2023-10-04 PORTUGAL

Remembering World Youth Day in Lisbon

Br. José Luís Carvalho, from the Province of Compostela, shares with us the experience he had at the Marist stand at the World Youth Day Vocation Fair, which took place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 1 to 6 August this year. The Vocation Fair was an opportunity to promote the Marist vocation. On this occasion a Marist vocation promotion proposal was also launched through the Instagram profile @hermano.marista

Marist stand at the Vocation Fair: a place for encounter and celebration

The challenge of preparing what was to be the Marist stand at the Vocation Fair of the Lisbon WYD allowed us to witness the miracle of how an aseptic space limited by three white prefabricated walls became a space brimming of Encounters (yes, that’s right, with a capital letter!).

In a blink of an eye, with the collaboration of many hands and hearts, the white walls and the empty space of the stands were covered with banners, representations of the Marist founders, violets, games and, above all, hugs, music and smiles.

I think that any Marist who approached the vocation fair set up in the Vasco da Gama gardens and, in the middle of its streets constantly populated by young people from all over the world, came across the enormous banner that bore witness to “THERE’S GREAT VALUE IN BEING MARIST TODAY” instantly felt very identified. The feeling that among the enormous variety and richness of people who converged on those streets during the first days of August, the Marists “even though we are imperfect, we are also Church” (Kairoi, 2010).

It was a two-way experience.  On the one hand, the enormous richness of knowing that we have our own charism, our own references and history, but that we belong to something that goes far beyond the Marist world, that we are part of those who try to make reality the dream of Jesus of a world of brothers and sisters. We are part of the Church. On the other hand, in belonging to the Universal Church, we experience that there is a place where we are known by our own name, a table where we are expected, a home where relationships are on a one-to-one basis. Somehow, among the crowds in all the streets and squares of Lisbon, the stand became a Marist meeting point.

If it meant all this for those of us who are already Marists, I think that the Marist stand also touched many young people who until then did not know this religious family. Those who strolled through the vocation fair found themselves with a liveliness that left no one indifferent. The Marist stand was not the most elaborate, the most beautiful and much less the most organised, but it did attract attention because of the hustle and bustle of Life that was present at almost all hours of the day. It was difficult to visit the stand without coming across someone dancing, playing, chatting, singing, taking a photograph or hugging. I thought a comment I overheard when I passed two nuns was significant. One said to the other as she stood on tiptoe so she could see: “Who are these people messing around? Ah, the Marists, of course!” 

In addition, also in the ad-intra of those of us who were animating and dynamising the stand during those days, a special experience awaited us. The title “Marist Family” at the top of the stand proved not to be in vain. At every turn, religious and young people from the four Marist branches converged on the stand. Many of us experienced that at the same time as we were making the Marist Family known to the visitors, we were getting to know it ourselves by doing so side by side with a sister, a Marist Father or a young person from any of the four congregations. I think that the four founders, represented together on a bus that served as a photocall and passed through the hands of hundreds of young people, would be very proud to see that the dream that began in Fourvière in 1816 is still very much alive in Lisbon 2023.

Many more nuances could be added to this description of the meeting, such as the internationality (at one point the Samoan flag was waved on the stand, while African dances were danced and people were communicating in several different languages) or the intergenerationality.

A few weeks after all this experience, there remains the enormous gratitude for all that we have experienced and the certainty that all these encounters have helped each one of us to meet again, to celebrate, to be grateful and to nurture our own vocation.

Lord, make us walk through life with the lightness, hope, joy and openness experienced during these days!

Br. José Luís Carvalho – Province of Compostela

Watch the reels in Instagram about the Marist stand at the Vocation Fair of WYD 2023.


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