Young pilgrims prepare for World Youth Day in Portugal Aug. 1-6, 2023

A number of those travelling to World Youth Day in Portugal recently held a preparation gathering at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. The 37 pilgrims from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon will join thousands of youth from around the world Aug. 1-7 in Lisbon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A group of 37 pilgrims from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon will be among the thousands of youth gathering with Pope Francis for World Youth Day Aug. 1-6 in Lisbon, Portugal.

World Youth Day is a global gathering of young adults from the ages of 18-35.  The initiative was started by Saint Pope John Paul II, who desired to bring together young people across the world, to facilitate a deeper love for God and greater unity within the Church.

World Youth Day in Lisbon was originally scheduled to take place in the Portuguese capital in 2022, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 400,000 young people have registered to take part in this year’s event. The motto for the event selected by Pope Francis is: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39), which opens the gospel account of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.

The diocese of Saskatoon pilgrim group has been gathering for several months to plan and to prepare spiritually for the World Youth Day experience.

A World Youth Day preparation session held earlier this year. (Photo by Sr. Marta Piano, Verbum Dei)

The group will be accompanied by Megan Bawagan (Catholic Christian Outreach CCO Campus Team Leader at the University of Saskatchewan), A.J. Vicente (Evangelization and Discipleship, Cathedral of Holy Family), Hannah Berry and Stalin D. Cunha from Project Timothy, Sr. Marta Piano of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, Fr. Gerard Cooper of the Cathedral of the Holy Family, and Sr. April Mireau of the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary.

They will first spend “Days in the Diocese” at Fatima, Portugal, with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary from July 26 to July 31.

Following the World Youth Day events Aug. 1-7, they will have an Encounter Retreat from with the Verbum Dei Missionary Community in Europe, from Aug. 7-10.

“We are so excited to go with a group of 37 young adults from the diocese of Saskatoon,” said Megan Bawagan of CCO.

Several leaders from the diocese will accompany the pilgrims to World Youth Day. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yawoski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

“World Youth Day is the opportunity for young people to see the church fully alive, and fill them to go out and live their faith in real and concrete ways,” Bagwan noted. “Our group is blessed to get to go not just to World Youth Day, but to spend time with other religious and lay communities: The Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, as well as Verbum Dei.”

“Pilgrimage is a special time in life when God will do amazing and wonderful things,” says Bishop Mark Hagemoen, reflecting on World Youth Day and its impact.

He notes that pilgrimage is a rare time in any one’s life — and is not always easy, as it can try patience when it includes challenges and physical discomfort. “But God never leaves us the same if we dare to trust in the adventure he presents to us.”

Bawagan also has a message for the diocese: “As we prepare to depart for this pilgrimage, please pray for us! Know that you will be in our prayers as we pilgrim to be with the global church, as well as Our Lady.”

The Vatican recently announced Pope Francis’ itinerary for World Youth Day (LINK), which includes a welcoming ceremony Aug. 3, Stations of the Cross Aug. 4, a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Aug. 5, and celebration of the Eucharist Aug. 6.


Kiply Lukan Yaworski is the communications coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon –