Deeply Moving Impressions
of World Youth Day …
In order to help with preparations for World Youth Day, I flew to Porto, Portugal, already on July 14, 2023. I was warmly received at the Schoenstatt Shrine in Gafanha da Nazaré. Although I had never been in Portugal before and I didn’t know the people or the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary there, I experienced great hospitality and a home. And even though I spoke or understood no Portuguese, we were able to communicate and converse.
It was like coming home. Together we tackled the work that needed to be done with joy and great commitment. Our goal was to prepare everything in the best way possible for the participants of World Youth Day. So we made and packaged typical little Portuguese sweets, knotted Capitalarios (small rosaries) and also held Eucharistic Adoration in the shrine every morning. Our visible commitment included accompaniment in prayer.
In between, we participated in the celebrations of the Schoenstatt Family, met people who came to the shrine, and were happy about anyone who was spontaneously ready to help. Overall, there was an extremely family-like and joyful atmosphere and very much generosity on the part of the Portuguese people toward us pilgrims.
We experienced the same thing in Lisbon. We were overwhelmed by what the Schoenstatt family selflessly offered to us and made available to us. Never in Germany have I experienced warmth and openness like that of the Portuguese people.
The World Youth Day began with these impressions for which we are grateful. Not only the major events, the opening Mass, the arrival of the Holy Father, and the Stations of the Cross at Parque Eduardo VII, were impressive, but also the many, many encounters that we experienced in the city. Young people from every continent were there. We could communicate with the language of the heart and by making little signs [with our hands]. At our Schoenstatt booth, we told many young people about the covenant of love with the Blessed Mother, about the capital of grace, and about our father and founder, Father Joseph Kentenich. Again and again, we sisters were “recognized” in the city by our sisters’ uniform dress. Many people had also been in contact somehow with Schoenstatt.
It was an extremely beautiful picture to see the thousands and thousands of young people who made a pilgrimage to this event. With singing and joy they found seats and gave testimony of their faith. Countless flags of different countries waved in the air. Inspirational messages, speeches, theater pieces, cheers, common prayer, and silent prayer alternated. So even at the main events where there were several hundred thousand young people, there was always a very dense, religious atmosphere. We had the experience that the Church is young, that it is greatly enriched by its internationality, and that the faith of the young people is strong.
On my way back home, I met a married couple that had been in Fatima during these days. They told me that, unfortunately, they could only follow this encounter of the youth with the Holy Father on television. It strengthened their faith and now they return to their parish with renewed joy and enthusiasm. The same holds true for me—and I was lucky enough to be right in the midst of it all. I am very grateful for this.
I felt tremendous gratitude at the conclusion of my stay in Portugal – gratitude for all the spiritual inspirations, the testimonies at the events and in conversations, for the hospitality and generosity of the people in Portugal, for the message of the Holy Father, and for the atmosphere that has become a true living space. Would that the blessings of these days continue in the Church, in our countries, in our dioceses, in our parishes, but most of all, in the hearts of the young people and those who allowed themselves to be INFECTED by the enthusiasm of the youth.