Parish, diocesan leaders prepare for World Youth Day

BRAINTREE -- Like millions of Catholics around the world, many in the archdiocese are counting down the days until they go on pilgrimage to World Youth Day, which will take place Aug. 1-6 in Lisbon, Portugal.

World Youth Day is an international gathering held every few years in a different major city, celebrating the role of young people in the Church. Pope John Paul II instituted the tradition in 1986, and past locations have included Madrid, Rome, Paris, and, most recently, Panama City. The highlights are events attended by the pope, such as the opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, and the Mass of Sending on the final day.

The archdiocese is organizing a weeklong World Youth Day pilgrimage from July 28 to Aug. 7. In addition to attending the international events in Lisbon, the pilgrims will also visit Fatima, where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1917, and Santarem, the site of a Eucharistic miracle.

According to archdiocesan evangelization consultant Chris Donoghue, the archdiocese usually oversees a "group of groups," as parishes and other organizations send small groups that then meet and travel together. Currently, over 200 people from 14 different groups are registered for the archdiocese-sponsored pilgrimage.

Donoghue said the trip is "a way of strengthening the community."

"You come in contact with all these other groups from all around the world. That's the beauty and part of the international nature of this event, that you're seeing other groups of people, like-minded Christians and Catholics, who are excited about their faith," he said.

In the parishes, groups of pilgrims have been meeting regularly to prepare for the trip. Part of the purpose of meeting is logistical -- to go over their travel plans and make sure everyone knows what to expect. But they also take time to learn about the culture they will experience, research the locations they will visit, and get to know each other personally before they embark on the journey together. Donoghue said the various groups will eventually meet all together before the trip.

Chris Carmody, the director of ministries at St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish in Lynn, has attended World Youth Day four times, beginning as a youth group participant and later leading groups as a travel agent or Church minister.

Speaking to The Pilot on March 6, Carmody explained why he believes pilgrimages are important -- and worth the expense and work that they require.

"It's very good for our souls and it's good for our experience. For youth, it's very important to get out of the community sometimes. Because for any age, but especially for youth, the Church loses its universal character because all they see is the parish. They just see one priest, maybe two, they see the same people at Mass every week. And they either don't know or forget that there's a universal Church with a great diversity and a great beauty, and that there's people from all over the world practicing the faith," Carmody said.

He said it is "so beneficial" for young adults to see the Holy Father, all the bishops and religious, and people from around the world practicing their faith.

"They come back with an experience of Christ and the Holy Spirit, so then they can live that out for the rest of their lives and bring that joy to the rest of the community," Carmody said.

The group he will lead from his parish has been meeting once a month, either in person or virtually, for eight months. They have been learning about the Portuguese language and culture, and sometimes they eat Portuguese food. But they also take time to have fun together.

"A lot of the meetings are just playing games, getting to know one another, so that by the time we get to the pilgrimage, we're comfortable (enough) with one another to talk about our experiences and pray together," Carmody said.

While the pandemic has not caused significant difficulties in planning the pilgrimage, Donoghue said, it has contributed to the feelings of those going on the trip.

"There's an excitement about getting back together. We missed each other for a while. We missed, as Church, gathering together. So, I think there's some extra excitement that's going to come out of this, that we're moving forward," he said.

The theme of World Youth Day this year is drawn from Luke 1:39, "Mary arose and went in haste." Donoghue noted that Mary "has always had a big role to play in World Youth Day," and that the act of rising and going "is a common theme throughout this pilgrimage."

"I think the Church needs to hear that in a particular way coming out of this pandemic," he said, adding that he is "excited about what that might look like and what the Lord might do with that."

Although registration for the archdiocesan pilgrimage is closed, there is a waiting list in case people drop out.

Information about the Archdiocese of Boston pilgrimage can be found at