The YouFra International Gathering took place on January 17-21, 2019, the days prior to World Youth Day in Panama.  The motto for the gathering was, “We are brothers and sisters following the Teacher, as Mary did.” (cf. Mt 23:8).

This fraternal gathering consisted of 120 brothers and sisters from around the world.  They came from Vietnam, Europe, North America, as well as from Latin America. We shared moments of prayer, formation, spirituality, reflection, fellowship and, of course, the Holy Eucharist.  The Eucharistic presiders were the Archbishop of Panama, His Excellency José Domingo Ulloa and the General Spiritual Assistants for the Secular Franciscan Order.

During the formation moments, various topics were presented.  Our sister Andrea Karlović, OFS, YouFra International Coordinator, gave a talk entitled “Seventy Years of Commitment to the Kingdom of God,” the journey made by Franciscan youth throughout the years. For another topic we formed work groups and elaborated on the talk given by sister Judith del Rocio Vidales, OFS, International Counselor for YouFra Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, entitled “Inspired in St. Francis and with Him, We are Called to Rebuild the Church.” A presentation of great interest was the one shared by our brother Tibor Kauser, Minister General of the OFS. Tibor gave the main talk of the gathering concerning Seven Moments of Mary’s Life Found in Sacred Scripture. Reflecting on these seven moments, we discovered seven principles to guide our lives as Christians and Franciscans.

During roundtable discussions, we learned about different experiences of YouFra around the world.  During one led by brother Félix Chocojay OFS of Guatemala, we discussed the use of social networks to spread the Good News.  Brother Francisco Loaiza OFS of Costa Rica described how they built a good relationship with the OFS. And all the way from Vietnam, brother Jerome elaborated on how his fraternity faces the challenges they encounter while fulfilling their Franciscan vocation in the Church and in the world.

The Feast of the Nations provided moments of joy, wherein each country had an opportunity to share something representative of its culture.  Also, during the Ecological March of Laudato Si, the International Fraternity went on pilgrimage to the parish of St. Anthony of Padua. There we sought to spread the joy of living the Gospel, while also creating a consciousness in those around us to live Laudato Si.

The YouFra International gathering closed with the sharing of Holy Eucharist. The celebrant,  R. Fr. Br. Ignacio Ceja OFM, a member of the General Government of the Order of Friars Minor, accompanied us on behalf of R. Fr. Br. Michael Perry OFM, General Minister of the OFS, who could not join us for health reasons. With friars from different branches of the First Order, we concluded this event with hearts full of renewed conviction to live the Gospel in our youth.

At World Youth Day, with representatives of the General Ministers of some of the Franciscan Orders and other young people from around the world, the International Fraternity entered into dialogue concerning ways to achieve a more effective and profound experience of living Laudato Si in our everyday environment.

Our Franciscan Youth of the world were part of approximately 400,000 young people from all over the globe who were present at World Youth Day.  Under the guidance of the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, we meditated specially on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “Yes”, and our role in the world as agents of change—topics that were discussed at different moments of fraternal encounter and prayer.


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