Here I am, in my fourth WYD! I did not imagine it, but yes, God has given me the gift of once again sharing in this great festival of world youth, this was my thought on July 28, when someone on the bus shouted “we have arrived at Carvalhos”. And something that moved me was being able to live my first WYD in the Claretian Family and with the news that now it had the tint of the Claretian youth network CLARET WAY. Although I am no longer in the youth rank, the expectation of participating as a Lay Claretian in this family meeting made me very excited. Well, in each WYD I have participated in a different role, pilgrim, community leader, volunteer and now, Surprise!, when the young man at the registration tells me “the shirt that corresponds to you is not the white one for a pilgrim but the yellow one for a acompanhante” , as the WYD Claret Way shirt said in Portuguese. And so the first stage of this new adventure of WYD 2023 began, with the pre-days in the Claretian Family.
WYD Claret Way 2023 took place in the context of the 4 cardinal points that are based on Claret’s apostolic prayer and that guide the Claretian youth network. I will try under them to tell you about what I experienced in this pre-day.
That first day of arrival, it was about reencounter with people who had already seen personally or virtually; meet other lay people; meet new people from different countries and with different cultures, greetings of great emotion. Seeing that delegations from different countries came to have dinner taught me that there are Claretian youth in almost the entire world and that each one with their language made up a fantastic gabble in the dining room, which felt very good. On the other hand, we were also getting to know all the facilities of the Claret Internato School where we would be for three days.
On the soccer field, a great spectacle of lights, music, songs, dances, joy and youth welcomed us to this first edition of WYD Claret Way. Suddenly a virtual image of Claret inviting young people to “be the spark that can ignite the fire of the Holy Spirit and keep it burning in the mission.” The presentation of each of the delegations with their flag, as in an Olympic round, was very emotional. The delegation of Panama of which I was a part, made its presentation with folkloric dances and transferred the Claretian fire of WYD to the Province of Fatima in order to officially start the activities of WYD Claret Way 2023. Regardless of the fatigue of that day of arrival, 1400 young Claretians from more than 35 countries cheered the name of their countries with great spirit, which burned and spread. The virtual image of Claret invited us to culminate this day in prayer, reciting the official WYD prayer and singing to our Mother Mary.
Each day began with food for the body and for the soul. Each moment of prayer recharged us and made us want to go out to meet others. On the second day, already divided into groups according to age and each one with their assigned companions we started out, we started the bus trip to the city of Porto. Once there, each group had to do a series of tests to complete the WYD Bingo, an activity that entailed taking photos with people of other nationalities and explaining to others about the Claretian charism and the Claret Way to recording a Tik Tok with Claret’s hymn. In the Igreja da Serra do Pilar we also did a flashmob with the WYD hymn, it was noticeable that the Claretian youth had taken Porto with their joy and enthusiasm. Back in Carvalho, we visited the WYD CW interactive museum and at nightfall we experienced the Arde space, a beautiful moment of adoration that we did not want to end. Lay Claretians had the opportunity to meet to get to know each other, each one very excited to be there and to meet lay people from America, Europe and Africa. Oh! And they also gave us our pin with the new logo of the movement. The logo is beautiful and eye-catching, that when wearing it, the young people asked what is the logo? and that became the moment to “provoke”, making the movement and the secular vocation known.
Love and Praise
On our third day of meeting, we listened to the TED Talks (Testimony of God Experience). Lay and religious accompanying young people, based on their vocational testimonies, presented on the topics: Fear is for the brave; Influencers; and I invite you to be happy from vocational discernment. Then in small groups the young people discussed the echoes of each testimony. I shared with a group of young people and the dialogue was profitable and enjoyable as time passed quickly. As a member of the Claretian family, I was assigned to support the activity “1 to 1 en Claret”, a space to share and discuss the missionary experience with young people. It is proud to feel the maturity and curiosity that the Claretian youth have for the mission. In the afternoon we made a pilgrimage to the Nossa Senhora da Saúde Sanctuary. Along the way we found images of the patrons of WYD CW and next to them posters that indicated a reality that is affecting the world and for which they invited us to pray an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Some made the Rosary along the way and sang songs to the Virgin. Upon reaching the top of the hill where the Sanctuary is located, we rested a bit, sitting in groups in the middle of nature and preparing ourselves with the Rosary before celebrating mass. The Eucharist was in celebration of the diversity that makes us unique, to bring the best of faith, dreams and commitments to the same world that needs us. Young people from Asia, Africa, Europe and America presented a sign before the altar conforming the Claret Way logo. Also a thanksgiving mass for the entire WYD CW organizing team and the sending as the Claretian Family to set out on our way to meet the Universal Church in Lisbon, above all contributing our own charism: love for The Word, the missionary ardor and doing with others and personally loving each person and sharing the joy of the Gospel with other young people. Good WYD! said the Bishop. With mixed feelings between the joy of what was lived and the sadness that WYD CW 2023 ended, everyone singing and dancing the WYD Lisbon hymn as a great feast of faith, the Eucharist culminated. The way back to the Claret School was with dance, music and songs proposed to the sound of the youth of Puerto Rico, a party typical of a youthful environment.
