Young Catholics from across the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau are preparing to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023 for World Youth Day — an opportunity to experience the global Church, be a witness of Christ, and experience the Holy Spirit.
World Youth Day typically includes catechetical formation and spiritual experiences, including daily Mass, opportunities for reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration, and special events such as the Stations of the Cross and an overnight vigil.
“On this pilgrimage, I hope to get closer to God and see what happens,” said Victoria Beaty, a teen from St. Andrew Parish in Eagle River. “I think it will be nice taking a break from day-to-day habits and be able to get together with youth. It’s an opportunity that I couldn’t miss out on and am really grateful to be able to go on this trip.”
“It’s easy to get distracted by the travel aspect of such a trip and to think of it as a vacation, rather than a pilgrimage,” said Megan Green, a young adult from Holy Cross Parish in Anchorage. “My first World Youth Day pilgrimage was the only time, then or since, that I have been in community with other Catholics every day for an extended length of time.
“To be in a group of people, that was brought together for the mutual practice and deepening of our shared faith, was beautiful and liberating in ways I did not expect going into it,” Green added.
World Youth Day provides young Alaska Catholics the opportunity to experience the vast diversity and sheer magnitude of the global church.
“I am going to WYD because I think it will be really cool to meet other Catholics from around the world. In my classes at school, I’m usually the only Catholic so it is sometimes discouraging,” said Caleb Wohlers, a teen from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Soldotna. “I am hoping to deepen my friendships with the other people who are from my parish as well as meet other people in my archdiocese.”
The church’s diversity is on display at World Youth Day through hundreds of flags from different states and countries. The Alaska flag will fly with them.
“Our connection to human beings from almost every other continent is made so tangibly clear when you see groups of young people walking past you with flags you’ve never even seen before,” Green said. “God’s kingdom is so much bigger than the narrow focus we often slip into, and reminds us how much we are connected to the rest of humanity.”
Many of the World Youth Day pilgrims have opted for a pre-trip to explore a variety of cathedrals and holy places across Spain.
“We’re going to World Youth Day to grow more in our faith by visiting tall and beautiful cathedrals, listening to the word of God, seeing the Pope, and going to holy grounds like Fatima,” said Eva Goertzen, a teen from the Co-Cathedral of The Nativity of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau. “I think the whole experience will be extraordinarily wholesome and adventurous, and while I will be very far away from home, I expect to have the time of my life and have the experience of a lifetime.”
To learn more about World Youth Day, visit aoaj.org/wyd. Limited spots are still available on a first-come, first-serve basis.