DELRAY BEACH | More than 150 Catholic young adults, just before their departure for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, received a special blessing and assurance of prayers July 27 from Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito.
At the Duncan Conference Center in Delray Beach, the WYD pilgrims participated in orientation sessions, received travel updates, sacraments, prayer exercises, social activities, music and games before beginning their journeys July 29. The travelers, from throughout the United States and nearly all affiliated with a Catholic lay ecclesial movement called Jesus Youth, were preparing to fly either direct or with connecting flights to Portugal.
Father Daniel Daza-Jaller, diocesan vocations director, traveling with four seminarians, Sister Jadwiga Drapala, diocesan delegate for religious, and Father Marc Gustinelli, who was ordained in May, spoke to the Florida Catholic July 27 about their itinerary.
He said their first stop July 30 was to be in Fatima, Portugal, where they would visit the shrine where Mary appeared to three children in 1917. On July 31, they were to officially arrive in Lisbon for WYD, which would feature morning teaching sessions and Mass led by various bishops and cardinals. The catechesis gatherings are arranged by language and global region, said Father Daza-Jaller, who attended WYD in Madrid in 2011 as a seminarian and Panama in 2019.
“I’m really looking forward to hearing the catechesis from the authority figures of the church,” said seminarian Tommy Ageeb about his first WYD. “I think that’s going to be really awesome and insightful. Getting to meet with the pope as a seminarian is going to be a highlight as well.” Pope Francis was to arrive Aug. 2 in Portugal.
The afternoons during WYD include festivals, a vocations fair with many religious communities represented, concerts, plays, sports and the sacrament of reconciliation. Evening events were to be for all WYD attendees, expected to total many hundreds of thousands. Traditionally, Stations of the Cross is prayed on Friday evening at WYD.
On Aug. 5, the pilgrims will travel to Parque Tejo-Trancão, the site of the overnight vigil and the next day’s huge closing Mass with Pope Francis. The vigil will include Eucharistic adoration and a reflection by the pope.
Seminarian Dylan McKay, who is experiencing his first WYD and first journey outside the United States, talked about his expectations for the pilgrimage.
“I think being able to perhaps experience the beauty of so much youth around us who have a burning desire for deepening their faith and their relationship with God,” he said. “Being surrounded by that and being able to witness the beautiful grace of God, which unites the church as one.”
After Sunday’s papal Mass, WYD officially concludes, but it won’t be the end of the pilgrimage for about 60 of the young adults who departed from Delray Beach. They are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route to the city of Santiago de Compostela, along the Portuguese way.
“We’ll start that Monday (Aug. 7), and we’ll arrive in Santiago on Saturday afternoon, and then Sunday we’ll have some closing activities and Mass, and everything ends Saturday night,” Father Daza-Jaller said. “Then we travel back that Monday, Aug. 14.”
During the July 27 Mass with the WYD pilgrims, Bishop Barbarito praised them for their faithfulness and trust.
“What a great occasion and what a great group of young people who will be attending that,” he said. “We give thanks to God for each and every one of you. We give thanks to God for our family, which is the church. And we give thanks to God for the opportunity for next week at World Youth Day. We will join together in praying, encountering each other, encountering the Lord and especially having the presence of our Holy Father.”
Since it was the feast of St. Titus Brandsma, the bishop’s homily centered on the Carmelite priest from the Netherlands who was canonized in 2022 following an investigation of a miraculous healing in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
St. Titus’s life and sainthood teach us that “The Lord is alive. The Lord does work miracles. And what you’re going to be involved in next week is kind of a miracle,” the bishop said.
At WYD, “You are going to give great witness, and God is going to speak to you, through each other, through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and through the Holy Father,” he said.
“As you go forth next week, be assured that all of you will be in my prayers in a very special way. May the week be filled with many blessings, many miracles,” Bishop Barbarito said.
One of the pilgrims, Maria Valdés of St. Joseph Parish in Stuart, who is a coordinator of Hispanic young adults in the diocese, said she is excited to experience unity with the universal church, being among a throng of young Catholics longing for a stronger connection with God.
Valdés was anticipating “growing deeper in my faith, especially in that faith and that hope that I will get something out of this, something bigger and just grow deeper with Jesus.”
For video updates on WYD events from Father Daza-Jaller, follow Palm Beach Vocations on Facebook and Instagram. For general information about WYD, go to www.lisboa2023.org/en, or view live programming on EWTN.