Reflecting on impact of World Youth Day at diocesan event

Diocesan pilgrims who travelled to World Youth Day this summer in Portugal met with Bishop Hagemoen on Christ the King Sunday, to share insights, reflections, and ways that the experience has impacted their faith. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Editor’s note: Diocesan World Youth Days are observed annually in addition to the major intercontinental world-wide edition of World Youth Day that takes place every three or four years. Since 2021, the annual celebration of World Youth Day at the diocesan level has been held on Christ the King Sunday (earlier it was held on Palm Sunday). News and other information regarding World Youth Days is available from the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life at:

By Jarrod Daunheimer, diocesan World Youth Day 2023 pilgrim

In the summer of 2023, some 30 pilgrims from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon attended World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal.

On Nov. 26, many of these young diocesan pilgrims gathered with Bishop Mark Hagemoen to share reflections on their experiences of this summer’s international gathering. The occasion was an annual “World Youth Day” marked locally in dioceses across the world on the Feast of Christ the King. The evening gathering concluded with Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Hagemoen..

As part of local celebrations, WYD pilgrims also shared testimony about their experience at the three Masses at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon on the Feast of Christ the King: Adrianna Graham at 9 a.m., Christ Ruest at 11 a.m., and Libbie Smith at 6:30 p.m. (LINK).

The diocese of Saskatoon delegation to World Youth Day in Portugal in the summer of 2023. (Submitted photo)

Common threads in the reflections of pilgrims include feelings of community, personal responses to the Holy Father’s calls to holiness, and an energetic desire for evangelization. This is all quite fitting considering that the theme of this year’s World Youth Day was from Luke 1:39: “Mary arose and went with haste.”

Reflections on the pilgrimage to Portugal included the following from Christine Kwon: “It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by so many Catholics from all over the world. I gained a deeper appreciation of the religious life (priests, sisters, missionaries, etc.) and felt like we were all one big family!”

Pilgrim Libbie Smith highlighted the following:

“1. Prayer – Know that you are the Lord’s beloved and know that Mary is essential for our faith journey and for our relationship with Jesus. What better way to get to know Jesus than through His Mama? She pleads for us and wants us to know her Son!

“2. Wonder and Awe of the Lord – Beauty can be found everywhere: in the ornate and in the simplicity found in everyday occurrences. Never tire of the beauty of His creation!

“3. Joy- The mark of a Christian; joy is missionary, smiles are universal, and sharing the gospel through joy is contagious. We are connected.

“4. Growth – Don’t be afraid to say ‘Yes’ to the Lord. Mary’s ‘Yes’ is the reason we are here today. We are made to do tough things and to touch lives through the Lord.

“5. Sacrifice – Have an attitude of gratitude, sacrifice, and empty yourself unto others. The least we do for one another is what we do for Jesus, and He can be found in the face of every person we encounter!” –

Sr. Marta Piano of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity – who was one of the diocesan leaders accompanying the diocesan group to World Youth Day this summer — expressed her amazement that four months have already passed since the international gathering of Catholic youth with Pope Francis. “We are the same and not the same after WYD,” she said. “I touched the determination of young adults in their journey of faith and cherished the confirmation and joy to be a missionary sister called to share the Word of God through the gift of community.”

“World Youth Day has been such a gift to me,” said WYD pilgrim Frances Veslinos, youth coordinator at St. Patrick Parish in Saskatoon.

“To witness the Body of Christ coming from different parts of the world gather to worship the Lord was a surreal and unforgettable experience that I will always cherish. Being able to journey with my fellow Saskatoon pilgrims and meeting new ones along the way have been a joyful and enriching opportunity to share our faith and love for Christ,” she said.

Frances Veslinos added: “Of course, it was not always easy and there definitely were challenges, but having the love of Christ as our common language made it all meaningful and worthwhile. To encounter Christ personally and in the many people I met and got to build relationships with are gifts I hold close to my heart. World Youth Day truly was an experience of a lifetime, an experience I will always look back to. With a grateful heart, I am zealous to share the many blessings I received on this pilgrimage with everyone, especially with the young people in our community.”

Pilgrim Jennine Redl reflected on the joy of reuniting with World Youth Day companions to celebrate how God has worked in their lives through the pilgrimage to Portugal, and the opportunity to share challenges, blessings, and joys of the experience with each other and with Bishop Hagemoen.
“World Youth Day was an experience that I will cherish. What a beautiful witness to the universality of the Church! It was a joy to see and meet people from all over the world and share the faith with them in common,” she said.
“One of the most striking aspects of World Youth Day for me was the abundant presence of young priests and religious in attendance. This isn’t something that I’m used to seeing at home in Saskatoon. We had the privilege of staying with the Sisters of the Presentation in Portugal. Their generosity and genuine joy in serving us was such a witness to the fulfillment that doing the work of God can bring.”
Jennine Redl added: “The sisters and priests we met during our pilgrimage were approachable and easy to talk to. It was also so striking to see a group of nuns in full habit wandering the streets or breaking out in song and dance on the bus or train! Their joy was infectious. I believe that their presence and service would inspire many a young person to consider the religious life in the discernment of their vocational calling. There are other ways in which my experience has called me to grow in virtue, but this was certainly a highlight.”

Photo gallery of local World Youth Day celebration in Saskatoon Nov. 26:

Videos and photos from Portugal, courtesy of pilgrim Ally Bitz:

(Youth and Young Adult ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is supported by gifts to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal: