Twenty-five volunteers between 17 and 30 years old, from several countries in South America and Europe, have put their studies on hold, or are continuing them online. Some have given up the security of their jobs in their cities and others have sold everything in order to be able to devote from one to three months of their lives to the spiritual and logistical preparation of the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth meeting. This, so that they can welcome the 900 pilgrims that will arrive the last week of July for this meeting prior to WYD.

Volunteers Maria de los Angeles Herrera and Maria del Rosario Plass, from Chile, tell us about their experience during this period:

During these months, couples from the Shrine of Lisbon welcomed us into their homes and families with open hearts. We have met people who have been deeply welcoming and who have received us as if we were their daughters. The love we have felt has made it difficult for us to miss the homes we left in our countries, since they have truly been families for us. They have shown us how beautiful their country is, how rich their culture is and how delicious their cuisine is.

Preparation of the material

Among the activities we have been doing, we have been preparing materials for that day. For example, notebooks and tote bags stamped with the logo of the meeting. Also, translation of texts into 4 languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English and German, which will be the official languages of the meeting; among other things. As there are 900 girls, we have to produce 900 of everything, therefore, although they are not particularly complex tasks, it takes time because of the volume of work.

We try to do this work with as much dedication as possible. With this material, each pilgrim will be able to enjoy to the maximum the encounter before WYD, so that she can take all the Schoenstatt graces to WYD.

Youth Work Teams

To prepare for this week of international encounter, we have different work groups. These are working on the activities that are part of this event: the meeting of the Girls’ Youth in Lisbon, the meeting of the Girls’ and Boys’ Youth in Fatima and the MTA Festival in Lisbon. For each of these activities involving community and spiritual growth we have teams dealing with logistics, spiritual aspect, entertainment and health and wellness. We want to ensure that everything runs smoothly so that we can all experience the fire of being Schoenstatt youth to the fullest.

We have been given the joy of being able to participate in these different work groups with people from the different branches and institutes that are part of the Lisbon Shrine: Girls’ and Boys’ Youth, Mothers’ and Couples’ Branches, Schoenstatt Ladies, Sisters of Mary, Schoenstatt Fathers, and seminarians. Thus, we have come to know these different groups, which, with their particular characteristics, give the Family of Lisbon its authenticity and originality.

Community life

A fundamental part of our volunteer work is to be able to create a consistent community in order to welcome the pilgrims. To achieve this great mission, all the volunteers meet at the Girls’ Youth house and spend days working together. We participate in the life groups of apostles, allies, university students and young professionals in order to integrate ourselves into the life of the Lisbon youth. With this same objective, we made a pilgrimage to the Shrines of Braga, Oporto and Aveiro to learn about the reality of the Schoenstatt Girls’ Youth in Portugal and the different communities that care for their Shrines: Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, Institute of the Sisters of Mary and the Women’s Apostolic Federation. And the families of each Shrine who welcomed us with open arms (and lots of food).

We have had the great opportunity to experience the spirit of the Youth Day months in advance, getting to know the originality that our Father has given the youth, and each Shrine. Being able to share this and grow with it is to be able to be part of the greatness of the Lord’s power and his personal relationship with us. We really feel like his favorite daughters being able to be part of this experience.

Spiritual preparation

The most important part of our work is the spiritual preparation, both personal and for the encounter. We pray for the pilgrims, for our Schoenstatt day as well as for WYD itself. In addition, we have been doing retreats and prayers where we seek to nourish ourselves spiritually and then share with the others at the meeting. We meditate on the main topics that will be discussed during the Girls’ Youth Day and World Youth Day, thus preparing the spiritual and Marian atmosphere so that, when the others arrive, they will join this spiritual current.

“Preparing the ground”

In conclusion, what we are doing as volunteers is “preparing the ground” so that everything is ready and prepared for when the pilgrims arrive so that they can live in the best way the encounter of the Girls’ Youth Day and the WYD; so that they can have the best physical and spiritually enriching experience in Lisbon. Finally, although we are volunteers of the Girls’ Youth meeting, and not specifically of the WYD, all the preparation that we are doing helps us to live this international Catholic environment, where many different cultures are united by something in common: Christ.

Grupo de voluntária da Juventude Feminina de Schoenstatt reunido em frente ao Santuário