The day of our bus trip to Lisbon arrived. And there in Lisbon I began my second stage of this adventure, the week of World Youth Day. But first, a visit to the Virgin Mary in Fatima. In the Sanctuary, together with thousands of WYD pilgrims, we prayed the Rosary and participated in the Eucharist, entrusting Jesus and the Virgin to our WYD pilgrimage.
In Lisbon, the Church of Santa María de Agualva-Cacém awaited us. I had the opportunity to be with a host family that with great love welcomed three pilgrims into their home. This week we participate in the RISE UP encounters. These meetings were the first commitment on the daily agenda, animated by the young people with dynamics and songs. For three days Bishops from different countries had a dialogue with the young people about Social Friendship, Integral Ecology and Mercy. And to end the encounters, the Eucharist, always sending us and encouraging us to get up to continue walking together. We were definitely “up” to continue the day. I supported, together with another lay claretian from Panama, at the Claret Way stand at the Vocational Fair in the Cidade da Alegria. It is encouraging to see that the young people came to listen to what the Claretians offered them and they were very interested when they learned about the Claretian youth network.
Among so many events that WYD offers, we decided to go to one of the Youth Festival presentations, well, yes, in Praça do Comercio, one of the largest in Lisbon, we enjoyed the songs of the famous Hakuna Group together with thousands of young people. Seeing and hearing all the young people sing “La Misericordia” at the top of their voices and all the songs like that was a wonderful experience.
And of course we attended the main events with Pope Francis at Colina do Encontro and Campo da Graça. The Way of the Cross, in which realities that afflict young people today were represented, was very emotional. The Vigil for me is always an occasion for deep reflection, adoration and listening to all the right messages that the Pope has for us. On this vigil, the moment of silence in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was something without equal. Witnessing a million and a half people making a resounding silence was a sign of faith and hope, without a doubt a moment of grace.
When we coincided with groups of the FC in the streets, the Claretian festival was formed, we were embraced, jumping and singing Claret’s hymn all with one voice made us feel pride and passion for our charism. We also got to know a little about the city of Lisbon. And thus a number of experiences that WYD offers such as going to find the train, long lines for food, long walks, feeling the strong sun, thousands of photos, seeing the Pope go by, see a wave of happy young people everywhere; all moments of joy, faith and communion. Thousands of memorable experiences that I would need many articles like this to be able to tell you more.
Definitely, each WYD, although logistically they are similar to each other, personally and spiritually it is always a different experience. And of course, it is like the Word of God, that every time you read it, it always gives you a different message for reflection, depending on the moment in which you are. Such are the things of the Father, always opportune. WYD is not just an event, it is also a means of meeting with Jesus, who transforms us and encourages us to go out.
The Lord continues to give me a t-shirt, and with joy, I want to continue wearing my missionary t-shirt. Get up and respond to the call of Jesus to continue playing forward, as a team. Help others to get up, listen, infect and accompany everyone, young people and those still young in spirit to reach that goal which is to be a follower of Jesus, without fear, with joy, with light, with love and undertaking dreams. I thank God for the gift of being able to participate in another WYD, for the organizers, volunteers, families and pilgrims of WYD Lisbon and WYD Claret Way, for the Claretian family to which I belong, for my lay vocation, for allowing me to accompany young people, for continuing to call me by name and for continuing to love me for free. Claretian Family, see you in Seoul 2027 God first!
By: Itsury González, Lay Claretian