Equally Blessed to offer free webinar to share stories from pilgrims’ witness for LGBTQI inclusion at World Youth Day in Panama

Kissing in front of the Equally Blessed banner

On Wednesday, February 27, at 8:30 PM ET, Equally Blessed will offer a free webinar, open to the public, for supporters and other interested people to hear from the Equally Blessed pilgrims who traveled to World Youth Day in Panama from January 21-27, 2019.

The pilgrims, ages 23 through 33, will share firsthand accounts of the most meaningful moments they had at World Youth Day as they witnessed for the full inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the Catholic Church. Sponsored by the Vatican, World Youth Day is held every two to three years, and draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, ages 16-35, to the host city. Although focused primarily on worship and spirituality, it typically also includes sessions sponsored by organizations that oppose any advancement of civil rights for LGBTQI people.

While in Panama, the Equally Blessed pilgrims distributed almost 2,500 small souvenirs to other attendees, including over 1,500 rainbow buttons with the messages “I am equally blessed” and “It’s our church, too,” and almost 1,000 LGBTQI-inclusive Spanish and English language prayer cards. Wearing rainbow sashes and holding a large banner that read, “Faithful Catholics committed to full equality for LGBTQI persons,” the pilgrims also had several hundred individual conversations about LGBTQI issues with other pilgrims from dozens of countries in North, Central, and South America; Europe; Asia; Africa; and Oceania.

The Equally Blessed pilgrims took time to meet with LGBTQI leaders in Panama, including Pau González, the founder of Hombres Trans Panamá, an organization for transgender men in Panama; Lorena Arosemena Charles, a popular Panamanian podcaster and co-founder of Diversa Mov, a local lesbian group; and Guille Tejada and Álvaro Gómez Prado, two well-known Panamanian YouTubers who host a weekly LGBTQI-themed show, Estos Dos Manes.

Word quickly spread about the pilgrims’ presence in Panama, as Equally Blessed picked up over 500 new Instagram followers and appeared in the top search results for World Youth Day on Instagram. The popular Panamanian radio host Gabby Gnazzo featured Equally Blessed on her show, Vatican radio interviewed two Equally Blessed pilgrims, and upon returning home, our pilgrims have been featured in several news outlets including The National Catholic Reporter and The Washington Blade.

Participating in the webinar will be Melissa Barber, 33, of Indianapolis; Catherine Buck, 27, of New Jersey; Keith Hall, 31, of Washington, D.C.; Breanna Mekuly, 28, of Erie, Penn.; and Evan Vaughan, 26, of San Francisco. John Freml, coordinator of Equally Blessed, and Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, will moderate the webinar. The pilgrims will also take questions from participants. Pre-registration is requested but not required.

More information is available at: equallyblessed.org/webinar.


Equally Blessed is a coalition of three Catholic organizations (Call To Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry) that have spent more than 120 years working on behalf of LGBTQI people and their families. Collectively and individually, we are devoted to informing, supporting, and giving voice to the growing majority within the Catholic Church in the United States that favors equality under law for LGBTQI people.

Press contact: coordinator@equallyblessed.org

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