(ANS – Lisbon) – “Começamos a nossa viagem!” (Let’s start our journey!) With this motto of jubilation, thousands of young people and young adults from many different countries around the world have already started their pilgrimages and are heading towards Portugal over these days, to participate in World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, from 1 to 6 August 2023, and before that in the “Days in the Dioceses”, which start on Wednesday 26 July.
From Poland, young Poles travelling with the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) set off on Saturday 22 July. One pilgrim, Ada Łomnicka, recounts: “Shortly after dawn, the streets of Krakow began to fill with young people from all over Poland who were already thinking of Lisbon. Punctually at 9 am, the Holy Mass began that introduced us to the final straight after several years of preparation.
The main celebrant was the Provincial of Krakow, Father Marcin Kaznowski who stressed in the homily that over and above the geographical journey en route to Portugal, all those present were in fact already making an even more demanding spiritual journey, during which sometimes we could lose ourselves and even lose our guide, Jesus. However, the Provincial’s invitation was to never stop searching for him. “May this journey help us to be attentive to the signs of God” Fr Kaznowski concluded.
“The World Youth Day hymn, sung at the end of the Eucharist, filled us with energy and between laughter and chatter we left” young Ada continued. During the trip we listened to an interesting podcast whose participants encouraged us ‘to expect the unexpected ’. So, now we expect many graces!”
And the first of these graces the Polish SYM pilgrims received already the next day, Sunday, 23 July. After a journey that lasted all the first day and the next night, they woke up in Turin, and had the opportunity to visit the cradle of the Salesian charism, Valdocco, with the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians and the “Casa Don Bosco” Museum.
“The time spent together today was very enriching and gave us a different perspective on the life and work of Don Bosco. Surely the experience of how the founder of the Salesian community lived will remain with us for a long time ” said another pilgrim, Marta Drążkiewicz.
Starting from a closer point, the pilgrims belonging to the (FRB) France and Belgium South Province’s SYM left today, Monday, 24 July. While they are travelling fewer kilometres, they have no less enthusiasm. “My decision to go to WYD was assured. Ever since I saw the young people around me from various Catholic movements returning from WYD in Poland, I realised that I wanted to participate in this adventure, which seems so enriching. Participating in WYD is for me a continuation of my inner journey, both in faith and in personal life. I think it will bring me a lot as a young person”, says twenty-year-old Belgian Noémi, already involved with the SYM for years.
For his part, Florián, 18 years old, a Frenchman who was baptised just a few weeks ago, would not have been able to go without the help of SYM solidarity initiatives: “At the end of 2022, I participated in a meeting of young people in the church at Saint-Maurice. I saw 250-300 young people my age in a sports hall where we were gathered. Everyone welcomed me. That was awesome! I could have stayed there all weekend! It was then that I discovered the World Youth Day project, but I gave up because the budget was too high… Then one day, while I was going to school, I met Fr Charles, a Salesian, and he told me again about WYD. Because I trust him, I decided to meet him and talk about it again. And when I saw the lower cost offered by the Salesian network, I decided to participate!”
The WYD feast of faith has already begun for many young people.