by Isabella Wagner
I am on my way to attend World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. I am going on behalf of the Pontifical Mission Societies, to share with other young Catholics the work of the Missions and how we can help, even if we cannot go to all 1,150 territories ourselves.
In preparation for my trip to Lisbon, there are many questions I keep pondering. Is my passport up to date? Have I practiced enough Portuguese to ask where to get the best pasteis de nata? Will I have enough room to pack souvenirs for my family? I realized, though, that there is a more important question to ask myself: am I spiritually ready to attend World Youth Day?
As a first-time attendee, I have little knowledge of the reality of this experience and have only heard stories of what World Youth Day is like. I know that it is filled with different activities and opportunities to meet other pilgrims. I know that the Holy Father will be there praying with us and for us. Some advice that I received about World Youth Day is to enter it with an open mind and prayerful heart. It is a week meant to invigorate who we are as young Catholics.
This gathering is meant to stir the faith among the next generation of the laity, consecrated, and the clergy so that we are more equipped to follow our call as missionaries. We are all called as Catholics to be missionaries, to bring the faith to those who don’t know Christ in the literal and figurative sense. I am attending World Youth Day to learn more about my call to be a missionary and to help others discover theirs.
Blessed Pauline Marie Jaricot, the founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, once said, “to truly help others is to bring them to God.” How true is that! As a young woman, Pauline had a passion for evangelization. She wanted all the nations of the world to know Christ and worked in small yet meaningful ways to teach others about the missionary church. By Pauline’s example, I am bringing hundreds of friendship bracelets, crafted by volunteers from St. Bernard Parish in Bergen Beach, to have at the TPMS booth at the vocational fair and share with other pilgrims as a small reminder of the Missions and to pray for the world as she did.
When I return to the United States after World Youth Day, I not only hope to feel a sense of growth within my own spiritual life, but to realize the community of young Catholics around the world and how we each live out our faith in our everyday lives. Knowing that I was able to share my faith with other pilgrims and give them a meaningful reminder of their time in Lisbon is a gift. Surely, that gift is a souvenir that I, and every pilgrim, can fit in our suitcase.
Isabella Wagner is the Development & Stewardship Coordinator for The Pontifical Mission Societies