WASHINGTON, DC— Among the hundreds of thousands of young people from 155 countries who took part in World Youth Day Jan. 22-27 in Panamá, a half-dozen U.S. Military members participated with the support of their chapel communities and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, (AMS). Auxiliary Bishop Neal J. Buckon led the military young adult group, comprising servicemen and women from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, CA, and the Marine Corps Bases at Camp Lejeune, NC, and Camp Kinser on Okinawa, Japan.
The Holy See has sponsored World Youth Day every two or three years at different places worldwide since the first was held in Rome in 1986. In recent years, the AMS has been a regular participant. Its delegation of young military adults normally stays in military accommodations in the host country, but this year was different. Since Panamá has no standing military, the AMS group stayed with host families throughout the six-day pilgrimage. Ms. Casey Bustamante, Associate Director for Young Adult Ministry, said those arrangements gave the visitors a chance to experience the hospitality, love, and excitement of the Panamanian people.
Ms. Bustamante said, “It was really great to hear that all military young adults received some sort of support from their chapel communities to attend this event. All of them are involved in ministries connected to their chapel communities. Each pilgrim expressed a joy of seeing the international and universal presence of the church.”
Not only did the AMS group pray and participate in a plethora of World Youth Day activities. Members were called to action. They provided support for the security detail at the English-speaking pilgrims’ “Fiat Festival” on Wednesday at the Figali Convention Center. The Fiat Festival was hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students(FOCUS) along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Knights of Columbus. Bishop Buckon concelebrated the closing Sunday Mass with Pope Francis.