In preparation for World Youth Day, young pilgrims representing the Diocese of Brooklyn came together for a celebratory send-off Mass Sunday, July 23 at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston.
A total of 341 pilgrims from across the Diocese will be making the flight to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day on July 30 — they will be the largest group coming from the United States. Activities will start on Tuesday, Aug. 1, after the participants settle into seven hotels around the small city they will share with thousands of others for the week.
Joining them will be 13 Diocese of Brooklyn clergy, including Bishop Robert Brennan, whose trip to Lisbon this year will be his seventh World Youth Day trip since his first in 2001. During the send-off Mass, he reiterated that this was not a vacation, but a pilgrimage, and that it will “set a trajectory” for the future of Catholicism.
“I have great hope and confidence in people who are going now, that they will bring their gifts back right away and put those into action and hopefully be a witness to other people,” Bishop Brennan said.
Pilgrims who have attended World Youth Day in prior years will join alongside first-time attendees, all excited for the new, life-changing experiences in Lisbon. Alex Puglisi, 21, recalled the joy of meeting fellow Catholics from across the world while at the Night of the Overnight in Panama, and hopes to have a similar time in Lisbon.
“There’s nothing else to do but talk to people,” he noted. “Everyone is on that field together. You are seeing everyone from around the world. You’re throwing footballs with people who have never touched a football before. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”
Tom Prezioso, 19, a friend of Puglisi and fellow St. Patrick’s Church parishioner, is hoping to learn about different cultures by meeting new people from around the world at his first World Youth Day pilgrimage.
“I am still kind of growing in my faith. I am trying to just seek a deeper understanding for being Catholic and allowing my faith to grow. With meeting people from around the world with different experiences, hopefully we can share experiences and learn from them,” Prezioso said.
Following the Mass, the young pilgrims and their families were reminded of what they should pack and how they should prepare for the week-long trip. They were also given the shirts that they were set to wear in Lisbon so they would match in color as a group for each day.
“It will be a reminder to our young people not to wait, not to hesitate, to evangelize and to bring the message of Jesus Christ to others. The Church needs our young people to have an active role. They’re not just the future, but they are the present,” said Father James Kuroly, who is directing the diocese’s group this World Youth Day. While it will be his first year in this leadership role, Father Kuroly has been on two World Youth Day pilgrimages before.
“These are the young. These are the little ones that Jesus speaks about and yet because of their faith, their hope, their enthusiasm and their joy, they are able to spread the good news to family and friends and to their communities. “They are very much that mustard seed that’s going to plant that Word of Christ to others,” Father Kuroly added.
To Gabriela Lazo-Zumba, 19, the pilgrimage offers an opportunity for her to grow in her faith and her relationship with her mother, who told her to go.
“I love her so much, she is literally a role model to me,” said Lazo-Zumba, who has never been abroad before. “I feel like being able to have a better connection with her will definitely help me become a more, true Catholic.”
Lazo-Zumba is a parishioner at St. Bartholomew Church, and she will be joined in Lisbon by 10 other members of her church. Among them is Dylan Padilla, 20, who is hoping that the journey will quell any struggles he has of growing into adulthood while maintaining his faith. His mother has been elated that he has the opportunity to see the Sanctuary of Fátima while in Lisbon, and has been sending him videos about the site where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917. For everything else, however, Padilla “is going in blind.”
Diana Florencio, 33, has been on two World Youth Day pilgrimages. A parishioner at St. Brigid Church, Florencio looks forward to feeling the companionship with other Catholics at World Youth Day as she fondly recalls prior trips.
“My experiences in Poland and Panama were amazing,” she said. “Every single activity we did was just great, and I am just looking forward to that: the activities, the Eucharist, the Mass and to see the pope again.”