Isabel Correa, fifth from left, was among coordinators from around the world in Lisbon last October for preparation meetings for World Youth Day 2023, which will be held in August in the Portuguese city. Photo courtesy Isabel Correa

Up to 5,000 Canadians expected at WYD

  • June 15, 2023

Isabel Correa, the Canadian bishops’ World Youth Day coordinator, had anticipated 3,000 Canadians, largely between the ages of 16 to 35, would venture to Lisbon, Portugal for WYD 2023.

But Canadian interest in the Catholic youth festival from Aug. 1-6 is significantly higher than Correa’s initial projections. She told The Catholic Register that she now anticipates a Canadian delegation of about 5,000 pilgrims.

“This is excellent for Canada, especially post-pandemic,” said Correa, who also works as the Archdiocese of Montreal’s youth ministry director. “We have over 1,000 coming from Quebec alone and that is also very exciting.”

Correa said she knows exactly whom to credit for this accomplishment.

“The Holy Spirit. It is at work. Young people are hungry to experience something that is out of this world,” she said. “We have a lot of people working on the frontlines to promote World Youth Day as an amazing opportunity not only to grow in relationship with Christ, but also in a sense of community and belonging that is global.”

Bishops, pastors and youth ministers were also instrumental by planting a seed of interest within young people in their local community, said Correa. They appealed to youth face-to-face and through social media. Young adults and teenagers who became interested then informed their friends of their plans to attend, and this “caused a snowball effect.”

Pope Francis’ direct invitation for the youth to join him in Lisbon also drove interest, Correa believes. Recently, the Holy See Press Office unveiled the pontiff’s schedule for WYD, starting with his arrival on Aug. 2. His nearly five days in Portugal are slated to be chockful with intimate encounters with youth to complement his speeches and liturgies before large crowds. He will hear confession, have lunch and pray the rosary with young people throughout his sojourn.

“He’s with them, interacting with them and setting the example that bishops, clergy and the whole Church should be closer to young people,” said Correa, who has attended nine previous WYD gatherings, starting with Denver in 1993. “(Not just through) teaching and discourses, but also sharing a meal, being with them and hearing them through a conversation.”

The Vatican is estimating overall attendance will eclipse 400,000 people.

“It calls my attention and fills me with joy that so many young people will go to World Youth Day, because they need to participate,” said Pope Francis in a video message earlier this year. “Some will say, ‘I’m going as a tourist.’ But any young person who goes to World Youth Day goes because, deep down, he or she has a thirst to participate, to share, to tell their experience and receive the experience of others. They are thirsty for horizons.”

Francis is expected to empower the multitude of people to follow the example of the Virgin Mary, who said “yes” to God’s purpose for her life. The motto for WYD 2023 comes from Luke 1:39, “Mary arose and went with haste.”

The various Canadian delegations from coast-to-coast will travel separately to and from WYD, but there are plans in the works for an on-the-ground celebratory gathering of the Canadian contingent on Aug. 1. Details are expected in the coming days.

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