World Youth Day
Our parish supported one of our senior Altar Servers, Cassiopeia Bentley, to go to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal this last Summer. I asked if she might write of her experiences, hoping that the parish might support other young parishioners if they would like to go to the next World Youth Day - in South Korea!
15 October 2023
Something that's been really meaningful in my life lately was my spiritual journey and the incredible impact that taking part in World Youth Day has had on me.
World Youth Day (WYD) is a pilgrimage where young people from all over the world gather together with the Pope. It is a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Church and an intense moment of evangelization for the youth world which brings together millions of young people to celebrate their faith and sense of belonging to the Church.
This year WYD took place in August in Lisbon, Portugal, a city rich in history and faith. I embarked on this journey in a group of thirty from my previous diocese in Leeds. This was a transformative journey that undeniably strengthened my faith, deepened my relationship with God, and brought millions of Catholics
together in unity and devotion.
We often think about our catholic family only extending to our church or parish however after watching millions of people who have travelled from every corner of the world gather to praise God, after watching them walk for hours under the sun chanting and praising the Lord in their own languages and after watching these youths kneel on gravel with bruised and bleeding knees to worship our God and being able to take part in this, it was clear to me that our Catholic family extends throughout every continent in the
world and this family has an unwavering dedication to God.
My return to my previous church in Bradford, years after leaving and now as the only family with children, had initially left me disheartened. It felt as if the Catholic faith was stagnant, with visible signs of hope
dwindling with many people who had already visibly lost hope. It was challenging to envision a future for our faith beyond our small parish community.
However, my experience at WYD reassured me that the faith in God remains undeniably strong, especially among young people. 1.5 million youths gathered at the Pope’s vigil mass. This was 1.5 million people who were determined to practise their faith if it meant sleeping in a cramped field in a bivvy bag, kneeling in prayer on grit and stones and patiently wading through massive crowds under the intense morning sun. What struck me most was the unification of cultures and practices within the Catholic faith. Despite our
differences, we were all connected by our shared belief in God. It was heartening to witness how people from various countries practised their faith with passion and devotion.
My visit to Fatima was a profoundly moving experience and The Church of the Three Young Children resonated with the presence of Mary. During Mass, the heavens opened, and rain poured down for the first and only time throughout the week, a poignant reminder of the story of Fatima and a testament to the power of faith.
Visiting St. Anthony's birthplace and tomb was truly remarkable, filled with vibrant displays of faith and a sense of divine presence. Outside the church, people danced, sang, held hands, and played instruments while praising God with enthusiasm. It felt as if God was among us, blessing our deep faith. This lively celebration
resonated with the joy and spirit of our Catholic community, connecting us to St. Anthony's enduring influence and the unifying power of our shared faith.
Throughout this pilgrimage, I felt God's presence, a constant companion guiding us on our spiritual path. World Youth Day in Lisbon was not just an event; it was a life-altering experience that expanded my religious beliefs and strengthened my relationship with God. It showed me that, no matter where we come from,
we are all part of a larger, global Catholic family united by our shared faith and devotion to the divine. No doubt did this journey test our perseverance, but the joyful spirit prevailed throughout our journey.