Global Catholics, Diocese of Knoxville, too, get ready for World Youth Day 2023

By Bill Brewer

Although the event is still more than a year away, Catholics around the globe are preparing for World Youth Day 2023.

And the Diocese of Knoxville is part of that contingent.

The world’s largest gathering of Catholic young people will take place Aug. 1-6, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Cardinal Manuel Clemente, the Patriarch of Lisbon, said everyone hopes that “WYD might be a time of evangelization for all.”

World Youth Day was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The weeklong gathering usually attracts hundreds of thousands of young people. The international event is typically held on a different continent every three years with the presence of the pope.

Pope Francis announced at the closing Mass of the last international World Youth Day in Panama City in January 2019 that the Portuguese capital would host the global Catholic gathering of young people in 2022. World Youth Day in Lisbon was initially scheduled for August 2022, but the Vatican postponed the event by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Holy Father will again lead the youth attending the Lisbon event.

Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is around 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world. A report on “European Young Adults and Religion,” published in 2018, found that Portugal has one of the highest levels of weekly Mass attendance among young people in Europe.

The bishop overseeing preparations for World Youth Day 2023 has said the event will be an opportunity to renew hope in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wish WYD Lisbon 2023 to be from and to all the people and that it can mean an opportunity to renew the hope in the post-pandemic period,” Bishop Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar said.

And now the world also prays for an end to the war between the Ukraine and Russia, which has forced thousands of Ukrainian residents to become refugees in surrounding countries.

Brittany Garcia

In the Diocese of Knoxville, preparations are underway for a World Youth Day 2023 pilgrimage, which is being organized by Brittany García, director of the diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Pastoral Juvenil Ministry, and Paola Wolaver, coordinator of young adult ministry for the diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult, and Pastoral Juvenil Ministry.

Mrs. Wolaver said the 10-night trip will leave the diocese on July 28, 2023, and return on Aug. 8, 2023. The closing Mass for World Youth Day 2023 is Aug. 6 and will be led by Pope Francis. Diocese of Knoxville pilgrims will have an extra day in Portugal before returning to Knoxville.

The pilgrimage is open to young adults ages 18-35. Anyone outside that age range who is interested in going on the pilgrimage should contact Mrs. García or Mrs. Wolaver at the Diocese of Knoxville Chancery.

Mrs. Wolaver explained that the pilgrimage, which has a base price of $4,349 per person, will leave from Knoxville. The first 10 people registering for the full travel package will receive $300 to $350 off the full package.

The cost per person includes airfare, two nights in Fatima, eight nights in Lisbon, and the World Youth Day 2023 registration fee, according to Mrs. Wolaver.

Registration for the trip begins this month.

Fundraising will be a key component of the pilgrimage, which is part of the youth and young adult ministry of the diocese.

“We will be having meetings over the next year to plan the pilgrimage and provide fundraising tools,” Mrs. Wolaver said. “We really want to prepare our pilgrims with the spirituality of fundraising so that this is a more meaningful experience, and they can present the intentions of those who donated to their cause at World Youth Day.”

Paola Wolaver

Mrs. García and Mrs. Wolaver are hoping for strong interest in the pilgrimage, and they already are working to get the word out.

“We’re hoping to attract a group of at least 15 to 20, but there is no minimum and no maximum,” Mrs. Wolaver said. “We want to encourage all people interested to look into this. We want this to be an open and inclusive experience for our diocese.”

Payments from each pilgrim for the trip will go to Dube Travel of Auburn, Maine, which is coordinating World Youth Day 2023 travel arrangements with the diocese. Dube will not close registration for the trip until the travel company’s last payment deadline.

An initial “sneak peek” meeting about the pilgrimage was set for May 10 with a representative from Dube Travel. Dube will hold a preparation retreat for all pilgrims in July 2023.

Information on the pilgrimage can be found at and includes registration information, frequently asked questions, updates, video, and photos.

Mrs. Wolaver explained that in addition to visiting Lisbon, the Diocese of Knoxville pilgrims will take part in a candlelight procession, Stations of the Cross, the village of the three children, and the chapel of apparitions while in Fatima.

“We’re really excited about this pilgrimage because it brings Catholics from around the world together to worship and to have fellowship, which is a pretty unique opportunity,” Mrs. Wolaver said.

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