Happy New Year!

As we kick off 2018, there is a lot to look forward to. The Winter Olympics in South Korea. The World Cup in Russia. A royal wedding (plus another royal baby!). The U.S. Midterm Elections and the nonstop media coverage (okay, maybe you aren’t looking forward to that).

Here at TJP, we wanted to give you a list of the top Catholic events to look forward to in 2018. Get out your calendars and add the following:


1.) Papal Visit to Chile and Peru (January 15-22)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

In just two weeks, Pope Francis will make his fourth trip to his home continent of South America. While he still hasn’t made a return to his native Argentina, he will be spending a few days in Chile and Peru on this visit.

While there, Pope Francis will be meeting with indigenous populations, including in the Amazon, where rampant deforestation has damaged the area’s natural biodiversity. Expect this visit to be a precursor to a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops in October 2019 that will be focusing on the Amazon region.


2.) Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (February 3-6)

CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann

Held in Washington D.C. and organized by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering brings together over 500 social ministry leaders from dioceses, religious congregations and nonprofit organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities.

The theme this year is “Building Community: A Call to the Common Good,” and it will explore Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries as missionary disciples. The event involves opportunities to connect and network, learn best practices, pray together, and advocate on Capitol Hill.


3.) Must-See Movies (February and March)

Several Christian-themed movies will be released in February and March. The most anticipated is Mary Magdalene from director Garth Davis (known for the Oscar-nominated film Lion about an Indian orphan searching for his lost family). Rooney Mara, from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, stars in the title role, with Joaquin Phoenix playing Jesus. If the trailer is any indication, the film takes artistic license and will stir controversy over the way it portrays Mary Magdalene and her role among the early disciples. Stay tuned!

Other films to look out for include Samson about the Old Testament strongman, Paul, Apostle of Christ written and directed by an alumnus of Jesuit schools, and I Can Only Imagine about the Christian band MercyMe and their chart-topping song of the same name (is it in your head now?).


4.) National Workshop on Christian Unity (April 16-19) & Ecumenical Advocacy Days (April 20-23)

Another national event in Washington D.C., the 41st National Workshop on Christian Unity will explore topics of religion and politics in the context of our multi-faith country.

The event leads directly into the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days, with the theme of “A World Uprooted” this year. Through prayer, advocacy training and networking, the event will focus on responding to migrants, refugees and displaced persons in the midst of racist, Islamophobic, and nationalistic ideologies. It is a timely topic given the current national discourse and the uncertainty felt by many migrants in the US.


5.) Fortnight for Freedom (June 21 – July 4)

CNS photo/Bob Roller

The Fortnight of Freedom is an annual event that involves fifteen days of prayer and reflection focused on the importance of defending religious freedom. It always concludes on Independence Day. Dioceses around the country organize special events, and it can likewise be a time of personal prayer and reflection. The USCCB website from the link above offers a wealth of resources, from fact sheets to prayer guides.


6.) World Meeting of Families (August 21-26)

Held every three years, the World Meeting of Families brings together families from around the world to celebrate, pray, and reflect on the central importance of marriage and the family life. This year’s event will be in Dublin, Ireland with the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” You might remember that the last meeting took place in Philadelphia in 2015 as part of Pope Francis’ trip to the U.S.


7.) Synod of Bishops on Youth (October 3-28)

CNS photo/Bob Roller

Pope Francis has convened a Synod of Bishops, which is an assembly of bishops who assist the Pope by providing counsel on important topics by analyzing the signs of the times in light of the teaching of the Church.

This year’s October Synod on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” will take place in the Vatican and will examine the Church’s outreach to youth and young adults (ages 16-29 according to the preparatory documents). To gather data from Catholic youth around the world, the Vatican released a global survey online: did you fill it out?


8.) Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (November 3-5)

CNS photo/Elizabeth A. Elliott, Arlington Catholic Herald

The Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice is an annual event in Washington D.C. that is the largest Catholic social justice gathering in the US. It began as a way to honor and commemorate the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador who were killed in 1989. Today the event brings together students and alumni of Jesuit schools, along with anyone who identifies as part of the broader Ignatian family to discuss issues of justice and solidarity.

The Teach-In includes breakout sessions, keynote speakers, and prayer and liturgy. It concludes with a day on Capitol Hill where participants meet with their representatives in Congress to advocate for policy changes.

If you read TJP, that means you are part of the Ignatian family, so make sure to join us in D.C. for the Teach-In!


— A LOOK AHEAD TO 2019 —


9.) World Youth Day: Panama (January 22-27, 2019)

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Along with all those exciting events for 2018, don’t forget to mark your calendars for next January. World Youth Day (WYD) will be hosted in Panama- the first time the event has come to Central America. WYD brings together thousands of Catholic youth from around the world for a shared encounter of their faith, along with a visit from Pope Francis. It is an opportunity to experience firsthand the universality and diversity of the Church.


10.) Magis: Central America (January 11-21, 2019)

Organized in conjunction with World Youth Day, Magis is a Jesuit-sponsored event for young adults (18 and over) as a precursor to WYD. The Central American Province of Jesuits will organize Magis with participants spread across six countries from Guatemala to Panama.

The event includes immersion experiences in one of the six countries, with the opportunity to live with and work among a local community. At the end of the immersion experience, all the participants will convene in Panama for a shared Mass with Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., the global leader of the Jesuits, before joining in the programming of World Youth Day.

It’s an experience you don’t want to miss!


Brian Strassburger, SJ

bstrassburgersj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Brian