College Knights take part in World Youth Day in Lisbon
By Cecilia Hadley
The K of C flag was among the many flags waving in Lisbon, Portugal, last month, carried by a group of college Knights as they took part in World Youth Day 2023.
Eight students of the Knights of Columbus College Councils Advisory Board joined hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world Aug. 1-6 for prayer, liturgy, catechesis and fellowship. They also made a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima just before World Youth Day began.
Throughout the week, the group — accompanied by Supreme Council staff members and Father Gervan Menezes, chaplain of University Catholic Council 15020 in Nashville, Tennessee — carried with them a first-class relic of Blessed Michael McGivney.
“Having a relic of Blessed Michael with us was a great blessing and privilege,” said Chris Czyzewski, manager of state evangelization and faith formation. “Everywhere we went, even on public transportation, people were interested in it and venerated it in different ways. And the brother Knights we met from other colleges and councils were thrilled to see the relic, meet our group and share their stories with us.”
The relic of Blessed Michael was also displayed for veneration at the catechetical session at the 16th-century Church of São Cristóvão on Aug. 4. With the reliquary on the podium in front of him, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, urged young people to build true friendships with each other based on “the mystery of a friendship with Jesus Christ.”
“You and I must choose to share that mystery with one another because I honor Christ, I love Christ, by loving you, by honoring you, by giving you what you need in love,” Bishop Caggiano said.
He continued, “How do we build this friendship with each other? One choice at a time — to choose to listen to someone’s broken heart, to choose to walk with them with no one else chooses to walk with them, to sit with them in their challenges, to lift them up when they’re discouraged, to tell them the truth even if they don’t like it. All of those are concrete ways we can build solidarity and unity.”
On Aug. 5, the college Knights joined the crowd trekking several miles to the site outside the city where the culminating papal Mass would be celebrated by Pope Francis the following day. A vigil with Eucharistic adoration was held that night.
“Everyone was running around, getting ready for the night in the field under the stars, but when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and adoration started, this calm and silence came all the people that were there,” recalled Hans Guenther, a sophomore global business major and member of Georgetown University Council 6375 in Washington, D.C. “That moment was particular special to me: seeing this massive crowd of people all captivated by the Eucharist over a half mile away.”
The next day, the feast of the Transfiguration, an estimated 1.5 million people — three times the population of Lisbon itself — attended the papal Mass.
In his homily, Pope Francis urged young people to take inspiration from Christ’s words to the apostles after the Transfiguration, repeated so often by St. John Paul II, who instituted World Youth Day in 1985: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 17:7).
“As young people, you want to change the world — and it is very good that you want to change the world — you want to work for justice and peace. You devote all your life’s energy and creativity to this, but it still seems insufficient,” Pope Francis said. “Yet, the Church and the world need you, the young, as much as the earth needs rain. To all of you, dear young people, who are the present and the future, yes to all of you, Jesus now says: ‘Have no fear,’ ‘Do not be afraid!’”
For Guenther, the experience of World Youth Day gave him perspective about the universal Church — and hope.
“Being in college, we don’t necessarily see big crowds of Catholics turning out for daily Mass or adoration or even Sunday Mass,” he said. “For all of us it was good to be reminded that even if we wish there more active Catholics at our schools, they’re out there in the world.”
Robert Shelton, a member of the College Councils Advisory Board in his seventh year at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas, agreed: “You look at the news, you look at social media about the Church, and you always hear, ‘In all these countries, the faith is dead, no one believes anymore.’ And then you get to World Youth Day, and you see 40,000 young French people, you see Spaniards and Irish and Australian youth who are on fire for the faith,” he said. “That was really inspiring for me to see. I think a lot of the worry and anxiety people have is the work of the evil one, trying to trick us into thinking, ‘give up.’ Really, there is hope out there and there is a lot of good to come.”
Other Knights from around the world were present at the international event, including a group of Knights from several councils in Mexico South, travelling with a delegation from the Archdiocese of Yucatán. Still more K of C councils were instrumental in sponsoring young people from their communities so they could attend.
At the end of the papal Mass, Pope Francis announced that World Youth Day 2027 will be held in Seoul, South Korea.
CECILIA HADLEY is senior editor of Columbia.