By JOANNE FOX
If you are looking for a break from the Iowa cold and snow, consider traveling to the country of Panama next January with several thousand like-minded Catholics.
The Catholic Globe and Canterbury Pilgrimages & Tours of Bedford, N.H., are collaborating on a trip to World Youth Day, Jan. 21-28, 2019, in Panama City.
Previously, the newspaper and Canterbury collaborated on a trip to Mexico in 2015 for the ordination of Father Mauro Sanchez as a priest for the Diocese of Sioux City. Bishop Walker Nickless participated in that pilgrimage.
Although the bishop will not be on this trip, he expressed his support in a letter to the faithful. (See page 3)
The trip is open to anyone; however, attendance at the World Youth Day events is suggested for individuals in the 15 to 35 age range.
Father David Esquiliano, a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City who is fluent in Spanish, will serve as the chaplain on this trip.
“Every year, the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) publishes the results of a survey among newly-ordained priests. One of the events that is consistently mentioned as a catalyst in their discernment is World Youth Day,” he said. “So, if this event can help young men and women open their hearts to receive and embrace God’s calling, I want to be there to assist them.”
Since June 2017, Father Esquiliano has been pursuing canon law post-graduate studies at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy.
“Being away in Rome is a great experience, but unfortunately that means that I’m away from the people in our diocese,” he said. “I miss ministering to the great people in Northwest Iowa. This will be a great opportunity to minister to our youth.”
Canterbury will be sending posters and brochures to all the parishes in the Diocese of Sioux City to disseminate information about the trip.
Fred Shellabarger, director of evangelization, catechesis and family life for the diocese, sees value in this WYD trip.
“One thing Catholics have in many ways forgotten, lost sight of, or even just taken for granted is the value of pilgrimage and WYD is just that, a pilgrimage,” he said. “Attending WYD provides attendees with a unique experience of the faith that they simply cannot experience in their local parish.”
The strength in the pilgrimage is “to be surrounded by so many joyful, passionate, faith-filled individuals from around the world,” Shellabarger noted.
“To celebrate our faith in such a way is an experience like none-other,” he said. “In this way, WYD provides a unique opportunity to experience the universal church.”
Shellabarger recalled a friend of his, Alyson Radford, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Steubenville explaining WYD is an opportunity “to stretch yourself and be a part of the ancient pilgrimage tradition.”
“She pointed out with daily Masses, catechesis, concerts and reflections in a different city, country, culture and language, you are opening yourself up to the greatest possibility – God speaking and moving within you and around you, in a personal way,” he said.
Shellabarger acknowledged God can speak to you here or elsewhere.
“But there is something different about surrendering your journey to the Lord and relying completely on him on a pilgrimage that brings you even closer to his heart and heightens your senses in recognizing him,” he said.
WYD pilgrims will have the opportunity to celebrate the 39th birthday of Father Esquiliano on the first day of the event, Jan. 22.
“That’s still young, right?” he asked, although it is out of the recommended WYD age range.
Father Esquiliano continued, “I would just like to invite our young people to consider attending WYD. It might require working a lot this summer and organizing fundraisers throughout the year, but I’m sure it will be worth it.”
He quipped, “If that’s not convincing enough, just come for the birthday cake.”
For more details, visit canterburypilgrimages.com/allpilgrimages/siouxcity.