WINDSOR TERRACE — Two years may seem a ways off, but the Diocese of Brooklyn is already planning for the intercontinental edition of World Youth Day (WYD), scheduled to be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2023.
Father Gerard J. Sauer, diocesan director of pilgrimages and pastor of St. Patrick’s in Bay Ridge, said the diocese is keeping health and safety measures in mind and remaining attentive to COVID-19-related news and updates.
“If people continue to stay healthy and be vaccinated, World Youth Day might actually take place in 2023,” Father Sauer said. “But, we have to realize it’s a worldwide event, not a United States event.
“We really have to keep our eye on the ball and make sure everyone’s going to be safe and healthy as we move forward,” he added.
Father Sauer said he is excited to work with Father Emil Parafiniuk, the new director of Youth and Young Adult Formation, who joined the diocese in late March.
Father Parafiniuk has a longstanding history with WYD, having served as the director of the Youth and Young Adults Office in the Diocese of Warszawa-Praga, Poland, and director of the National Office for World Youth Days.
He also worked on WYD on a national level when the event took place in Kraków, Poland, in 2016, and organized WYD pilgrimages for young Polish parishioners to Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Panama City in 2011, 2013, and 2019, respectively.
Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative specialist Lucia Morales said it is exciting to have Father Parafiniuk on board.
“We are thrilled to begin a new year, new vision, and kind of get back to it with having that support, which is the new director,” Morales told Currents News. “So [there are] a lot of events, a lot of training, [and] a lot of ideas that are floating around.”
Morales also explained that those involved with youth ministry across the diocese are looking forward to seeing each other more in person in the future.
“Our youth ministers have been amazing with doing virtual things,” she said, “but I think it speaks volumes that everyone wants to see each other again and also be involved in the church.”
While young adults hold fundraisers for their pilgrimages as far as two years in advance, Father Sauer is usually behind the scenes with the diocese’s Secretariat for Evangelization and Catechesis office and Youth and Young Adult office — figuring out the logistics of the next pilgrimage (including hotel, airline, and other travel arrangements) and doing a site inspection of the destination with a travel agency.
Then they meet with local youth ministers and group leaders about 18 months out from WYD to disseminate information about the pilgrimage.
Currently, Father Parafiniuk is beginning to prepare for the diocesan celebration of WYD, which takes place this year on Christ the King Sunday (November 21). He explained that celebrating WYD on the diocesan level will serve as a stepping stone on the path to Portugal.
“This WYD will be a start for our spiritual preparation for WYD Lisbon,” Father Parafiniuk said. “I am inviting young people and youth group leaders to pray for World Youth Day on the 23rd day of the month until the end of the year.”
He continued, saying, “The parish is a place where we are preparing for World Youth Day, and World Youth Days support parishes in their pastoral work with young people.”
Father Parafiniuk outlined a number of goals that he has in mind for WYD Lisbon, including using the preparation process as a tool to renew and further strengthen youth ministry across Brooklyn and Queens.
When the diocese first participated in WYD in 1993, about 80 pilgrims traveled to Denver, Colorado. That number has exponentially grown since 2008, reaching more than 500 young people across the diocese each WYD.
With that said, Father Parafiniuk hopes to invite the largest number of young people the diocese has ever seen to Lisbon — emphasizing the importance of group pilgrimages rather than individual ones.
“They are a very important event for the community and an event to be shared by the community,” Father Parafiniuk said.