Monday, Jan. 21
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated Mass on Monday, Jan. 21, with diocesan pilgrims at Parroquia Santuario Nacional del Corazón de María, the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Concelebrating with Bishop Rhoades in the bilingual liturgy was Bishop Simon from Malaysia. Bishop Rhoades offered a warm welcome to the people of Panama who joined the diocese for Mass and thanked them for their hospitality on the feast of St. Agnes.
Bishop Rhoades spoke about the integrity and honor of St. Agnes, who maintained her purity even up until her martyrdom because she was espoused to Christ. The Gospel reading was that of the man who found a pearl of great worth and went and sold all that he had to purchase that pearl. Bishop Rhoades said that the kingdom of heaven is like that pearl and that St. Agnes is an incredible example of someone who, when she found it, let that discovery completely alter her life and her priorities. She completely followed Jesus. Bishop Rhoades referenced the saints of World Youth Day also, saying, “All these saints left everything to follow Jesus and they found joy, peace and true fulfillment.” He encouraged the pilgrims to consider their own calling as disciples of Jesus, and to allow themselves to be open to finding Jesus and letting that discovery totally change their lives.
In the afternoon, the pilgrims had an adventurous day at the Gamboa Rainforest. Following a buffet lunch overlooking a scenic river and mountainous flora, tour guides took them through a butterfly and frog protected habitat. A favorite of the day was a visit to the sloth sanctuary, where the sloths that are rescued from various predicaments in urban society, live out their days in the secured shelter. The pilgrims had the opportunity to ride a tram to the tops of the rainforest canopy and climb a tower to overlook some high points above the rainforest and surrounding river. Boat rides on the water took them through secluded areas of protected wildlife where the travelers saw crocodiles, turtles, sloths, iguanas, various birds and several species of monkeys. Some monkeys came close and even sat on the edge of the boat.
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