Panama 2019 World Youth Day Catechesis by Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos Nigeria, to a group of youths  at the Church of  Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Panama City, 24th January, 2019.


Dear Youths from India, Canada,  Myanmar, United States, Malaysia, Ghana and Panama,

In the words of Prophet Isaiah I say to you “arise and shine” (Is 60:1) during this  34th World Youth Day and indeed all the days of your life. 

Thanks to  St. Pope John Paul II for initiating the World Youth Day which was keenly sustained by Pope  Benedict VI and now Pope Francis. Apart from identifying very closely with the youth, Pope Francis dedicated last October’s  Synod at the Vatican to the theme of young people. Like Jesus,  he loves and  blesses the youth and does not want anybody or anything to stop them from coming to him. He wants the youth to key into the major events of the Church and to be also active participants in the social world order; to have a voice and not to be mere onlookers or passive observers in the society and in the Church. 

When the Church celebrated the Year of Faith the Successor of St. Peter wanted a deepening of the faith of the young too so that their faith is not a mere ideology or a by-product of a cultural Christianity and it shouldn’t be said that their faith is neither cold nor hot. In the  Year of Mercy, the Pope wanted you the young people to develop the sensitivity of Christ to the needs of others neglected, marginalized, oppressed and ignored and to make personal sacrifices to help them. By celebrating The World Day of the Poor the Church reminds all including the young that the world has enough resources. If leaders and even ordinary people live simple life styles and learn to equitably share public resources, we can care adequately for the poor. By having the Synod on the family twice the Holy Father was stressing that the family unit  is so fundamental and crucial in  advancing good education, home training, firm faith and moral that if young people are properly inserted in  good families, cared for properly and they too play positive roles rather than being a problem to members of the family, transformation of the youths  and society will  be the natural consequence. 


Why the Holy Father permits and encourages this gathering of youths from across the globe I believe among other reasons are:

a) to provide the opportunity for spiritual and cultural exchange and to develop genuine friendship that transcends race or geographical distances.

b) it is an invitation for you to sit tight and reflect deeply on the spiritual and social problems of our world with the intention and the hope of making a commitment to join hands to find lasting solutions.

c) in praying, celebrating and socializing together, to renew your determination to keep Jesus at the centre of all you do and to help one another to develop a more intimate friendship with Jesus and to become young missionaries of the good news of salvation.

d) to renew your commitment to serve with fidelity and loyalty the One,  Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

c) What is most important here as Pope Francis says, is to discover what God wants from you and to be brave enough to say ‘Yes’.


By choosing the theme that has a Marian significance the Holy Father wants the youth to be like Mary, to see things, judge things, and act like the mother of Jesus. Mary accepted God’s decision for her with unquestioning obedience; went on a humanitarian mission to help her cousin Elizabeth; gave birth to Jesus in very poor circumstances; fled with him to Egypt to protect him from the wicked King Herod. Her motherly instinct and concern informed her search for Jesus after their  visit to Jerusalem. She was at the foot of the cross when the dying Jesus gave her to St. John and by extension to all Christians.

In today’s catechesis you are invited to reiterate the response of Mary to the Angel at the annunciation, ‘’ I am the servant of the Lord’’. Let the Holy Spirit that came upon Mary and the Power of the Most High that overshadowed her also visit you.


If  Mary was still physically living in our time with her Son Jesus, she would perhaps have owned a Nokia, Android or iPhone and she would be often calling Jesus  asking him to do something more  special for you young people, who sometimes or many times are neglected by the society, governments and even the Church. 

Mary would have certainly called to speak to her son about the poor, hungry, sick, religious crises, ethnic crises, etc just as she called his attention in  Cana to save an embarrassing moment for the newly wed couple. She would certainly be talking about present day issues such as political, cultural, racial and religious extremism; a  noisy world that finds silence or meditation or prayer difficult; the production of arms instead of food or using tecnology  to improve housing, farming, social infrastructure, etc. She would be concerned about climate change / destruction of nature as well as social injustice and discrimination.

Poverty, a natural product of bad political governance and  corruption which result in many countries to lack of food, potable water, good education. Insecurity, human trafficking, unemployment of the youth,  will be of great concern to her.  Since she doesn’t need the social media, she,  from heaven,  keeps interceding for you and me, our Church and our world.


The youth like young Mary are called to positive conduct and action 

Be good witnesses. Positive actions speak louder than lengthy sermons or religious arguments. 

