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World Youth Day 2023- Lisbon, Portugal

Now that we’ve entered the month of July, I wanted to share with you one of the big things on my mind these days: World Youth Day 2023 in Portugal. I’m sure many of you already know I’ll be going with the pilgrim group composed of young people from both the Archdioceses of Winnipeg and St. Boniface. There are about 27 or so of us, along with a few priests (myself included) and accompanied by Archbishop Richard Gagnon. I am very much looking forward to it with eagerness, as well as a natural bit of anxiety– this will be my first World Youth Day pilgrimage, and there’s a lot of things to prepare for and a bit of uncertainty. But I have to continually remind myself that the trip is a pilgrimage, and thus whatever experience is had will be blessed by God.

We’ll be flying from Winnipeg through Montreal and onto Lisbon, Portugal on July 25th (St. James, pray for us!). Once we arrive, we’re actually spending almost a week in the city of Portimao for the pre-WYD events: “Days in the Diocese”. “Days in the Diocese” is a gathering that precedes the week of WYD Lisbon 2023 and consists of integrating young people from around the world into the parish communities of the country’s various dioceses. The “Days in the Dioceses” are a kind of preparation journey for the pilgrims and host community to experience the days around WYD.

Mother Church of Portimao- Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Our Lady of Conception)

On these days, the participants can become better acquainted with the host region, as well as the local Church and its features. As is also the case in WYD week, they will stay in family homes or parish or public facilities, in order to have a true experience of the Church, evangelization and mission.” The Days in the Diocese week will consist of various activities which are based on the five pillars of the program: reception, discovery, mission, culture and sending forth. The city of Portimao is located in the south part of Portugal, in the diocese of Algarve. Our group will be sleeping in a local school gymnasium during our stay here.

August 1st-6th will be when the actual World Youth Day event takes place. After our stay in Portimao, we’ll be travelling back up to Lisbon for this– for these days, our group will be staying in a local hostel (with beds–Blessed be God!). Over the course of a week, young people from all over the world are welcomed, mainly in public (gymnasiums, schools, pavilions …) and parish facilities or family homes. In addition to the moments of prayer, sharing and leisure, the young people enrolled in this celebration will participate in various initiatives organised by the WYD team, in different locations across Lisbon. One activity will be a “Reconciliation Park”, a place where priests will be available in all languages for many hours throughout the days– I’ll be helping with this. The highlights of this week are the celebrations (central features) for which the Pope is present, such as the welcoming and opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, the vigil and, on the last day, the closing mass. We will be walking about 14 km from Lisbon to the site, which will accommodate probably over a million people, where the prayer vigil, our sleep under the stars, and the final mass with the Holy Father will be. I am planning and hoping to be able to concelebrate at this Mass with the Pope, and the many other priests who will be there as well.

After WYD is over, our group will be doing a day trip to Fatima, Portugal– the location of the apparition of Our Lady in 1917. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared here to 3 young children with a message for the whole world, and culminated in the “Miracle of the Sun”, witnessed by several thousand others. Pope Francis visited this site in 2017 for the 100th anniversary of the apparition. This, along with Lourdes in France, is one of the most popular pilgrimage places in Europe. For our last day in Portugal, our group will have a simple day of rest and leisure with a trip to a local beach. We will be flying out of Portugal on August 9th to arrive in Winnipeg later that evening.

Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary- Sanctuary of Fatima

I’m sure there’s plenty more to share, but this is a good start. I look forward to a “show and tell” once I’m back to convey all that happened and was experienced. For my pilgrimage to World Youth Day, I shall be bringing all of you, my parish family, with me in my intentions. Please pray for a fruitful and safe trip for our pilgrim group from Manitoba and the many others from around the world.

I am, in our Lord, yours.

Fr. Brian


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