Local World Youth Day

‘The beginning of something beautiful’

Jack Figge (far right) walks through the streets of Seixal, Portugal, with pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Attending World Youth Day as a journalist helped him see firsthand the impact the experience was having on the pilgrims’ faith lives. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven

This special Leaven issue falls short — way short — of telling the full story of World Youth Day 2023.

While this whole issue is dedicated to the stories that I saw most fit to tell and the photos that Jay Soldner best captured on this pilgrimage, it can and will never do this two-week endeavor justice.

Whenever somebody asks me why I love being a journalist, my first answer is because I get to hear the full story, while readers only receive about a tenth of the story. That’s the nature of newswriting — a lot must be cut out.

But you, the reader, are only reading maybe 0.001% of the stories from World Youth Day. And I feel so blessed to be a part of the full story.

Did sleeping on a gym floor and riding in cramped buses stink? Yes. But hearing the stories and testimonies of the pilgrims made it all worth it.

Pilgrims from northeast Kansas take the jam-packed bus ride with a grain of salt. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Inside, you will find the stories and testimonies of pilgrims, of ordinary teenagers and adults just like you, who encountered extraordinary things and people. It is my prayer that the Lord will use these stories to touch you, the reader, in whatever unique way he so desires.

I know that these stories touched my heart. 

But the beautiful thing is that these stories are not over — in fact, they are just beginning. World Youth Day was merely a launching point, the beginning of something beautiful.

Jack Figge enjoys a quick break from his travels through Portugal. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Each pilgrim walked away transformed. Now, they all return to their parishes, their schools, sharing all that they saw and heard in Lisbon, Portugal.

And to me, that is the real story of World Youth Day — a story that will never make the front page of a major newspaper or receive a story on a Catholic news site.

But it is the most important story — a story about how one pilgrim’s encounter with Christ will inspire and touch your life and the lives of other Catholics.

To view the full album of photos from World Youth Day, click here.

About the author

Jack Figge

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