Attending World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal

People from various countries traveled for a chance to experience World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal from August 1 to the 6th. This week-long celebration happens every four years as an established Catholic event inviting youth from all over to come and share the Catholic faith.  

This tradition was invented by Pope John Paul II in 1984. The first world youth day took place in Rome, Italy, where sixty thousand people were expected, but instead 250 thousand young people attended. Since then, every four years, World Youth Day is celebrated to bring in young Catholics to greet one another in peace and to open their perspectives to witness the faith in a different light.  

I recall the moment when I first stepped into the lively world of the World Youth Day celebration, eager to assist my sister Jocelyn Alcalá in her role as the associate director for the Youth and Young Adult ministry for the Diocese of Fort Wayne South-Bend. With this position, my responsibilities extended beyond a supporting role. I found myself at the forefront of addressing the needs and concerns of the 267 individuals who had journeyed from this diocese to participate in the gathering.  

Although the logistical challenges of my role kept me busy, I was also being personally tested to embody the spirit of the message “be not afraid”.   Navigating through the vast sea of people who had all come to celebrate, I encountered my own uncertainties and questions.  

Among the whirlwind of responsibilities, there were a few moments that stood out as my favorite parts of the trip.  

My first favorite was being there with my sister. I got to experience her passion for the job. I knew my sister, but we shared details of one another that helped us both understand who we are in this world and our relationship has since then deepened as sisters.  

My second favorite part was meeting all these people from all over the world. More specifically the group of girls from Indiana and I shared our stories. It was a true moment of authenticity and vulnerability. We listened to each other, and the true essence of World Youth Day unfolded before me.  

World Youth Day wasn’t just an event, it was a reminder of the transformative power of overcoming challenges and fostering connections. The whole experience was a defining moment in my own faith, and it allowed me to witness the beauty of diversity and the strength of unity.