The Mission: create encounters that last
In his 2017 Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio: Sanctuarium in Ecclesia" Pope Francis invites the world's great shrines to not only offer tourist visits with popular devotions for pilgrims, but to live also the new evangelization. Pilgrims must take something new with them when they return home.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and the YOUCAT Foundation set to work in 2019 to respond to this papal call. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic in 2020, the project was postponed. Today, YOUCAT is back in Lourdes. Beginning on July 20th, 2021, a group of young YOUCAT missionaries from Germany, Lebanon, and Costa Rica began to carry out the mission Pope Francis envisioned.
Johny Alkhoueiry (20 years, from Lebanon) reports about his experiences during the first week:
I think, this mission is crucial for Christian hope in this time of turmoil and crisis.
After arriving in Lourdes, we began by discovering the places where Saint Bernadette Soubirous lived. We prayed and participated in the different services offered by the shrine to better understand the message of Lourdes. We also took care of setting up the YOUCAT stand at the Parvis Saint Bernadette, a gathering of different Catholic groups that offer different programmes and exhibitions for young people and individual pilgrims. The teams currently present besides YOUCAT are: Service des Vocation, CCFD Terre Solidaire, Pax Christi and Œuvres Pontificales Missionnaires.
At 9.00 a.m. all groups of the Parvis start the day together with morning prayer. Then, everyone goes to their stand to welcome young people, families or individual pilgrims. For larger groups there is also the possibility to register for workshop.
For us, the week got off to an intensive start. On Sunday, July 25th, numerous children took part in our YOUCAT for Kids workshop. We inspired them with music, dance and YOUCAT for Kids material. Of course, Bob and Lilly, two characters from the children's catechism, were not far away either. In the evening we also welcomed a group of teenagers for whom we prepared a youth evening - consisting of worship, a catechism Jeopardy and testimonies.
On Tuesday, July 27th a member of our team from Lebanon, Sister Micheline Mansour, gave a talk about the mission of evangelization in the Middle East. Sister shared the difficulties and obstacles that the Maronite Church, engaged with young people, faces in its daily life.
On Wednesday, July 28th our day began with a breakfast shared with other groups of Parvis St. Bernadette. We also met the president of the Hospitaliers of Lourdes. He gave us a warm welcome and explained the work of the volunteers, accompanying his message with the Virgin Mary’s words to Saint Bernadette during the apparitions.
On Thursday July 29th, two members of our team took part in a walk to Bartrès near Lourdes. where St Bernadette spent the first years of her childhood. It was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with pilgrims from different countries. In the evening we participated in a praise and worship vigil with young people.
Our mission continues every day. We place all our energy, creativity and efforts in the hands of the Lord and Our Lady of Lourdes. We entrust our mission and all the people we meet to them. We look forward to the surprises ahead and the encounters of the days to come. ∎