Young people see the vibrancy of the church during world Youth day

Hallam Youth joined the 1,000 young people from England and Wales and took part in World Youth Day, Lisbon. We had a few meetings before going but, as the participants were far flung from around the Diocese, I wondered if we would become a group.

As soon as we began our pilgrimage – coming together with young people from every country except 2 in the world – we really came together on our journey as the Diocese of Hallam. Accompanied by Bishop Ralph & Fr Henry Woodhouse, the group took every opportunity given them to immerse themselves into the experience. Here are excerpts from the reflections of two of the pilgrims.

“This year, World Youth Day, took place in Lisbon. I was lucky enough to go and experience this and we went to many different events, this included: the opening mass, the pope’s first address, a visit to Fatima, the stations of the cross and the vigil. For me, the most moving event was the vigil. This was when everyone taking part in World Youth Day came to together and camped out for the night. The pope joined us in the evening and gave a speech regarding the theme of WYD: RISE UP. In particular, he spoke about how life is like a journey with its twists and turns and that we might fall down, but that we should remember that Jesus is always there with us helping us to move forward. I thought this a really hopeful message and I found it very powerful thinking that all these young people (around 1.5 million!) will go back to their home country and share with their parishes and family what they experienced and that ripple effect the world will feel.

During the vigil, there was also adoration, which was a very special moment of prayer we were able to participate in.  It was incredible how everyone (I repeat 1.5 million young people!) suddenly went into a serene sort of silence, and it was at that moment that I really thought to myself, wow all these people have come from far and wide for the same exact reason, that is to experience the love Jesus has to offer.

Overall, World Youth Day showed me how alive and thriving the church really is. It was amazing to speak to people from all around the world and hear their experiences knowing we were all united by the same faith. It really was an experience I will be forever grateful for, and I’d like to thank my parents, my parish (St Francis), Sue McDonald, and everyone who has helped me in both fundraising for the event and making this unforgettable pilgrimage happen!”

 “In the scorching summer of 2023, I and my fellow young pilgrims embarked on a transformative journey to World Youth Day, an event that transcended geographical boundaries and united the hearts of millions. As the sun’s golden rays bathed the vibrant streets of the host city, I found myself being enveloped in the diverse sea of cultures and languages. Being surrounded by fellow young people from across the globe, made me realise that the Church is truly alive and that there are young saints rising up. Each day brought new spiritual revelations, as I listened to inspiring speakers, participated in the Holy Masses, and engaged in thought-provoking discussions. Amidst the energetic atmosphere, I discovered a profound sense of purpose, which led to me renewing my faith and encouraging me to leave everything at the feet of Christ.  This unforgettable experience left an indelible mark on my soul, reminding me of every Catholic’s call to holiness and sainthood – a path that is not easy to walk but is certainly worth it.” 

Sue McDonald with Isabel & Sharon