The 2019 World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama has energized and inspired young people in many countries.

Motivated by their missionary charism and the grace of fraternity, the First Order Franciscans implemented their “Itinerant Franciscan Fraternity” project for this event. Encouraged by the Secretaries General for Mission Animation of the OFM, OFM Conv., and OFM Cap., friars from several countries participated, namely, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela and Poland.
From January 18-28, 2019, the friars took part in a series of activities organized by the “Franciscan Ecological Village”, which was set up at the Colegio Internacional de María Inmaculada in Panama City. The Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate were there to provide hospitality to attending members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM), Franciscan Youth, Laudato Si’ volunteers and the friars of the various obediences.
During the first days, workshops were offered on “Caring for Our Common Home “, presentations were made on the encyclical Laudato Si’ and finally, there was a retreat day at the Metropolitan Natural Park in Panama City. These experiences paved the way for a commitment that was carried out later, namely, “proclaiming the message of Laudato Si’ on the streets”. For that, the participants went to parks and meeting places, motivating pilgrims to commit to changing their lifestyle, to have an ecological conversion and adopt a simpler life in solidarity with the poor.
The Itinerant Franciscan Fraternity joined forces with the lay people and volunteers, contributing joy and simplicity, and giving witness to life in fraternity. The experience generated a great spirit of fraternity, while providing meeting spaces, celebration and time for common prayer. For many, it was the first time they had ever spent time with friars from different obediences. The occasion confirmed that the Franciscan charism overcomes all boundaries and challenges everyone to be witnesses of fraternity.
In his message during WYD, Pope Francis acknowledged the young people saying, “By your actions and your approach, your way of looking at things, your desires and above all your sensitivity, you discredit and defuse the kind of talk that is intent on sowing division, on excluding or rejecting those who are not ‘like us’”. Once again, the Pope invited us to become teachers and builders of the culture of encounter. His words addressed to the pilgrims greatly impressed the friars as well and encouraged them to repeat this kind of experience again, to live the Franciscan charism with passion and to build bridges within the great Franciscan family.

Friar Erick Gerardo MARÍN CARBALLO, OFM Conv.