World Youth Day pilgrims reunite and accept new challenges

04 December 2023

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

World Youth Day pilgrims from the Edmonton Archdiocese reunited to celebrate their pilgrimage to Portugal and to take up the challenges presented to them.

“Their journey is not over: they are called. . . to be like Mary, giving her fiat to God, not just at the Annunciation, but every day,” said Deacon Jake Mullin, who joined more than 220 pilgrims from the Archdiocese at World Youth Day Aug. 1-6 in Lisbon.  

“She is our example, and it is especially when we feel like life is difficult (as the journey between Nazareth and Bethlehem would have been) or we don’t feel God that we need to remind ourselves of the fact that God is always with us.”

Deacon Jake Mullin offers a time of catechesis. Photo courtesy of Luke Fuentebella.

The theme for World Youth Day Lisbon was “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39), which is the Scripture passage that describes what Our Lady did after the Visitation. 

The World Youth Day reunion, held on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 26, was hosted at Resurrection Catholic Church in Edmonton.

As part of the reunion, Deacon Jake Mullin shared a catechetical reflection on how the theme of World Youth Day connects to what the World Youth Day pilgrims did after they returned from Lisbon.

“I highlighted how Mary returned home after the Visitation and then soon began the journey to Bethlehem with Joseph. This is similar to our pilgrims, who returned home just under four months ago and have presumably eased back into their ‘normal’ lives,” Deacon Jake said.

Reunited pilgrims celebrate their time at World Youth Day. Photo courtesy of Luke Fuentebella.

Many of the young adults who attended the reunion reflected on the lasting impact of their World Youth Day pilgrimage. 

Adam Callbeck said he “was struck by the life and energy of the Church, by the vibrance that exists in the Church” and the World Youth Day memories “inspire me towards the joy that is possible. It’s something I hold on to.”

Callbeck lives in St. Albert and traveled to Lisbon with St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Edmonton.

The reunion also included a time of Eucharistic adoration and Benediction and a homily preached by Rev. Roger Niedzielski, the Archdiocesan coordinator for World Youth Day, and the pastor at Resurrection Parish.

Father Roger Niedzielski raises the monstrance during Eucharistic adoration. Photo courtesy of Luke Fuentebella.

“What I offered to the young adults was a challenge and a vision. . . and a lot of math,” Father Roger said. “There are approximately 400,000 Catholics and statistically the 18-to-35 age range is about 25 percent of the Alberta population. 

“So, if we use those numbers, we may have about 100,000 baptized young adults in total in our Archdiocese. And currently we probably only have about 1,000 young adult Catholics who are practicing their faith. So that means only one percent are encountering the meaningful, life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. Can we move to two percent? Can we bring others to encounter our life-giving saviour? That’s my challenge. Two percent.”

Father Roger Niedzielski challenges the World Youth Day pilgrims with a calling of missionary zeal. Photo courtesy of Luke Fuentebella.

Danielle Godin said Father Roger’s call to action resonated with the sense of missionary zeal that she experienced at World Youth Day events.

“I was glad to hear the focus on evangelization! It was a personal challenge for me. More and more I’m seeing the need to reach beyond my Catholic community,” Godin said.

“Friendship is one of our great ways of evangelization. I saw that at World Youth Day. In a sense, our love of one another awakens a desire for a greater love, the greatest love of Christ. As Catholics, we sometimes tend to stay in our bubbles – but like we saw in Lisbon, where I encountered and befriended people from so many different walks of life, we need to reach beyond.”

The next World Youth Day will be held in Seoul, South Korea in 2027.

To read the reflections that our Archdiocesan pilgrims shared during each day of World Youth Day Lisbon, scroll through each of the reflections, starting here.