Australian pilgrims have been urged to reflect more deeply on how God is calling them in their personal lives during their first catechesis session in Panama, led by the Bishop of the US Diocese of Texas, Edward Burns.
The Sydney Catholic Youth group was joined by others from English-speaking countries including the United States, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa for Bishop Burns’ electrifying catechesis on the first part of the World Youth Day theme, ‘Here I Am’.
The catechesis came as crowds lined the streets to greet Pope Francis as his popemobile passed through the city streets ahead of an official welcoming ceremony led by the World Youth Day pilgrims tomorrow.
Watch the video of the Aussie gathering on demand at www.sydneycatholic/live
The US Bishop began his catechesis by sharing his own vocation story of how he walked out of a study period in high school to call his parish priest to make an appointment to discuss this call to the priesthood that he was experiencing.
“If you’re going to say ‘yes’ to the Lord, hold on to your seat, because you’re going to go for a ride”, Bishop Burns told the pilgrims.
Meditating on the story of Samuel, Bishop Burns told the pilgrims that when they felt God’s call, they – like Samuel – just need to open themselves up and say, ‘Here I Am.’
It wouldn’t always be easy, he warned, because God often takes a willing heart to extraordinary places. “Had I have known I was going to be a Bishop, in seminary, I would have studied harder,” he joked.
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Following the catechesis, Bishop Burns celebrated a Mass which was concelebrated by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and other priests from Australia, most of whom had made themselves available to hear confessions throughout the catechesis.
The Sydney pilgrims then explored the various youth activities on offer: some to Omar Park, which featured the Vocations Expo and the ‘Garden of Forgiveness’ where about 100 priests heard confessions in different languages, and an Adoration tent where hundreds gathered for quiet prayer.
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Others went to the ‘Fiat Festival,’ which boasted an impressive line-up of speakers and performers, run by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Knights of Columbus. This also provided some much-needed respite from the hot and humid Panama weather.
Pilgrims have received a warm welcome across the city with one shop owner, a recent convert to Catholicism from Buddhism, telling the Sydneysiders that the news presenter he was listening to in the morning jokingly suggested that Panama should revoke all of the pilgrims’ passports so that they would be forced to stay and that Panama City would continue to be such a wonderfully joyful place.
He also told how the head of a multinational car company in Panama, who was known for owning several multi-million dollar homes in the city, had apparently vacated them for the week to allow Dominicans to take them over.