Vincentian Youth Meeting, July 28-August 7, Portugal

Twenty members of the Vincentians’ Eastern Province family were culturally enlightened and spiritually transformed as they gathered in Portugal for 10 days with young adults from around the globe for the International Vincentian Youth Meeting and World Youth Day. Led by Fr. Astor Rodriguez, CM; Fr. Luis Romero, CM; and Sr. Jean Rhoads, DC, the participants hailed from far-reaching and diverse locales including Brooklyn, The Bronx, Long Island, Upstate New York, Philadelphia, Maryland, and North Carolina. Yet, bolstered by their extraordinary communal spirit and inspired by an engaging itinerary of planned and spontaneous activities, they returned from their epic pilgrimage with renewed devotion to the Lord and the Vincentian charism, and with many new lasting friendships. About 1,500 members of the Vincentian family from more than 60 nations participated in the International Vincentian Youth Meeting, which took place for four days in the northern Portuguese town of Felgueiras. From there, the Eastern Province delegation traveled by bus to Lisbon where they participated in four days of ceremonies and religious services surrounding the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to the city, culminating with an outdoor Mass attended by an estimated 1.5 million worshippers. For the religious leaders of the Eastern Province group, the overarching goal of the voyage was to impart upon the participants a heightened understanding of their responsibilities, opportunities, and possibilities as Vincentian youth. “We wanted to deepen their Vincentian values and wanted them to see others who are living the Vincentian charism in other places, because they may not have that opportunity in the States,” Fr. Astor said. “(We wanted them) to hear it in different languages and see it in different works, for them to see what is possible.” Central to that mission were a series of catecheses focusing on using Vincentian values to address many of the world’s most pressing contemporary issues and to support those who are most in need. Topics included, “The life of faith in times of persecution,” “Faith in wartime: welcoming refugees,” “Youth: protagonism and challenges of the present times,” “Ad Gentes: Reborn to hope,” and “Availability.” “Hopefully, (the young people) will be reenergized to go back and work in their home parishes, their university, or wherever they come from,” Fr. Astor said. “As a group, I think the majority are very invested in it. They are going back with a spirit of renewal.”