World Youth Day 2023: Of love, life and goodness!

- Leann Dsouza - Don Bosco Green Alliance

The Catholic church is a global family with over 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide. At World Youth Day, this vast global family was personified not just in numbers but by its love for Mother Church. Although I personally missed out on the 'Days in the Diocese' experience, I gathered stories from my friends about the warm hospitality they received. This made me realise that we belong to a larger family that has a tangible presence. Some might describe this phenomenon as a mere community, but I prefer to refer to it as a family, where brothers and sisters care for one another.  This love and care was visible through the dedicated volunteers at World Youth Day who inspite of the harsh summer heat maintained order with great gentleness and sensitivity throughout the 6 days. This was the hallmark of World Youth Day 2023!

The WYD experience produced another family - the SYM South Asia family! We were 58 Indians from different states: 43 young people and 17 priests. We were blessed by their presence which reflects the charism of Don Bosco. Apart from the 17 priests in our group, we were received by Salesians from the various institutions we stayed in at Lisbon, Turin and Rome. Through them, we learnt so much about their work and the great Saint himself. Throughout the pilgrimage, the air was filled with a distinct joy almost like some festive cheer. The spontaneity of our group was also striking; there were many surprises that came our way. Once, we had set out for catechesis but found ourselves staying for a Mass celebrated in Romanian. It turned out to be quite exciting and somewhat unique.

Seeing young people sprawling with energy lifted the spirits of the gathering. The energy and excitement opens up a world of possibilities in the life of young people. As Pope Francis said in his address before the event, “Any young person who goes to WYD goes because, deep down, he or she has the thirst to participate, to share, to tell their experience and receive the experience of others".

This is the most influential event young people can experience. There is no such event that brings 1.5 million people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life.

I felt something happening within our being. We are expanding ourselves by absorbing new identities and adventures that this pilgrimage gave us. We are leaving the small world of experiences life has given us and we are walking into something new and big that God has planned for us. Here I would like to draw on the human capacity to adapt. We can either choose to live in the given created life or move into new encounters and grow bigger and better. We are changing and evolving with the encounters God has planned for us. This newness is seen in the gospel of Luke where Jesus said to Simon "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, "Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command, I will lower the nets."  We all know that the end result was an abundant catch.

At the Don Bosco Green Alliance, we aim to bring newness to the lives of young people by imbibing ecological sensitivity in their character. We hope that someday this bears fruit!