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My World Youth Day Experience

This July I had the privilege of attending World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. I traveled with a group led by two brothers and one sister from the Community of St. John. We decided to go on a longer pilgrimage; rather than just going to World Youth Day, we went early and got to visit other holy places. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel with thirty other students from Seton Hall and the surrounding area to spend seventeen days taking in the beauty of Europe and our universal Church. Our group dealt with many hardships, like the 103 degree weather, getting the flu, and one girl spraining her ankle and becoming wheelchair bound. But much more importantly, we experienced so many rich blessings including the Scavi tour (the underground portion of St. Peter's where his bones are preserved) which is very hard to get tickets to, getting to have mass everyday (even in the tiny airport chapel), worshiping Jesus in the Eucharist with close to 1 million young people, and seeing our holy father, Pope Francis, up close.


We started our trip with three days in Rome. It was unbelievably hot, but also incredibly beautiful, inspiring, and life giving. We got to visit the Catacombs, St. John Lateran Basilica, St. Peter's Basilica, and see the bones of St. Peter. What struck me the most was the beauty of not only the physical churches, but the universal Church. I am so grateful to be part of this Church that has such rich history and deep roots. I am so grateful for all that I got to see and experience in Rome.

(From left to right: Basilica of the Holy Cross (Basilica di Santa Croce), St. Peter's Square - view from our hotel room, St Peter Basilica)


It was such a blessing to travel to the town of Fatima where our Lady appeared to the three young shepherds just over a century ago. After being busy in Rome, being in Fatima was a very prayerful and peaceful time. We got to take time for personal prayer in Adoration, pray the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, and participate in a Marian candlelit procession.

(From left to right: The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, Statue of the angel of Fatima & shepherds, Marian candlelit procession)


After Fatima, we spent a few days with the international Community of St. John in a small town in the mountains of Portugal and the views were spectacular. We then went and stayed in an elementary school right outside of Lisbon during the World Youth Days. My favorite moments were getting to experience complete silence in Adoration with close to 1 million people, and mass with Pope Francis and 1.5 million Catholic Youths. It was truly a life changing trip and I am so excited to continue to experience the fruits of this pilgrimage.

(From left to right: The mural of World Youth Day, Seeing Pope Francis!, me at World Youth Day)

- Gwyn Buganski, Ignite & Koinonia Academy Alumni

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