by Jack Figge
Special to the Leaven
NEW YORK — Father Luke Doyle raised the host.
No bells rang in the simple chapel, but an announcement for the last call on an American Airlines flight to Spain did come across the loudspeaker at that moment.
Forty pilgrims were packed into the Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport. The announcement did not phase them as they prayed for safe travels to Lisbon, Portugal, to participate in World Youth Day 2023 (WYD) with over 300,000 other pilgrims from across the globe.
Already, the group is making international connections. Pilgrims talked to Margrida Prieto, a native of Lisbon, traveling home to volunteer at WYD. She shared how excited Lisbon is to welcome everybody.
“It has been crazy. At first, I thought we were unprepared as our country is so small, millions of people are coming, it will be a mess,” said Prieto. “But no, it is very calm, and we are prepared. Even if we are feeling that we are not ready, God fixes it all.”
While Lisbon has been preparing for years to host the one week gathering, Father Doyle sought to prepare the pilgrims during his homily. He gave them three tips for a successful pilgrimage: Live fearlessly, be a giver of life and worship God through suffering.
“God loves us in a beautiful, reckless way, and he invites us to receive that love — and in order to do that we must be willing to live free from fear, be people that give rather than take, and to use suffering to glorify God,” said Father Doyle.
“We will have a really cool opportunity to be with millions of people who came to Lisbon for this gathering,” he said, “but every single one of them has a unique, unrepeatable story that we are called to love.”
It didn’t take long into the pilgrimage for participants to start sharing their various stories and reasons for coming with each other. Some were nervous and many unsure what to expect. But all were excited about the days ahead.
“I am so excited for all the experiences of going to Mass at different places every day, seeing all the people and being in a new environment,” said Elizabeth Ginzel of Mother Teresa Parish in Topeka.
“I wanted the experience of doing this,” she said, “but to really see that there are millions of Catholics from across the world will be so cool!”