Although World Youth Day in Panama isn’t until the summer of 2019, Alaskan youth and young adults are already making preparations for the long journey. While there has always been an Alaskan contingency at past World Youth Days, this time, one group is making a stop along the way for a mission trip in Costa Rica.
Approximately 20 youth are signed up to go on this optional pre-trip, though there is still plenty of time to register. They will be working through Family Missions Company. Founded in 1997, it is an apostolate of lay Catholic missionaries living out their faith in community and serving the poor in several countries throughout the world. The Alaska youth will be doing whatever local missionaries need to be done for a few days before they continue to Panama for World Youth Day. Coordinator Bob McMorrow anticipates the work “could be almost anything, so helping build minor projects, it could be painting something, it could be helping feed poor, it could be ministering in some way to kids.” He said the organization has a very “well established system,” and the Alaskans will be “present in whatever way they can.”
McMorrow hopes the trip will be both a time to serve others and experience a different way of life, while also being a retreat for youth to help them prepare for the experience of World Youth Day.
“Certainly any time we can get people away from their comfortable norm to experience the cultural aspect of living in another country, but also the poverty aspect, to see that and be exposed to it and immerse ourselves in it, is one of our goals,” he said.
The youth will be joined by some of the priests who will be accompanying them to Panama, so there will be the opportunity for the sacraments and spiritual enrichment. It will also be a time to acclimate to the Central American climate, and to get to know their fellow pilgrims.
They have already begun to prepare with informational meetings and opportunities to get to know one another. As the trip draws nearer, McMorrow hopes to give youth a “program for spiritual preparation, encourage them to frequent the sacraments, do some reading and prayer, and just be open to the experience.”
They’ll also be able to give participants more details about what specific tasks are ahead for the mission trip closer to the departure.