More than 1,300 groups, 28,600 individuals, from across the United States will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, for the International World Youth Day (WYD) gathering with Pope Francis, from Aug. 1-6, 2023.
Among the American contingent are 52 pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice. This group is led by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, and includes youth, young adults, seminarians, priests, and a few others representing nine different Parishes.
Marthamaria Morales, Diocesan Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry, helped organize the pilgrimage for the Diocese, saying that this is not a vacation but a spiritual journey for every participant, in that they will be challenged to open their hearts to the Lord and carry the lessons learned back home.
The Diocese group includes representatives from Parishes including: Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, St. Agnes in Naples, Ave Maria in Ave Maria, Jesus the Worker in Fort Myers, Our Lady of the Angels in Lakewood Ranch, Our Lady Queen of Heaven in LaBelle, Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda, St. Joseph in Bradenton, and St. Martha in Sarasota.
Among the pilgrims is Bishop Dewane, who is attending his fifth World Youth Day as Bishop of Venice. He is one of only 60 U.S. Bishops attending.
Morales explained that each morning is spent in catechesis called “Rise Up Encounters,” with time for prayer and liturgies, concerts, presentations, dialogue, service, and networking with youth from around the world.
According to the official WYD website, the theme for WYD Lisbon is: “Mary arose and went with haste.” (Luke 1:39). The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth).
Pope Francis will join the pilgrims on Aug. 3, for a welcome ceremony in the city center. He will also preside at a Way of the Cross on August 4, a prayer vigil on Aug. 5, and the WYD Closing Mass, with an anticipated crowd of a million or more, on Aug. 6.
To stay connected with the Diocesan group while in Lisbon, Bishop Dewane will be attending many of the activities with the pilgrims. He will also celebrate Mass for them several times, including the afternoon of Aug. 2, at St. Joseph Church, prior to a WYD USA National Gathering, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at Parque da Quinta das Conchas, an open park in the city.
This national gathering will include music and testimony by young adults, as well a keynote address from Bishop Robert E. Barron, Winona-Rochester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which oversees the U.S. involvement in WYD. Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas will lead a Holy Hour as part of the National Eucharistic Revival initiative.
While the main World Youth Day events are Aug. 1-6, the Diocesan group departs from Florida on July 29. A bus with more than half of the pilgrims leaves Epiphany Cathedral in the early morning hours for Miami International Airport and will meet the rest of the group in Miami for their flight overseas.
Upon arrival, the pilgrims head directly to Fatima, where the Angel of Peace appeared to the little shepherds, preparing them to receive the visits of Our Lady. There will also be an opportunity to see and learn about the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem, which occurred on Feb. 16, 1274. Bishop Dewane will be celebrating Mass for the pilgrims at the Carmelite Monastery, Carmelo Santa Teresa in Coimbra, on July 30.
In a message to the Diocesan pilgrims, Bishop Dewane noted it was providential that the WYD closing Mass with the Holy Father will take place on the Feast of the Transfiguration, Aug. 6. “The experience of Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration was a pivotal moment of transformation for them. Let this pilgrimage be similarly transformative for us.”
“During our journey to WYD, we will be able to experience the joy of encountering Christ and our brothers and sisters. Let us be open to seeing the ‘Face of Christ’ in all from different lands and cultures, but together center on celebrating our Faith,” the Bishop continued. “Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ I pray for a safe and joyful journey.”
The Diocesan U.S. pilgrims will be staying in a hotel in Lisbon and will mostly use trains to get to the main WYD activities, Morales explained. Fortunately, the hotel is very close to the closing Vigil and Mass. The evening of the closing Mass, the Diocesan pilgrims will share a final group meal in Portugal with Bishop Dewane before they begin their journey back to the U.S. in the following days.
WYD officials state the biblical episode of the Visitation, the action of standing up presents Mary as both a woman of charity and a missionary woman. Leaving in haste represents the attitude depicted in Pope Francis’ indications for WYD Lisbon 2023: “may young people’s evangelization be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ.”
Please pray for the WYD pilgrims from the Diocese of Venice and around the world.
To follow along on the journey of the Diocesan pilgrims, please visit the Diocese Facebook page @dioceseofvenice or on Instagram @dioceseofveniceinfl.