Up Front and Personal

Message from a Pilgrim In Lisbon for WYD

by Grace Angeles Lugo

Thousands of young people from around the world have anticipated the first days of August. 

We are all descending on the city of Lisbon for World Youth Day. Started by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984, World Youth Day is the celebration of the Church’s commitment to its youth and provides time and space for encounters with Christ. 

As a child, the idea of traveling to other parts of the world occupied my mind often. Growing up in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Corona, I was surrounded by Catholics who not only taught me about the faith but also that our faith needs to be shared with others. 

I remember first hearing about World Youth Day from a friend of mine who was going to Rio de Janeiro for the 2013 World Youth Day. The idea of combining my two favorite things — Jesus and traveling — blew my 12-year-old mind. Ever since, I’ve wanted to go experience WYD, but I have always been too young to join until now. 

For over a year, our group has grown to 14 pilgrims, all of whom have worked hard in fundraising and team building in preparation for World Youth Day. Before any kind of pilgrimage, there needs to be preparation. Even the pilgrims of the Middle Ages carried their sacks and walking sticks, so I also had to find the right pair of sneakers and a comfortable sleeping bag. 

Still, the preparation was not totally complete. I had to prepare myself spiritually. The best place to start, in my opinion, is meditating on the theme for this World Youth Day, “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39). Our group has been blessed to be led by Rachel Burgos and Dana Livingston, who reminded us of this verse at every one of our formation meetings. The more I read the verse, the more excited I was for what we are going to receive in Lisbon. 

I feel like most young people will agree that the past few years, especially during times when we should have been enjoying life, have been lived in a state of instability. We are all worrying about what the future holds, whether the worries are about our families, the political environment of our own countries, the climate, or a plentitude of other fears that persist in our lives. 

However, during all of these stressful things I have found that faith in Jesus Christ is the only cure for our degenerating world. It may seem too idealistic to say that this World Youth Day will change the world, but I truly believe it will. 

We will go in haste just as Mary did, to use what we received at World Youth Day 2023 to continue the Church’s mission to convert hearts and minds from all four corners of the globe.

Grace Angeles Lugo is a parishioner of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student at St. John’s University.