Tuesday, October 3, 2023
At the end of July and the beginning of August this year, one of the most important events in the Church took place – World Youth Day! The event was not to be missed by the Oblates of Assumption Province, who traveled to Lisbon with more than 400 young people from our Canadian parishes to meet with the Pope and the young church.
This pilgrimage of faith of the young church was preceded by concrete preparations. Some began their preparations even two years before the planned event, such as the youth from Edmonton, who, with Fr. Mieczyslaw Burdzy OMI, in addition to their formation meetings, organized team-building meetings and raised funds for the trip. Fr. Zbigniew Halemba OMI with his group in Toronto prepared through regular meetings based on the "Alpha" course preceded by the Eucharist. On the other hand, the group from Ottawa, together with Fr. Antoni Degutis OMI, explored the geography and culture of Portugal at the meetings, with a special focus on the towns that hosted us, not omitting the Fatima Shrine, which was one of the significant points of our pilgrimage.
The youth knew that WYD was not a vacation but a pilgrimage. Each participant went there not knowing quite what to expect and what they would experience. So it is on the pilgrims journey. The Oblates not only accompanied the young people as caretakers of the groups, but were themselves part of this journey of faith. As they themselves emphasize for each of us it was a special time. "I personally was deeply moved by our visit to the Fatima Shrine, then the Fatima procession with candles at the local parish in Marrazes, where we spent the Diocesan Days," shares Fr. Pawel Pilarczyk OMI from the Brampton parish. Fr. Mieczyslaw admits that for him it was a pleasant surprise to see how his youth, taking the example of their older peers from day to day, used this time and the WYD experience more and more responsibly to live it in the best way possible. "For me personally, WYD was an extraordinary time in many ways. I was greatly impressed by the multitude of people who came to WYD. It's good to see young people who are able to pray together, play together, be together. The heart grows when you see how powerful, beautiful and diverse the Church is," recalls Fr. Zbigniew. "Just meeting the Pope, seeing him live, hearing his voice is something you never forget," adds Fr. Wojtek. Fr. Anthony, on the other hand, fondly remembers the place called "Poland's Lisbon" - a stadium where thousands of young people from Poland gathered with their pastors and bishops and where we - the Canadian Polish community - could not be absent.
It is said that travel educates. I would personally add that it shapes you greatly especially when you travel with young people. In such travels, Fr. Mieczyslaw sees great potential for integration and evangelization. "Evangelization actually happens among the young (so-called peer ministry - young people evangelize other young people). In fact, as pastors it is often enough to be with them, to give some impulse, most of it happens without our influence." "For me it was an extremely uplifting experience to see young people who were sincerely praying. It was evident from their faces that it was sincere and from the bottom of their hearts. Also, their extraordinary openness, kindness and desire for community were evident at every turn. The young people are full of ideals and great, beautiful desires. I think this is what I could learn from them," (Fr. Zbigniew). "The young people are wonderful. You could see their deep faith and their need to stay together. Some of them had tears in their eyes as Pope Francis passed by. Overall, summing up our Pilgrimage it is worth remembering that these moments spent together with the Oblate confreres and the youth were God's grace to all of us, so that we could strengthen our fraternal bonds and get to know other nationalities and their customs and share our love for Christ," Fr. Anthony added. „This was my fifth World Youth Day and, God willing, not the last one. What do I take away from the meeting in Lisbon? Joy and hope that life with Jesus is different, that with Him there is no fear and that with Him I am able to love the people I meet daily in my life. Because, as pope Francis said, << there is only one free thing in life: the love of Jesus>>,” concludes Fr. Wojciech.
To all the Oblates, for their shared pilgrimage of faith at WYD and their willingness to share their memories, thank you very much. fr T. Jarosz OMI
review and correction – fr Daniel Janulewicz OMI