Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Students from Holy Spirit Preparatory and Marist School formed connections with pilgrims from other lands, including new friends from Colombia, during World Youth Day 2019 in Panama.


Atlanta pilgrims recall World Youth Day experience

Published February 25, 2019

ATLANTA—Several youth groups and chaperones from the Archdiocese of Atlanta traveled to Panama City, Panama for the 2019 World Youth Day Jan. 22-27.

Pilgrims from across the globe, ages 15-35, attend WYD for an encounter with the pope. The events are held every two to three years in different locales.

Among the locals participating were students from Holy Spirit Preparatory School and Marist School. Teens Nolan Gibbs and Jack Bohling of Holy Spirit Prep shared thoughts on the spiritual experience.

Gibbs, a senior at Holy Spirit, said the first catechesis offered on Wednesday morning of WYD was powerful and “has already had an influence on how I live my life as a Catholic.”

“Another highlight was the 10-mile hike to the pilgrim campsite on Saturday, where we participated in adoration with the pope and hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims and then spent the night to have Mass the following morning,” he said.

Gibbs wants to share what he learned with others.

Atlanta pilgrims in Panama for World Youth Day 2019, Jan. 22-27, visited Our Lady of Mercy Church in San Felipe.

“World Youth Day, in my opinion, is the best reminder of the universality of the church we have,” said Gibbs. “We hear so much about things that make us different that we almost forget what we all have in common. Every day I was in Panama I met people from all around the world, Israel, France, Spain, Australia, South Korea, Poland and Mexico just to name a few of the many countries represented. I’ve talked with people my own age and those much older, and just from speaking to them in casual conversation I made friends easily because we ended up having things in common that are often overlooked.”

Jack Bohling, a Holy Spirit junior, enjoyed being in the presence of Pope Francis.

“It was an incredible experience because I was looking at the vicar of Christ as he was waving and blessing people as he passed,” recalled Bohling.

He said the group of five Holy Spirit students and four Marist students didn’t mind a humid hike and overnight stay in a field on Saturday of the trip.

“Once adoration started the whole field went from a sense of entertainment and playing music to silence and respect in prayer to the Lord,” he said.

On Sunday, they woke early for the papal Mass.

“The Mass was special to me because it was the first time I attended a Mass celebrated by a pope, and it gave me chills,” he said. “My experience from this pilgrimage inspires me to share every part of the trip with my friends and classmates to show them how involved youth can get in religious events and campus ministry.”

World Youth Day 2022 will be Lisbon, Portugal. Bohling hopes to attend.