Marilyn Calderone, music director at St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto, reflects on her first morning in Panama. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Calderone

Pilgrim’s diary: The adventure begins

By  Marilyn Calderone, Catholic Register special
  • January 22, 2019

Wow! Waking up in Panama was a real joy!

We slept soundly, really, really needing the rest. It is always a concern how one will sleep when travelling. We all had our concerns as everyone tried to settle in with room assignments and roommates, hoping that the buzz of adventure would be overwhelmed by exhaustion. Thankfully, it was.

Yesterday was a very long, busy day for the St. Gabriel Parish pilgrim group from Toronto. We had to be at Pearson airport at 5 a.m. Running on adrenaline and excitement, I managed to stay up past midnight to witness an extraordinary full eclipse of the super full moon. I have waited a long time to see such a glory of nature. 

I shared the experience first with our pilgrims and then with a group of Australian pilgrims who arrived at our hotel late in the night. It gave me an opportunity to speak with them about ecotheology and Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical, which is has been such a part of our Passionist community at St. Gabriel’s. It was a wonderful time of star and moon gazing and faith sharing.

Getting back to roommates! I am rooming with a lovely woman, Kiko, from Hong Kong. She joined our Toronto group through friends she had met at other World Youth Days. Sharing a room with a stranger was a leap of faith for both of us. We joked that our openness to the idea before meeting each other reflected this pilgrimage’s prayer of Mary:  “I am the servant of the Lord.  May it be done unto me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Making international connections, like the one with Kiko, was to become the highlight of today.  

Our little group of 11 pilgrims from St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in North York ventured out to Old Town Panama via the subway system. Before we left, we encountered more Australians. The Panamanians we have encountered, welcoming us at the airport, in our hotel, on the streets, in the subway, an odiferous fish market and Old Town have been warm, helpful, animated, encouraging, charming, curious and engaging.

Their openness set the stage for us being open to others too. As we walked, we engaged with many we encountered. We had packed little Canadian flag pins to offer to people we met. They became great ice breakers as we boldly approached other pilgrims with their flags and t-shirts proudly proclaiming their origins! Each of us approached strangers, offering them friendship with a pin in hand and a smile asking them to stop, share a moment and perhaps a picture or two. And they did! Even police officers stepped in to help us get us some great group shots (the one attached is of myself with a lovely gentleman from Kenya).

So many people, so many differences, yet all of us coming together in our common faith.  It was beautiful!

I started to write down all the countries who were proudly represented by their people: Mexico, Angola, Uruguay, Chile, Portugal, France, Italy, Philippines, Greece, Ireland, Columbia, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Peru, Honduras, Nicaragua, Kenya, Guatemala, Germany, Poland, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Portugal, USA (Gary, Indiana, Washington, DC, and Virginia), fellow Canadians from Vancouver, Ottawa and Regina.  

I had to write them all on the only paper I had, the pizza box that held lunch’s leftovers (which I think added to the fun and delight).  I am smirking as I read my pencil scribbles scrawled on the cardboard box. It became a silly game to document them all; all of these wonderful people unified by our family of faith. It was all as delicious as my friend, Francis Ng’s pizza was... and even more nourishing!

(Calderone is the music director at St. Gabriel’s Passionist Parish in Toronto.)

Last modified on January 22, 2019

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