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Local Youth Travel to Portugal for World Youth Day

By Jessica Larson

The Diocese of St. Augustine will be well represented at the 2023 World Youth Day. The youth and their chaperones represent 14 parishes from across the diocese. The local delegation of 63 pilgrims will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, this summer from August 1-6. The group includes 47 college and high school students and 16 adult chaperones.

The group has spent the last few months preparing physically and, most importantly, spiritually for this journey. Robin Shipley, the diocesan director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, shared that this pilgrimage “requires a lot of sacrifices” and “pilgrim’s spiritual maturity will grow exponentially throughout the experience.”

Leading her fourth WYD pilgrimage, Shipley reflected on the past three experiences sharing that each one was unique. Her first was in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, ‎Brazil, where she said she underwent a moment of complete “sacred silence on the beach in the middle of a million other pilgrims.” She said this was “a grace that only God could provide. There was no sound, no birds, waves or even people moving.”

WYD experiences are often different because of their location or historical significance. The 2016 WYD was in Krakow, Poland. Shipley said that after visiting the concentration camp at Auschwitz, they visited the upstairs chapel of the 1946 bishop’s residence where St. John Paul II was ordained. She described the light at the top of the stairs leading to the chapel. She said, “I can’t describe it. The light was different at the top of the stairs; it was a Holy light.”

During the 2019 WYD in Panama City, Panama Shipley described the dramatic conversion of one of the young pilgrims. She explained the pilgrim had a broken ankle. The group had found a wheelchair, but the injured needed assistance. One young man took on the task of serving this injured individual to ensure that they were cared for throughout the trip. “This young man’s service during the pilgrimage changed him. He was converted by his service to others. He came home a completely different person,” said Shipley.

Shipley requested that the faithful here at home keep them in prayer that “all those on pilgrimage may grow in their spiritual maturity and come home with converted hearts ready to serve the church and her mission to proclaim the Gospel.”

Before the main WYD events begin, 22 travelers will participate in a 24-mile, two-day hike of the Camino de Santiago, known as the Way of St. James. This renowned pilgrimage is a hiking journey to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain.

The whole delegation will make a pilgrimage to the 13th-century Eucharistic miracle in Santarem. Then on to Fatima, the location of the 1917 Marian apparition of three peasant children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

Shipley explained that experiencing the Eucharistic miracle will assist in providing meaning to the three-year Eucharistic Revival initiative that the USCCB launched last year. Experiencing this miraculous event “gives us eyes to see what the humble bread is, the Body of Christ.” 

Once in Lisbon, the Holy Father will welcome the pilgrims. Participants will take part in daily catechesis, pray the Way of the Cross, and spend time in Eucharist Adoration. WYD will culminate with millions of people attending the celebration of the Mass with Pope Francis. Please join us in prayer for all those attending WYD from across the globe. St. James the Apostle, patron of pilgrim travelers, and St. John Paul II, patron of World Youth Day – pray for us

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