A Portuguese flag is seen near Pope Francis as he greets the crowd before celebrating Mass for World Youth Day pilgrims in Panama City in this Jan. 27, 2019, file photo. World Youth Day will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023. CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

Pilgrim primer planned for Canadians attending WYD

By 
  • September 21, 2022

Just under a year away, the hype is already beginning around World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 to be held in Lisbon, Portugal.

Pope Francis generated some hype himself with a special written address for young people. The pontiff asked youth to think about Mary, Mother of God, who “entrusted herself completely to God” at the Annunciation. And soon “she arises and sets out, for she is certain God’s plan is the best plan for her life.”

The Pope wants youth to adopt a similar mentality, and to “move with haste” towards experiencing “the presence of the risen Christ in our own lives.”

In Canada, preparations are already well underway for the Canadian pilgrims looking to join the festivities. Isabel Correa, Canada’s national WYD coordinator on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), hopes WYD can spark transformative experiences within the hearts and minds of young people ages 18-35.

A Canada-wide information session about Lisbon 2023 is being hosted on Zoom at 7 p.m. E.T. Sept. 27 for potential pilgrims to learn more about what is in store from Aug. 1-6 next year.

“It is going to be fun to meet so many people from across the country to share information and spread enthusiasm about World Youth Day,” said Correa. “We share information about the country such as the patron saints of the host country, the symbols of World Youth Day, the schedule, and we discuss the theme of the conference.”

But WYD preparation transcends just being abreast of logistical information, said Correa.

“In terms of preparing young people at the level of the heart and mind, we ask young people, ‘what is the grace you’re looking for in this pilgrimage? What do you want to receive from The Lord?’ ”

Lisbon 2023 will be Correa’s 10th WYD. She attended Denver 1993 and Rome 2000 as a pilgrim. She then gained a passion on wanting to empower other Canadians to growth in faith through attending these conferences, and she has fulfilled that pledge by serving in various organizational roles starting with Toronto in 2002.

Why does Correa feel so compelled to devote much of her time and talent to WYD over the past three decades? She responded, “these experiences changed my life.”

“World Youth Day taught me about the universality of the Church, and how the message of Christ is not just for me and my little parish, city or province — it’s worldwide. I knew I wasn’t alone in that moment for having faith, struggling with my faith, having enthusiasm of my faith and asking questions about my faith.”

Correa added that somehow the conference is intimate at the same time as she felt like it was an experience “of personal love, personal communication and a personal call to serve.”

Fr. Daniele Muscolino, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church in North Bay, Ont., has answered the call to serve by leading the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie delegation heading to Lisbon. He is currently offering mentorship to 15 registered pilgrims in his diocese to engage their parish priest, CWL or Knights of Columbus council and other parish organizations to fundraise for this adventure. Each youth must ultimately collect $4,200 to participate.

Meanwhile, Muscolino said Zoom meetings are routinely being hosted to foster fellowship and come together in prayer.

“I have encouraged everyone right from the get go to pray for the success of our journey,” said Muscolino. “And I have asked them to pray to the Lord to reveal His message to them. I want them to ask themselves, ‘what does the Lord have in store for me through this pilgrimage?’ ”

Muscolino, the director of vocations, youth and young adults for his diocese, attended WYD at Toronto in 2002 and Cologne, Germany, in 2005. He can “vividly remember all the moments, because you remember the experiences that bring you true joy.” He fondly recalled listening to Pope John Paul II speak, and the collective, faith-filled energy of the pilgrims.

See wydcanada.org/en/info-session/ if you wish to learn more about the information session on Sept. 27.

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