August 10, 2023
By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
The pope, people and prayer were highlights for a local laywoman and a seminarian attending World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1-6.
“My experience at world youth day so far has been only bliss,” Kessya Nascimento raved. Her fiancé, Lucas Lima, who didn’t get to go to World Youth Day, texted her comments to The Catholic Free Press Aug. 4.
The two are members of the Brazilian community at Holy Family Parish in Worcester and are a part of Mission Make Me Holy, which the Army of Christ youth group there started, to help young Brazilians grow in their faith.
Eight members of Mission Make Me Holy, from Holy Family, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Milford, and parishes beyond the Worcester Diocese, went to World Youth Day with the Assumptionist Youth Pilgrimage, which included Assumptionists and Assumption University students, as well as visits to other places besides Lisbon.
“I love travelling and getting to know new places and learning different cultures,” Ms. Nascimento said. “So, for me this pilgrimage has been quite an adventure, visiting places like France, Spain and Portugal. I have made so many friendships across the globe; I definitely got to practice my French and Spanish.”
After sharing about the trip in general, Ms. Nascimento delved into something she found especially touching.
“But the coolest experience I’ve had so far was seeing Pope Francis make his entrance into the event,” she said. “My group and I were so fortunate to have found such an amazing spot; we had no idea he was [going to] make his secret entrance right next to us. But, as I was against the fences waiting for him to pass by, as security instructed, I felt absolute chills. I would have never imagined that he would be passing right next to me. You could sense the Holy Spirit flowing from him.”
Ms. Nascimento was blessed being with other people too.
“I also had great moments with locals and other pilgrims, where many [sang worship music] with my group,” she said. “We also prayed the Youth Chaplet written by my mission founder Sandra Lima (her fiancé’s mother), from Mission Make Me Holy.” She called that “a powerful moment where, even though we come from different locations, we felt united through prayer.”
“Asking God to teach us to be holy was simply breathtaking,” she said.
She said this helped her realize that “although we live in a world that seems to be upside down, we still have young people thirsty for the truth, (who) want to create a bond with Christ. This is truly the ‘Juventude do Papa’” (the pope’s youth).
Another Brazilian, Worcester diocesan seminarian Rafael Longhini, 26, was also impressed with the youth, and the pope, whom he got to see passing by right in front of him.
“World Youth Day is an excellent opportunity to see the presence of young people in the Church,” he said in a text to The Catholic Free Press Monday. “On the night of the vigil, Pope Francis highlighted that love is the only free thing in our life.” Mr. Longhini then shared something that made an especially big impact on him.
“During eucharistic adoration, silence took over (the park), despite the presence of 1.5 million people,” he said. Being silent is challenging today, and, seeing so many young people “in total silence, made me very emotional,” he said. “It was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable moments of WYD for me and thousands of young people.”
He said that, like the Virgin Mary, who went hurriedly to her cousin Elizabeth, Jesus went to encounter young people who needed to be lifted up.
It was impressive to see so many people praying and worshipping God, despite claims that the Church is dead, Mr. Longhini commented. Youth from different parts of the world “show us the powerful presence of Jesus around the five continents, making a living church,” he said.
Mr. Longhini said this was his second World Youth Day, and he is already prepared for the next one, scheduled for Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. He said that at his first World Youth Day, in 2013 in Brazil, he was a layperson. Now he is a seminarian. And for his third, if God wills it, he will be a priest.