After reading and sharing the dreams and expectations of some of our MDI (MSI) sisters from different parts of the world who were preparing for WYD Lisbon 2023, here we are, with the experience over, entering once again into the experience of some of our sisters present at the WYD, to fully understand the nature of this journey. It’s the turn of Sr. Shyla, Indian, missionary in Italy, from the community of Rossano Cariati (CS) and Sr. Senia, Guinean, missionary in North Africa.
As a PIME missionary nun (sister), what was the experience of WYD in Lisbon for you? What does it leave you with and what do you think was useful for your vocation?
The experience of the WYD in Lisbon began for me last November 2022 when as a youth ministry team from the Diocese of Rossano (CS), we chose to visit all the parishes, each time presenting the theme that would guide the days in Lisbon. With the minibus loaded with the icon of Mary, Mother of Youth, and the WYD Cross, we reached the most remote places of our diocese. “He was the Way” and we were his feet, in the company of Mary his Mother and the Cross that inaugurated that same “Way”.
In these months of preparation I seemed to fully live my missionary vocation. We were a small caravan made up of persons who on that occasion came together to form the Diocesan Youth Ministry team, and set off towards one parish or another, a group or an event aimed particularly at young people. We were particularly “pilgrim” team, oriented and motivated by the pilgrimage made by Our Lady from Nazareth to Ain Karem to reach her cousin Elizabeth. Every time, we too, like her, we passed cross roads, roads, hills, streets until a church or a bell tower appeared before us as a sought-after and desired destination. At that point we as a team mobilized: we greeted the people who welcomed us; with the parish priest we studied the route that the icon and the cross would have to travel, someone thought about the songs and the words to say to introduce everyone to the atmosphere of the WYD and even more so to the evangelical passage that would form the backdrop to the meeting of the young people with the Pope.
Then finally the days of immediate preparation arrived. I don’t deny that I’ve thought of withdrawing. As the days approached I understood that there would be difficulties to face; first of all the language, then the nights outdoors, the possible hardships and inconveniences of the journey, the things to prepare… then what the Pope continues to say to young people came to mind: The village always implies a transformation, a change. After a journey one is no longer the same as before, there is always something new in those who have made the journey, their knowledge has expanded, they have seen new people and houses, they have experienced the strengthening of their will in facing difficulties and the risks of the journey.
And so I accepted the proposal of those who gave me this opportunity: my Congregation and then the Diocese which supported me with the group of young people who were preparing for this long-awaited event. And I discovered the joy of walking together. I have discovered that it is worth going at the pace of those who walk with us. On the way, I had the opportunity to meet many young people, to listen to them as we went, and after a brief exchange of introductions, grasp all their enthusiasm, their passion for God, their desire to get involved. How could I, a missionary sister, miss out this opportunity?
What do you remember from the young people you saw at WYD in Lisbon 2023? What have you discovered about today’s young people, what surprised you, what questions you? What challenges and what future do you see for the contemporary Church?
In Lisbon, we had the opportunity to meet many young people from different backgrounds and experiences….. Of course, they are noisy, technological, they love to joke and make jokes… but they also know how to be silent and pray. I was very much struck by the silence with which they experienced the hour of adoration during the vigil with Pope Francis….. And there were two million of us! And how can we not be amazed in front of the row of confessionals prepared by the prisoners for their encounter with the mercy and forgiveness of God. They know how to communicate joy, peace and serenity… despite the future being truly uncertain for many of them, they communicate an energy that can involve and infect. They teach us love and respect for nature… attention to the weakest, solidarity towards the disabled, adaptation to new and unexpected situations.
I wonder how to direct this energy of theirs, how to use it fruitfully for the good of the Church of today and tomorrow, but above all how to make the gifts they have received protagonists on the scene, of their places of origin and of the entire world. It is certainly a great challenge for them, but it is even more so for us who accompany them and who with all our hearts desire that they become builders of a new humanity as Pope Francis reminded us in the three verbs he gave them: “Shine, listen, don’t be afraid!”. May the Lord truly give us the ability to listen to them and reassure them, so that they can shine ever more as signs of hope and peace for all of us, for the world.
Having returned from WYD 2023, about a month ago, it seems important to me to be able to summarize what we experienced during our stay in Lisbon. I am full of gratitude and joy for having had the opportunity to be among those accompanying young university students from Algeria to the WYD in Lisbon. The experiences we lived for two weeks in Portugal are still visible on our faces, even if tiredness took its toll. The joy we carry in our hearts is overflowing.
There were strong moments that particularly touched me: the Pope’s welcoming ceremony, the Via Crucis, the opening Mass, the evening vigil and the closing Mass, all the Pope’s meetings with the pilgrims. I assure you that my heart vibrated after seeing thousands of young people coming from all horizons. Imagine the diversity of races, languages and social conditions. Strengthened by all this I can say that mine was an experience of joy and faith, in living the universality of the Church-communion.
I saw the church capable of transmitting to young people the words of faith and hope in a new world. I heard the young people shouting their joy, some to the point of tears, shouting loudly: “Esta é a juventude do Papa”. How beautiful it was, even when everyone in the stadium was pushing to try at all costs to touch the Pope (or at least see him very close), which fulfilled their expectations.
Starting from this experience and from the bottom of my heart, despite the contrary winds that affect our society today. I dare to say that there are still young people on whom the Church can count. There is hope to continue the mission of Christ.
I can’t forget our pilgrimage on foot, for 25 km, from Leiria to Fatima. I left home with my prayer intentions in my heart and with the intentions that had been entrusted to me by people who asked me to pray for them. Alas, arriving at the great esplanade of the sanctuary of Fatima, I saw all those pilgrims who had come with their burden of suffering, kneeling on the burning asphalt, thus crossing the hundreds of meters of square that lead to the basilica; I felt dragged by their suffering and in the end I forgot all my intentions. Overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment, I asked God to answer their prayer, and that was all.
I assure you that you cannot go to a WYD and return as before, without being touched above all by a missionary spirit and without the desire to bear witness to what you have experienced on your return. Returning to my mission I feel the conviction even stronger in my heart: Christ is King! And I shout it out loud, because his Word never ceases to do wonders in the hearts of his children.