What is World Youth Day?
World Youth Day is a huge celebration of young folks from around the world gathered in one space with the Pope. Typically celebrated every three years in a different country, the celebrating brings together thousands of teenagers and young adults.
World Youth Day is a way for young people to deepen their faith while engaging in prayer and the sacraments with thousands of others from around the world.
This year, the celebration is in Panama and is expected to bring together 100,000 pilgrims from around the world.
Why are they called pilgrims?
A pilgrim is someone who “journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.”
Matthew 18:20 reminds us that Christ says: “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, I, too, am there.” Because so many people will be gathering for the same reason (to deepen faith in the universal Catholic community), Panama will be a sacred space.
What happens at World Youth Day?
World Youth Day is actually a week of celebrating being Catholic through prayer, songs, liturgy, sacraments, and other fun activities including evening shows and local customs. The Pope is to arrive on Wednesday and stay through Sunday – so many people will try their luck to see him, too!
Many people also tour the country – so there are plenty of opportunities for tourism with other young Catholics, too.
What is Equally Blessed?
Equally Blessed is a coalition of three Catholic organizations, Call to Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry, working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.
They 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 LGBT people.
Specifically, they do so by seeking to educate, to inspire and to prompt Catholics to take action in the church and in the wider culture on behalf of LGBT people, their families and friends.
Why is Equally Blessed sending delegates to World Youth Day?
Members of Equally Blessed encompass the political, the theological, and the pastoral. During this pilgrimage, we will intentionally engage in all three of these.
Politically, we will stand with banners and signs reminding folks that there is a population of the Catholic Church that identifies as LGBTQI and many more who support them in the Church. We will also engage in friendly conversation with other pilgrims and with the media when prompted.
Theologically, the conversations we engage in will touch upon the intersection of gender, sexuality and spirituality, which will allow us to delve into the current theological teachings of the Church and allow us space to talk about how the biology of the Church could be better updated to provide a more realistic and wholistic theological ideology.
Pastorally, we will walk with folks at the World Youth Day celebrations who might also identify as LGBTQI and Catholic. We will also walk with those who are not present, carrying with us their spirit and standing up for them in public places, places that are often difficult or even dangerous to stand up in alone.
What will the Equally Blessed delegates do during the World Youth Day celebrations?
Mostly, we’ll do a lot of standing around public areas and talking to people, including the media. We’ll meet people from all over the world! We’ll wear our rainbow colors and welcome people to talk with us about what it’s like to be LGBTQI and Catholic. We’ll invite people to think about the intersection of sexuality, gender and spirituality. We’ll participate in events and liturgies and prayers and singing. We’ll probably even do some touring of Panama! We’ve been encouraged to engage with others in whatever ways are comfortable for us and for those we encounter. So even engaging with others in small talk or regular friendly dialogue on tourist trips will happen.
We will NOT be proselytizing or evangelizing. (There really isn’t a way to do that, anyhow; it’s not like we can “encourage” or “force” someone to be queer… so that isn’t our goal. Not at all.)
Why am I going to World Youth Day as a delegate of Equally Blessed?
I believe in the dignity of all human beings, and especially those who are most marginalized and ostracized. By the Catholic Church, the LGBTQI community has been hurt and overlooked in many ways. I wish to stand up with this community and say “no more.” No more will we be ignored. No more will we be treated poorly based on homophobia or transphobia. No more will we accept outdated theology that doesn’t match with the science, psychology, biology, sociology, and physiology that we know to be true today.
I am dedicated to pushing the Church to further talk about the intersection of sexuality, gender, and spirituality in healthy and informed ways.
Lastly, I hope that if there is one person in Panama questioning if they fit into the Catholic Church because their gender or sexual orientation doesn’t fit with what society prescribed of them, that they see in us a ray of hope – that it’s possible to be LGBTQI and Catholic, that there’s a community of people around the world who also identify this way, and that they are loved. If nothing else, that they see they are loved for exactly who God made them to be and grow into.