Be Ambassadors representing Christ. 

Be Christophers – Christ bearers,and not mere followers.

Do not say you are too young or busy. Mary did not make that excuse when God called her. She accepted the message of the Angel knowing it was not about logic or empirical evidence. Remember God told Jeremiah not to worry about his young age and St. Paul encouraged Timothy not to allow his youthfulness to be a barrier in preaching the gospel. 


Don’t be afraid, ashamed or shy in proclaiming Christ. St. Agnes at the tender age of 12 rejected the marriage proposal of the son of a pagan king for she had dedicated herself to Jesus Christ! In spite of all pressures of gifts and torture, she refused to heed! She was later killed at the orders of the King. Thirteen-year old Kizito, the youngest of the Ugandan martyrs was burnt alive by King Mwanga II of Buganda.

We have our Leah Sharibu in Nigeria , a secondary school student seized by Boko Haram along with over a hundred others. While others  have been released! She is still in captivity. Reason? She refused to deny Jesus Christ.

Please pray for her release. 


St. Paul tells us that no one without the Holy Spirit can say “Jesus is Lord”. The same can be said that without the Holy Spirit it will be difficult to say “I am the servant of the Lord”. 

Note that God  could have forced her but God wanted her to freely choose. Mary chose wisely and  positively. She was a servant ready to do what God commanded her and she did so with  unquestionable obedience. 

God chose you before you were born and at baptism, consecrated you. You are special. In turn, you need to choose God, cooperate like Mary with the Holy Spirit. He will be happy with you and say, “This is my son/daughter in whom I am well pleased”.

Happiness is being with God. St. Augustine said God made us and  our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Some of us think happiness is about money, fanciful cars, posh houses, fashionable clothes, enjoyment of the flesh,etc.

Happiness is to be with Jesus and to do the will of God.

The rich young man wanted the happiness of eternal life, but he was so attached to his wealth that he went away sad. If you go away from Jesus you don’t expect to be a happy person, no matter your wealth or worldly wisdom. According to Pope Francis,  “saying ‘yes’to God’s love is the first step to being happy, and to making many other people happy”.

You spent so much money and flew thousands of miles to come here for the love of Jesus, for a pilgrimage not a picnic. It took me about thirty hours to get  from my home in Jos through Abuja, Paris to Panama. All for Jesus. You did same for Jesus.

Jesus I love you. All I have is yours.

Return home with a stronger faith and love for Jesus.

Be more eager and ready to serve God. You don’t need degrees in theology to live good and holy lives. You simply need a good heart. After all, Mary did not attend any pontifical university graduating with Summa cum Laude! She simply said, “I  am the servant of the Lord”  and went on to do what God wanted of her.


My prayers for you is to have the capacity to say, “I am here send me”. Allow yourself to be used in whatever God has given you as talents. Devote time and energy to God’s work. Some who feel like becoming priests or religious or lay missionaries or volunteers should not hesitate.

Be active in the Church; not being passive consumers of religious goods or being indifferent. In my country Nigeria, many young people are in the Catholic Youth Organization,Young Catholic Students, Teenage girls, Association, Holy childhood, for children-missionaries, Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students, etc. If you feel God is calling you to the priesthood or religious life or to be a lay missionary, listen to Him and  not the distracting and confusing voice of the world. In Nigeria we have 16 major seminaries, with thousands of young seminarians. You can be part of this pastoral project in your countries. Also keep the spirit of volunteering alive. I remember the fourteen year scout boy in 2013 in Jos who saved hundreds of worshippers from being killed as he stopped a car at the entrance of their parish church on a Sunday morning, but in the end it turned out the driver was a suicide bombe. The car exploded killing the scout boy and thirteen others at Mass!


As you return from Panama, continue to  announce the Gospel of the Lord, glorifying the Lord by your life. Be determined more than ever to make your society and the world a better place.

Be missionaries of God’s love, mercy and goodness.

Be determined to bring more youths to Christ and to bring Christ to more youths as Andrew introduced his brother Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn 1).

May the Lord take you back home on eagle wings and renew your strength. You will run, walk  and work for God and His Church and not be tired (cf. Is 40:31).

May the  Lord carry you as a father carries his child along all the roads, sea and air that you travel and bring you safely home. (cf.Dt.1:31). 

We thank God for a very successful World Youth Day in Panama and for the great work put into it by the entire  people of Panama..l God bless them richly.

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