Daniel Tang confesses, “I have never left the continent before, nor have I ever camped outside; I have not flown across the ocean, and I am usually uncomfortable in large crowds.” Yet in this monumental leap, Tang is prepared to step beyond his comfort zone. He is one of the 40 pilgrims from St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) leaving for Lisbon, Portugal for World Youth Day (WYD) 2023, accompanied by Fr. Cristino Bouvette and Fr. Santiago Torres.
He further shares, “This theme that Mary arose and went with haste (Luke 1:39) reminds me to trust in God's providence on every step of the way - to have no fear of the unknown, and to have peace and know that He will provide.”
A special visit to Our Lady of Fatima
While many are keen to explore Portuguese culture, encompassing its food, architecture, music, and history, a significant part of the excitement surrounds visiting the Fatima apparition site and understanding the miracles of Our Lady of Fatima during World Youth Day 2023.
Group leader Catarina Avila, a native Portuguese, is especially excited to share her culture with fellow pilgrims. “As a Portuguese citizen who grew up in a faithful Portuguese family and vibrant Portuguese culture, I am thrilled that I am able to share my culture with my fellow pilgrims going to World Youth Day!” she exclaims. She adds, “Above all, I am honoured to be able to have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the message of Fatima with the pilgrims.” Her anticipation for visiting the Fatima site resonates with many, including Kathleen Brul who says, “I've never visited a Marian apparition site before, and Our Lady of Fatima holds such a vital place in Portuguese history.”
Kathleen also reveals that a pivotal moment occurred during a Mass at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton last year, when she was navigating a difficult period in her life. This experience ignited her journey of faith. “Pope Francis' papal visit set my heart on fire for Jesus … I finally felt free from all the things that had kept me away from true joy and fulfilment,” she says. “I decided to go to World Youth Day to celebrate the joy and peace God has blessed me with throughout this past year…”
Mary Arose and went with haste (Luke 1:39)
The theme for World Youth Day 2023, "Mary arose and went with haste," has sparked various interpretations among participants. Some view it as a motivational call to disseminate the Gospel promptly, while others perceive it as an encouragement to trust in God's divine plan.
This theme truly encompasses Mary's faith and obedience, inspiring participants to leave their comfort zones and welcome the unknown with joy. Cameron Bluekens reflects on this, saying, “Mary didn't delay in spreading the Gospel. It was the presence of God in her that moved her to share the Good News with zeal and generosity - I would like to be blessed with the same virtues.”
For pilgrim Jonathan Dobek, the theme for WYD 2023 speaks into a specific action. He says, “After WYD, with Mary’s help, I will get up and in haste go to seminary to discern and learn what God has in store for me.” Jonathan has been accepted by Bishop McGrattan to enter St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton as a seminarian for our Diocese, beginning the last week of August.
Our young adults have also shared a variety of hopes for their attendance at World Youth Day. Some express a desire to strengthen their faith, charity, and zeal, while others aim to better incorporate their faith into daily life.
Elizabeth Spiess and Mark Oswald look forward to forging new friendships during the World Youth Day 2023 pilgrimage. "I also hope to deepen my connections with old friends," adds Mark. Simultaneously, Elizabeth envisions contributing to the growth of youth ministry in her parish.
Andrew Min concluded his thoughts by sharing that he aims to inspire other young adults with his experiences from this spiritual journey. He hopes that his stories might encourage them to consider embarking on this pilgrimage themselves in the future.
Despite their individual aspirations, there is a shared openness to the spiritual journey that this pilgrimage may offer. Daniel Tang wraps it up by saying, “I truly believe that witnessing the Living Universal Body of Christ would bear much fruit to be shared back in our respective Dioceses.”
CCCB press release: More than 5,000 Canadian Youth are making their way to Lisbon, Portugal to be with Pope Francis, from 1 to 6 August 2023. The Holy Father will join more than one million young people for World Youth Day (WYD). The first international World Youth Day was held in 1986, and the event was hosted by Canada in 2002, with Pope Saint John Paul II making the pilgrimage to Toronto. Read more
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers