SCRANTON – In less than one week an expected 1.5 million young Catholics will descend on the capital city of Portugal for World Youth Day 2023. Among them will be 21 pilgrims from the Diocese of Scranton.
World Youth Day 2023 is scheduled to take place in Lisbon, Aug. 1-6, and the motto for this year’s event is a passage from Luke’s Gospel: “Mary arose and went with haste.”
As a part of their trip, those young people and chaperones in the Diocese of Scranton delegation will also visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.
“Our Diocesan delegation will visit the site of the apparitions and the miracle of Fatima. We’re also going to visit the Shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem which is exciting and then we’re going to dive into the experiences of World Youth Day themselves,” Shannon Kowalski, Diocesan Director of Service and Mission, said.
Only six of the pilgrims from the Diocese of Scranton have attended World Youth Day before.
“It is certainly exciting for me because this will be my first time attending World Youth Day,” seminarian Jacob Mutchler said. “I’m very much interested and excited to visit Fatima. I think that it is going to be a very powerful experience. I think we can expect a very powerful experience having people from all parts of the world coming together to share their faith and worship the Lord and really grow in their relationship with Him.”
Maggie Guarnieri of Pittston, a parishioner of Saint Maria Goretti Parish in Laflin, will be traveling with her two sisters.
“The fact that we all get to do this together is going to bring us even closer than we already are so I’m really excited for that,” Guarnieri explained. “I’m very excited to be incredibly present along the way and almost unplug from reality and be fully immersed in this experience.”
Pope Francis is expected to have nine events with young people, including hearing their confessions and eating lunch with them. He will arrive in Lisbon Aug. 2 where he will be welcomed by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, president of Portugal and pray vespers with local bishops, priests, religious, seminarians and pastoral workers.
The highlight of the trip will come Aug. 6 when the pope will end his trip to Portugal by celebrating the closing Mass for World Youth Day along the Portuguese coast.
“I’m really excited to gather with so many young people from around the world and also just to see Pope Francis. I think he has such a calling for young people to get involved in the church,” Tommy Flynn, Director of Youth and Family Ministry at Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Joseph Marello Parishes in Pittston, stated.
Pope Francis has called World Youth Day an antidote against indifference, isolation and lethargy.
“This is a great opportunity for young people around the world to see that there are young people in the church and they’re not the church of the future but they’re the church of today,” Flynn added.
At 23, Flynn says he will be excited to take the energy and excitement he experiences and bring it back home.
“Even if we don’t experience Mass in the same language, it is still a Mass to everyone and we know the special things that happen during Mass,” Flynn said. “I’m just really excited to get to know some of the other pilgrims from across the diocese, across the world and deepen my faith a little bit.”
Kowalski, who has been planning the pilgrimage for several years, echoes those sentiments.
“There is just no other experience like it. There is no way you can go to World Youth Day and not come back a changed person. There are literally millions of people from all over the world – United States, Europe, Asia, Africa – all coming together for the same reason,” Kowalski explained. “They want to have an experience of faith rooted in the Catholic experience, to pray with our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to learn more about our faith and to take advantage of the Sacraments.”
Following their experiences at World Youth Day 2023, many of the Diocese of Scranton pilgrims will also visit Barcelona, Spain, to visit the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia before returning home to the United States.