On August 6th 2023, Pope Francis proclaimed to a large waterfront gathering of about one and a half million young Catholics: ‘To all of you, dear young people, who are the present and the future, yes to all of you, Jesus now says: “Do not be afraid!”’

Attending that gathering were twenty-six members of the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community (DOJCC) World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrimage.

Pilgrims to World Youth Day in Lisbon

The pilgrimage was led by Fr Chris Eaton MGL (Missionaries of God’s Love), Rosie Drum MGL and Antoinette Collins and was made up of pilgrims from Sydney, Darwin, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. Rosie Drum MGL shared her experience of the pilgrimage:
“While we had been gathering for several months in zoom meetings, we actually only met in person at Sydney airport on July 26th. Twenty four hours of travel to Europe helped us get to know each other though!

On landing in Lisbon we went straight by bus to Fatima where we were blown away by the peace of this site of Mary’s apparitions to three shepherd children. We spent four days there attending a charismatic international gathering called Youth Arise, while also exploring the sacred town and participating in the nightly evening rosary processions.

Pilgrims in Lisbon

On Monday 31st July we travelled to Lisbon for the World Youth Day week of events that are full of people from nearly every country in the world (apparently only the Maldives were not represented). It’s difficult to describe the joyful confusion of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims all praying in the huge events. One of our pilgrims said, “If this is what the Church is like on earth, imagine heaven! I have never felt so small and yet part of something so huge before!” It was a joy to see the DOJ banner flying amongst so many other flags in the world.

At World Youth Day

With that many extra people in a place, there’s bound to be chaos and we experienced delays in transport, fatigue, a bit of sickness at times, and several incidents of losing our way. But in these moments of trial, it was fascinating to see whose gifts came to the surface and how God had equipped us as a group for each situation. The times of prayer, particularly Mass and the experience of a noisy crowd of over a million people stopping to be silent in Adoration, were extremely powerful for showing that we as Catholics have a universal language that we all speak in the Eucharist and in the symbol of our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Crowds at WYD

We wrapped up the pilgrimage with a two day retreat in Avila, which gave us a chance to reflect on the excitement of the past two weeks. And then we headed home to do as Pope Francis said and not be afraid to change our world through sharing our experience of joy.”