Plans are underway for a pilgrimage to Panama for World Youth Day 2019. Father Michael LaMarca will lead a group to Central America in January 2019 for the spiritual event. Due to the winter dates, there will be no diocesan pilgrimage from the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, who have organized trips to Denver, Paris, Toronto, Cologne and Krakow in past years.
Pilgrims will leave Buffalo Jan. 21 and arrive back home Jan. 29. During this time, they will participate in several WYD activities, including catechetical sessions and papal Masses. Plans also call for visits to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary for Mass, San Jose Church with its golden altar, and the Plaza de Francia. Before leaving, the pilgrims will take a ferry ride down the historic Panama Canal.
Father LaMarca, parochial vicar of St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View, hosted an introductory night in July at St. John Paul II Parish to address the itinerary, cost, fundraising and questions pilgrims may have. He is hoping for a group of 10 to 20 people to travel with him to Panama.
Father LaMarca, 30, has participated in WYD events in Cologne, Germany and Madrid, Spain in past years at different points in his life and education. Both events had a positive effect on his spiritual development.
"When I was in Cologne in 2005, I was just going into college. So for me, it gave me a good spark in my faith and gave me good reassurance of my faith as a young adult going into college, and helped me solidify who I knew I was in my faith and where I was in my faith journey going into college," he said. "In 2011, I was in the seminary. I had already been in for a couple of years. It was a much different experience. Because I was in the seminary, I had the opportunity to attend a Mass that Pope Benedict XVI had with all the seminarians that were attending World Youth Day. That was incredible to meet other seminarians from around the world, but more specifically from the United States."
He ended up sitting and bonding with seminarians from Kansas, California and Connecticut.
"For that day, we formed a very close friendship talking about our own personal journeys," he said, calling that afternoon a shot in the arm of his faith life."(It) solidified my own personal call to the priesthood during that trip."
Patron saints for the event include St. José Sánchez del Rio, St. Juan Diego, Blessed Sor María Romero Meneses, St. John Bosco, Blessed Oscar Romero, St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima and St. John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day.
For more information contact Father LaMarca at 716-627-2910, ext. 5 or FrMikeL@jp2parish.org.