LISBON, August 2, 2023 — World Youth Day (WYD) is featuring a new model of catechesis: the Rise Up Encounters.

During a press conference held yesterday, Fr. Nuno Amador, the Pastoral Director of WYD 2023, listed these Rise Up Encounters as one of the main novelties of this event compared with previous iterations.

“The idea is that the pilgrim may experience a spiritual path, based on the theme picked up by Pope Francis for this WYD,” Fr. Amador explained, referring to the motto “Mary arose and went in haste,” alluding to the Virgin Mary hurrying to meet St. Elizabeth after the Annunciation.

“This WYD is inspired by the path of Mary,” Fr. Amador said.

These Rise Up Encounters are organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, and are scheduled to be held in the mornings of August 2, 3, and 4. Each encounter takes place with the presence of a bishop, though “the youth are the protagonists of these reflections,” said Fr. Amador.

250+ Talks, 31 Languages

Today, the first day of these Rise Up Encounters, the WYD App listed more than 250 events, spread throughout the city of Lisbon, but also in Fatima, Tomar, and Porto. Each encounter was held in one of 31 languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.

The City and the World attended the talk by Cardinal McElroy from San Diego and Bishop Jaime Soto from Sacramento, held at the Our Lady of Pena Parish Church, in Lisbon. Young people at this Encounter gave personal testimonials.

Mary Coleman, 20, from Texas, explained that today they “focused a lot on the crucifix as the symbol of the Catholic faith and how God’s plan is always unexpected in the Bible, but it’s a good ‘unexpectation.’”

When asked what new things she learned during this encounter, Coleman said, “There’s a difference between haste and anxiety… before Mary’s call, she was called to patience and love for Him, but then He called her in haste.”

“I think it’s really important to see young people who understand the gospel but also the cardinal being very accessible as a leader in the Church.”

Stacey is from Indonesia, and Maria from Mexico. They are both 27 years old.

“I think [the Rise Up Encounters are] very, very good because it’s a way for all the youth to come together and receive information from leaders of the Church: the bishops, the cardinals, the successors of the apostles,” said Stacey. “We mostly talk about the World Youth Day theme–Mary got up and left with haste.”

When asked what important lessons she got from this catechesis, Maria replied: “My favorite thing (and my takeaway from all this) was when the bishop said that we have all the virtues that take us closer to Christ. And I relate that to how we may have a very small virtue or a very small merit, but we can tell the Virgin Mary to take that merit and make it bigger to be closer to Christ.”

Stacey added, “I like what the bishop was talking about, how and why Peter was chosen. Why not John? He was basically perfect. He didn’t betray Jesus and all of that. But God chose Peter because he knows what it’s like to suffer and struggle.”

According to them, these Rise Up Encounters are very important, because we live in a secularized world and this is a way to be surrounded by young people who share the same faith.

“For me personally, it energizes me and really builds up my own personal faith because I’m like, wow,  I’m with all of these people,” said Stacey. “It’s just a very beautiful thing just to have something in common. We all come from different countries, I’m from Indonesia, Maria is in Mexico, we actually met in the United States. We know nothing about each other except what really brings us together is our faith.”

After the Rise Up Encounter, Cardinal McElroy and Bishop Soto celebrated Mass with the youth.

Integral ecology, social friendship, and mercy

Among these Rise Up Encounters, some dealt specifically with the topic of integral ecology.

“These Rise Up Encounters adopt a more synodal method than previous WYDs,” Fr. Amador explained yesterday. “They ponder on some topics that are dear to Pope Francis and then ‘cross’ them with scripture readings, allowing for reflections on the part of the youth.”

These proposed topics were “integral ecology” on August 2, “social friendship” on August 3, and “mercy” on August 4. These reflections were organized during the preparation meetings in the months leading up to the WYD.

“These reflections are from the youth and for the youth,” said Fr. Amador, “and they must continue after the WYD ends, when the youth return home.”

An earlier version of this article was published at The City and the World. Click here to subscribe for news, interviews, and other exclusive content.


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Claire Navarro is a Filipina global IT professional now living in Portugal with her husband, Pedro Gabriel.  She was active in Catholic apologetics and pro-life initiatives back in the Philippines.

Pedro Gabriel, MD, is a Catholic layman and physician, born and residing in Portugal. He is a medical oncologist, currently employed in a Portuguese public hospital. A published writer of Catholic novels with a Tolkienite flavor, he is also a parish reader and a former catechist. He seeks to better understand the relationship of God and Man by putting the lens on the frailty of the human condition, be it physical and spiritual. He also wishes to provide a fresh perspective of current Church and World affairs from the point of view of a small western European country, highly secularized but also highly Catholic by tradition.

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