My WYD Experience in Lisbon: Amazement and Gratitude

Reflections on YYD

By  Bro. Sc. Maximilien Kenfack Meizang, OMI

Bro. Maximilien Kenfack is second from left in this photo with (L-R) Sch. Brothers Pablo Henning, Bro. Max, Superior General, Chicho Rois and Bro. Etienne Kabemba

From July 30 to August 6, 2023, I attended World Youth Day for the first time, with great wonder. Not being able to elaborate on all the aspects that particularly impressed me, I’m going to write my impressions in a few words. Indeed, going to Portugal, I had only one motivation: to visit Fatima. However, the visit to Our Lady of Fatima was only one aspect of the event, for the WYD enabled me to experience another face of the Church, a Church that is physically young, energetic, dynamic, thirsting for God, determined to rise and go forth in haste like Mary in the Gospels. I must confess that I had never attended an ecclesiastical event that brought together so many young people. Indeed, it was a real experience of the universality of the Church.

As a scholastic, I had the opportunity to participate for three days in the preparation of the morning catechesis sessions (The “Rise Up” sessions) for English-speaking pilgrims along with Brother Pablo, Alexa (a young adult from Buffalo, New York), and Becky (DRE from San Juan de Los Lagos Parish, San Antonio, TX), in a church in which the Dominican friars had exhibited relics of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The most interesting part of these catechesis sessions was the small group sharing. I was very touched by the young people’s sharing, their desire to make heard their voices heard, and the thoroughness of their thoughts.

Bro. Max is on the far left of this photo of the English-speaking “Rise Up” group which included Fr. Felix Nyambe, OMI (4th from right), Bro. Pablo Henning, (2nd from right and Fr. Ray Cook, OMI, (far right)

In the evenings when I visited the churches to take part in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or to attend the Evening Prayer, the churches were always packed to the rafters. Many young people who couldn’t get inside the churches sat outside to pray, sometimes in languages that weren’t their own. In our Oblate group from the US Province, we had young people from Mexico who spoke only Spanish and others from the USA who spoke only English. Strangely enough, we didn’t have much difficulty communicating, as the language was one of joy and evangelical values. Moments of worship, teaching, and waiting for the Holy Father were always emotionally charged. Some people chirped, some sang, some cried, but I had no words. I was just silent because I was amazed. Day and night, the WYD anthem rang out in Lisbon, and a slogan in Spanish stimulated all the young people: ” es la juventud del papa.

If the theme of WYD was “Mary rose and went in haste,” the Holy Father, in his various speeches, spoke of the mission of young people today while reassuring them not to be afraid. So, as I write this article, I feel called, like Mary, to get up and go in haste without fear. WYD enabled me to meet and talk with young people who, like me, are proud to belong to the Church and share the same values. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also say that the hospitality of the Portuguese, the beauty of Lisbon, its food, and historic architecture all made for a pleasant stay, offering moments of relaxation and discovery that made the pilgrimage enjoyable. 

By thanking the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who made it possible for me to take part in this unforgettable experience, I would also like to thank all those who, behind the scenes and discreetly, contributed to the success of WYD. As a pilgrim of Hope, I’d like to put the fruits of my experience in Lisbon to good use. Likewise, I hope to attend the next edition of WYD in South Korea, more prepared.