The following beautiful testimonies were sent by Sr. Alice Geron from Belgium. She met the young people from the parish who were participating in WYD in Lisbon, on their return she asked if they could give a testimony. There were 4 young people from their pastoral unit accompanied by Sr. Odette, Sister of the Holy Family. Please find below the testimonies of Lucily and Trixia (2 sisters) and Lynne.
Testimony of Lucily, 15 years old
Standing in front of the buses with my huge rucksack, I was still wondering if I was ready, if I had all my things. But I wanted to give myself over to the adventure of this WYD in Lisbon. The three coaches leaving BXL were heading for Paray-Le-Monial and Lourdes, our stopovers before Lisbon.
At Paray-Le-Monial, where more than thirty apparitions of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary took place, the basilica made me feel really good because it was so beautiful and family-like; I didn’t want to leave it. Every day had more or less the same rhythm. In the mornings, we had a praise service with songs and intentions, and a Mass, which helped me to learn to appreciate them because I managed to concentrate during the homilies, to reflect during the times of prayer, and to commune more spiritually. Then, in the afternoons, we attended various testimonies. To finish the day, we had a variety of evenings.
The vigil of mercy was one of the highlights for me.
It was touching because everyone was so involved! Of all the activities proposed, I went to the “listening prayer”. A couple simply listened to me and prayed for and with me. They were incredibly kind, attentive and touched by my personal story. Then it was off to Lourdes, where Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette, who helped to bring forth a spring of healing water. Once there, we headed for the international Mass in the grotto, where the readings were divided between German, Italian, French and several other languages, with the creed even in Latin.
Afterwards, with my “frat” (as the youth groups are called), we visited the basilica. Then we made a Way of the Cross, recited the rosary in several languages and sang “Ave Maria”. For the night, all the nationalities slept in the underground basilica, which is immense. The next day, we had a Mass in the green cathedral (in the open air). As we were leaving Lourdes, what touched me enormously was when I had the rosary I’d just bought blessed by the priest of the Emmanuel Community, and I told him that I’d experienced two very powerful moments so far; he said to me “You didn’t even need to tell me that you’d experienced powerful moments because it shows on your face.”
Finally, we arrived in Lisbon after a long coach journey! As soon as we arrived, we went straight to the French morning, as the Emmanuel community is partly French. Our days were then punctuated by worship and mass in the morning, and free time in the afternoon. During these times, we went to the activities with the Pope organized by the WYD, we visited the city and we also went to the afternoon of the Belgians. I was able to meet up with people I knew and do Celtic dances with lots of the participants; I really loved this activity, we really enjoyed ourselves. One evening, some testimonials were given. It was touching because some spoke of encounters with God, like one girl who saw someone walk past her and touch her shoulder before feeling a fire burning inside her. Others spoke of miraculous healings, like a boy who was short-sighted and who after praying now sees with 10/10 in both eyes, or like a girl whose knees hurt so much that she could no longer squat and who, after praying, was completely healed.
The last night was quite different from the others, as we slept under the stars after the vigil with the Pope.
To conclude, this WYD was incredible! It helped me to grow in my faith. I was able to meet people from all over the world and make friends in the Emmanuel Community. I’ll never forget those days! And despite the more difficult moments, I can only take the best from them. Thank you all for following our journey or contributing to it. I carry you all, dear Kerkebeekers, in my heart and in my prayers.
Testimony of Lynne, 20 years old
During this WYD, there was one moment that particularly struck me. 1.5 million People, that’s a lot of noise and it’s true that it was sometimes difficult to have calmer moments given the number of young people present during those two weeks. But when it came to adoration, there was a gentle silence. I had the impression that I was alone in front of God, even though I knew there was a crowd around me. Everyone was praying. You could feel God’s presence, a calming presence. It’s the most beautiful memory I have of WYD.
Testimony of Trixia, 25 years old
The WYD in Lisbon was a real pilgrimage for me. Our first stops were Paray-le-Monial and Lourdes, two towns in France where Jesus and Mary appeared. We got to know each other in our group of 10 young people, aged between 15 and 20, the frat of Saint Antoine, for which Sr. Odette and I were responsible, and with whom we were going to spend our stay in Lisbon.
I wasn’t prepared to be in charge of such young people.
They were very nice, mature and independent, so much so that they often tended to go about their lives without telling us where they were going or what they were going to do. So we learnt how to communicate with them and set up meeting times and places to make the most of these WYDs. Once this management strategy was in place, I was able to start experiencing WYD for myself too.
I really enjoyed listening to Pope Francis, who always had a way of speaking to young people, with the right words and a gift for conveying Christ’s messages of love and peace. In a way, we experienced the Easter period: Thursday – arrival of the Pope; Friday – Way of the Cross; Saturday – pilgrimage to the Grace Camp; Sunday – Mass with the Pope.
The pilgrimage to the Grace Camp was very impressive for me. So many young people from all over the world gathered around the same person: Christ. It was very hot on this plain with no shade, and we slept on dry earth strewn with stones, which wasn’t very pleasant, but I’m glad I went, because the vigil and waking up together for sunrise and Mass were magical, full of joy and very beautiful. I’ll never forget my pilgrimage to WYD Lisbon 2023.