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July 18, 2023 REL Asset - Activity, REL Catechetical - Jr High, REL Topic - Catechesis, REL Topic- Prayer, REL Asset - Prayer Card, REL Asset - Handout, REL PD - Catechist, REL PD - Leaders, REL PD - Family Faith

Celebrating World Youth Day 2023

World Youth Day is an international event in the Church that draws millions of young pilgrims from around the world. World Youth Day 2023 is built on a theme from the Gospel of Luke, “Mary arose and went with haste,” (Luke 1:39) which is an invitation for young people to answer God’s call as active missionaries in the world with what Pope Francis calls a “healthy haste,” responsive to the needs of the world and others. In this article, you’ll learn more about the history of World Youth Day and ways to celebrate this August, whether at home, in the school or parish, or in Lisbon, Portugal. 


Download a World Youth Day Mini Magazine with history, information, a prayer, and activities for children to share in your parish, school, or home in preparation for World Youth Day 2023. The printable World Youth Day Mini Magazine is available in English and Spanish.


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Building a Foundation of Faith

The home is a child’s first school of prayer. Children first learn to pray at home and are supported and encouraged to pray as they grow, by catechists and teachers in their school or parish and as they pray with community and the Church. In these familiar environments, the young people in our communities can build on this foundation. They connect with the Church on a local level and learn about the Church in the world. They can listen for and respond to God’s call by putting their faith to work in service to God and others.

What is World Youth Day?

Young people have a special global event held annually in the Church just for them. Each year, young people from 16 to 33 are invited to come together to celebrate World Youth Day. World Youth Day celebrates young people and prepares them to become missionary disciples. Pilgrimage, an essential component of World Youth Day, is a reminder that Catholic young people are on a journey of faith, like those who have come before them. It is also an opportunity for young people to encounter – face to face and in real life – the Catholic community. Every year, young Catholics gather from all over the world to reflect on, share, celebrate, and proclaim their faith in God. Every few years, World Youth Day is a huge international event celebrated on a major scale.

The Beginnings of World Youth Day

During the Holy Year of the Redemption, Pope John Paul II decided to share a special Palm Sunday gathering with Catholic young people. Those planning the celebration anticipated 60,000 children and adolescents to make the pilgrimage. Instead, 250,000 arrived to celebrate! The following year was named an International Year of Youth. Once again, children were invited to participate in Palm Sunday Mass in Rome with the Pope. Once again, the attendance exceeded expectations.

It was announced that World Youth Day would be celebrated every year. The first World Youth Day was celebrated in 1986 as a diocesan celebration in Rome on Palm Sunday. The following year it was celebrated on an international level in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The tradition of inviting the youth to gather together to share sacraments, prayer and commitment to their faith in unity together has continued on for decades in various countries across the globe.

World Youth Day is now an event that happens each year. The goal of World Youth Day is to inspire young people with the message of Jesus Christ. Every few years, a large international meeting is held in which young people from all over the world gather with the Pope to attend catechesis, cultural events, to pray, and to celebrate. The last international meeting was in Panama in 2019. 

World Youth Day 2023

The next international meeting of World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal from August first to sixth, 2023.

The motto for World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste" (Luke 1:39). This quote from the Gospel of Luke begins the account of the Visitation, when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation, when the angel announced that Mary would be the Mother of the Son of God. This year’s theme is an opportunity to reflect upon Mary as a missionary woman. Pope Francis reminds us in his message to young people for World Youth Day like’s Mary’s haste and action, “may young people’s evangelization be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ.” 

Over the course of these days, several events will take place. Young people are invited to participate in a welcoming Mass during the opening ceremony. Throughout the day there will be opportunity for prayer, music, shows, reconciliation and catechism sessions with local bishops. Pope Francis will arrive and share a special address with the world’s youth. Stations of the Cross will be held as well as a walking pilgrimage to a special vigil site. During the closing ceremony, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass with all in attendance and the host for the next World Youth Day will be announced.

The patroness par excellence for World Youth Day 2023 is the Virgin Mary. Other patron saints and holy people have been named as intercessors for those making the journey to Lisbon. These saints have been chosen because of their dedication in service of youth. As children and adolescents across the globe prepare for their journey to Portugal, they can pray to these saints for guidance and support. They are:

  • Saint John Paul II
  • Saint John Bosco
  • Saint Vincent
  • Saint Anthony
  • Saint Bartholomew of the Martyrs
  • Saint John de Brito
  • Blessed Joana of Portugal 
  • Blessed João Fernandes
  • Blessed Maria Clara of the Child Jesus
  • Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
  • Blessed Marcel Callo
  • Blessed Chiara Badano
  • Blessed Carlo Acutis

Ways to Participate in World Youth Day 2023 from Your Home or Classroom

Pilgrims from all over the world will travel to Lisbon to be part of the international celebration of World Youth Day. Parishes and schools and the children, young people, and families they serve can be part of the celebration, too, even if they can’t attend in person! Here are some ideas to prepare for World Youth Day Panama 2023.

Ideas for Catholic Directors and Principals:

  • Educate teachers and catechists about World Youth Day and encourage them to visit the official web site, so that they can share information and elements of World Youth Day with their students.

  • Schedule a World Youth Day inspired event that brings together children, young people, and families in your school or parish. Stream World Youth Day events via live broadcast or put together your own event using the official prayers, music, and theme of World Youth Day.

Ideas for Catechists:

  • Share the World Youth Day Mini Magazine to teach students about World Youth Day and explore the official web site.

  • Share about the lives of the patron saints of World Youth Day 2023.

  • Talk in your religious education class about what it means to be active and missionary evangelists.

  • Incorporate the official prayer of World Youth Day into your prayer celebrations.

Ideas for Catholic Families:

  • Read Scripture together. Share the Gospel of Luke and discuss the World Youth Day theme from Luke 1:38.

  • Pray the official prayer of World Youth Day as a family and pray for those on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon.

  • Follow what’s happening at World Youth Day on social media, using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube using the hashtag #wydlisboa.

In Summary

At World Youth Day in Paris, France in 1997, Pope John Paul II said "Dear young people, your journey does not end here. Time does not come to a halt. Go forth now along the roads of the world, along the pathways of humanity, while remaining ever united in Christ's Church!" This message rings more than twenty years later as young people prepare to celebrate World Youth Day 2023 and respond to God’s call as missionary disciples in the modern world.

Download a World Youth Day Mini Magazine with history, information, a prayer, and activities for children to share in your parish, school, or home.