CROWN POINT — A Crown Point woman will join Pope Francis on Friday in Panama City, Panama, for the Stations of the Cross.
Vicky Hathaway, 31, a youth ministry coordinator at her home parish of St. Edward in Lowell, is one of 15 pilgrims from the Diocese of Gary heading to Panama for World Youth Day 2019, which begins Thursday. It brings together young people, usually every three years, from across the globe to pray and deepen their faith.
Hathaway said she was overwhelmed to learn the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops chose her to be on stage near Pope Francis at Station 12 – Jesus Dies on the Cross – in front of as many as 200,000 religious pilgrims.
"I remember calling my mom, crying," Hathaway said.
She said she first remembers doing a Stations of the Cross, a ceremony telling the story of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, as a third-grader at St. Edward parish school.
"We went over into the church and were given a little booklet and walked around the church and said prayers. When I was in high school we did the living stations in shadow format to be all artsy.
"In college, I went to Marian University in Indianapolis, and it was part of a social justice outlook. It is really a great time for us to reflect on the stations and the people in each story and how they were witnesses to Christ's passion. That has stuck with me.
"I didn't realize until recently how important the stations have been part of my prayer life, especially around those days leading up to Easter. To be part of something like this is really cool," she said.
She said World Youth Day has played a huge role in her development as a Catholic. She first attended one in Toronto in 2002 where she saw Pope John Paul II.
"I was in high school. I'm standing in a field with one million people from Portugal and Brazil over here and England and Australia over here and we are all participating in the same Mass. We are all living out the same faith with our different cultures and languages. It shapes my view of what church means. It's not just me. It's not just my parish. It's the greater community," she said.
Kevin Driscoll, director of the Diocese of Gary Office for Youth and Young Adults, and World Youth Day pilgrimage coordinator, said in a prepared news release the honor could not have happened to a more deserving young person.
“No one has done more to serve young Catholics than Vicky. At a time when many young people are searching for real meaning and purpose, Vicky has found it in her faith.”
Hathaway is a member of the Bishop’s Council on Young Adult Evangelization for the diocese and has served as a diocesan youth leader for more than a decade. She helped host a symposium in 2010 on young adult ministry.
She was the first chair of the Young Adults for Catholic Charities ministry in 2012. She was a member of the Diocese of Gary 2017 Synod Committee, and recently represented the diocese at a national Summit on Young Adult Ministry in Washington, D.C.
The Diocese of Gary group flies Thursday to Panama City. Hathaway said she will take part in other World Youth Day events, including an open-air Mass and sightseeing in Panama before the group returns Jan. 29.