose Fernando. It’s very interesting how Maria and Jose are very common names for people in line with Catholic identity. Our sisters in David both had Maria as their first names. The twins had given us their room. It was a real little princess room with twin beds, pictures and images of Disney princess around and of course kids books…but in Spanish.
Both parents speak English but the girls speak Spanish and manage with some words in Spanish.
So most people were happy with their families. Two of our girls weren’t. Thankfully, the next day the issue was resolved.
Monday was free for us. We had mass in the morning and after that, some of us went shopping at Albrook mall. Others also went on other rounds including touring the city. It was exciting!
Tuesday was a busy day. The whole group went to the Panama canal for an excursion after mass. Unfortunately, some people were left behind because they came too late. It is well! The canal is a real engineering piece of work and should be the subject of another blog post. Overall, it was amazing! From there, we went to Allbrook mall for lunch and some more shopping. Next stop was Santa Maria la Antigua field for the opening mass with the Archbishop of Panama. It was exciting to meet other pilgrims and to start trading souvenirs. Team Ghana also did some serious jama which others joined as usual. Some of us were privileged to be in section T2 where we could see the mass happening live without watching from a screen. We listened to the English version on 101.7 or 95.3. After mass, we struggled back home. This was better than Poland where we really got lost. Thank God for small mercies.
Wednesday came and Catechesis started. Team Ghanaa was in charge of the catechesis. The various people who had been assigned set out to perform their roles. Thanks to a last minute cancellation, I was the MC. It was a great experience. The catechesis started with an introduction of the various countries present: Ghana, Malaysia, Canada, USA, India and Myanmar. There was some brief singing after which some people shared testimonies. The theme for the day was: “Here I am.” Archbishop Peter Comensoli of the Archdiocese of Melbourne in Australia taught us on saying yes to God’s call using the story of Samuel. He touched on the various noises that prevent us from hearing God’s voice and invited us to be ready to answer as Samuel was. He also called on leaders, who are guides for young people as Eli was, to welcome warmly, listen attentively, interpret faithfully, teach gently and accompany honestly. There was an interesting question and answer section after which testimonies continued. We had mass at 11. Archbishop Simon Poh of Malaysia concelebrated the mass. After mass, I was privileged to be one of two Ghanaian youth who joined the Archbishops for lunch with youth from the other countries. After lunch most people joined the team to Omar Park for the youth festival. At 5pm, we all lined the streets to meet the pope! After getting the necessary pictures, we returned home.
Thursday had another set playing roles. We had Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria as the bishop Catechist and a friend of his, the President of the Nigerian Conference of Bishops. Archbishop Kaigama taught on “I am the servant of the Lord.” He invited us all to imitate Mary in her complete surrender to God’s will. He also challenged us with stories of young martyrs and called on us to be willing to die for our faith. As usual, there were a number of testimonies shared both before and after the catechesis. Team Ghana led the mass as they did on Wednesday. After mass, some youth joined the Archbishop for lunch while the rest of us used our pilgrim meal coupons. After lunch we went to Santa Maria la Antigua field for the opening ceremony with the Pope. Unfortunately, some of us were late and couldn’t get in. But others did. There was also the option to listen to proceedings on radio. Thus ended Thursday.
Friday saw Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, USA teach on “Be it done unto me according to your word.” He invited pilgrims to reflect on their lives, see God’s hand at work, trust His action in their lives and make a difference in the lives of others. There were testimonies before and after catechesis. Some of the songs for mass were taken up by other pilgrim groups. As usual, some youth has lunch with the Cardinal.
The programme for the afternoon was Stations of the cross with the Pope at Santa Maria La Antigua field. Some members of team Ghana opted to have theirs in the church. An advance team was also sent out to go and find the best way of getting to St. JOHN Paul II field for the vigil. Another event was that, due to a case of suspected malaria of a sick Ghanaian, members of the Ghana team were tested for Malaria.
On Saturday, there were a number of groups from team Ghana who went to the field. The first team secured a place for the whole group. The walk was quite long but not as long as in Poland. And as usual, the foodpack contained a lot of canned stuff since it had to last till the next day.
The vigil was amazing. There was adoration with the Pope. TheGhanaian Statue of Our Lady of Fatima was taken around. The Ghanaian priests also organized the Ghanaian pilgrims to pray the rosary. There was a priest from the USA who had the blessed sacrament exposed for adoration. He also had mass early on Sunday morning. It was a moving sight. The youth festival continued while pilgrims also went round exchanging souvenirs.
Finally, Sunday morning came. The pope celebrated the mass. In his homily, he called on pilgrims to remember that they are the now of God and to fulfil Jesus’s mission in their lives. I think he wasn’t very happy that the venue for the next WYD had already been leaked because he only commented that he wouldn’t announce it since we already knew the venue. Next venue is Portugal! Lisbon 2022. We pray!
Thus WYD 2019 came to an end. We packed up our sleeping bags and made the trek back. The traffic was so serious that you were better off walking. After a long day, we got back home.
Monday morning, team Ghana had mass and made some presentations to the parish that hosted us. Later that day, the first batch of pilgrims left for Ghana. The malaria results were also out by this time so those who tested positive were put on treatment.
On Tuesday, there was mass as well. A second group left. Wednesday also, mass and a third group left.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, it was mainly packing, seeing the city and generally having fun.
Final group should be out of Panama by Friday.
Thank God for a successful pilgrimage!
15 pilgrims are going to the USA for a retreat and an excursion before going back to Ghana. We just landed at the JFK Airport in New York.

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-16th January 2019

WYD Panama 2019 Diaries-16th January 2019

So with my new sim card and the airtime my sisters purchased, I bought a 3 day data bundle. Yay! We drove to a spot in the nearby city of Boquete. It’s a very picturesque city with a lot of different features. We could see mountains and valleys from the spot. We took some pictures and then left. Next stop was an uncle’s house. He works in Panama city so his house is usually left empty. It’s a really beautiful house with lots of flowers and other plants around. They have orange trees, sugar cane plants, berry trees, lemon and tangerines trees. There’s also a farm with plantain and lots of other plants and trees. They had beans and coffee plants as well. Their beans is different from ours. Panama exports coffee. We took pictures to our hearts’ content. We had lunch with our family: mama, Maria, Maria Patricia, Roy, the nephew (note to self: please ask his name), and another cousin who has an adorable little girl. Lunch was rice and beans (forgotten the Spanish name)…it’s basically waakye with no stew. We had meat and plantain to go with it. It was a little different but for me the plaintain helped. We also had soda alongside: they gave us orange and cola flavours of “crush”. Really great! Over lunch, we got to know each other. Since the coversation was more extended, it was a little harder. So Maria Teresa spoke English with us and translated for her mum who speaks no English at all. Roy and I spoke some French because he prefers that and he translated for them. It was quite hard but we did our best. Apparently they learn French in school…just like Ghana.
We told them about ourselves and showed them pictures of our parents and siblings. They asked about education in Ghana and shared about education in Panama. In Panama you do a 4 year degree, a masters is for a year and a PhD is about 2 years. They also spoke of a licensing exam which is about a year.
From there we drove to the Parish for mass. Our parish is Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. parish.
Our other six colleagues had an excursion in town. Apparently we were fast asleep when they came to call us.
All’s well that ends well.
Most of the Ghana team are in Panama now. There’s an activity this morning. So we’re getting ready to go.