Franciscan Missionaries of Mary at World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon

On the threshold of entering the Regions, the challenges of the 2022 General Chapter (with the guiding axes of Charism, Mission, Interculturality and Role of Leader/Member) found a unique opportunity to embody each of these dimensions in a very concrete and beautiful way, through the strong and intense experience of World Youth Day, from August 1 to 6, in Lisbon. FMM from the four corners of the world were present, and with them members of their local churches, young people, friends and colleagues, in a setting that embodied the calls of the Synod taking place at this very moment.

It was a time of Grace and profound Joy, a pronouncement of the heavenly Jerusalem, people of all languages and nations flocked to a city where they met in the Lords Spirit. Among the million and a half pilgrims, there were several FMM sisters from England, Ireland, Scotland, South Korea, Senegal, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Spain, France, South Africa, Poland, Portugal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Canada, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Kenya, Italy, among other countries. Just as Mary and Elizabeth rejoiced in their God-filled encounter, so during these days, the Magnificat was uttered endlessly, in so many ways and in so many languages. As Pope Francis said: “Joy is missionary”.

Our communities in Lisbon and surroundings opened up to welcome 387 pilgrims and our chapel welcomed another 300 young people every day for the ‘Rise Up’ catechesis. Not to mention the many who knocked on the door and stayed throughout the days, for reasons of shelter, health or just a place to change their clothes and keep their luggage safe. The world crossed our corridors, halls and refectories and we went out with them to celebrate fraternity and faith. As Pope Francis emphatically said about who our neighbor is: “Everyone, everyone, everyone”. In addition to these, 1600 young people were welcomed in our local parish under the (co)responsibility of the FMM sisters involved in pastoral work and many other young people were welcomed during the diocesan pre-days in our community of Nossa Senhora de Fátima (Vila de Rei). Even one of our sisters, a provincial councilor, who was terminally ill, asked for the grace to be present and took part in the welcome and prayer vigils with the young people, entering Heavenly Father’s Home a few days later.

One of the most moving testimonies was not only the joy of the meeting, but the joy of the meeting in the fatigue of hours of waiting (queues for everything), endless walks, scorching heat, sometimes thirst and hunger… An FMM sister testified: “So many exhausted faces, so tired and walking patiently under the heat of the sun while we received food to keep our energy up for the next day.  But despite the fatigue, the spirit was alive in each of us, no one dared complain, because we all knew we were in the same boat and we all wanted to reach our beloved destination. The feeling was inexplicable when we arrived at Campo da Graça (Field of Grace), I felt it was a Sacred Land. It was a kind of promised land, and indeed it was. Indeed, after a long walk we were comforted in the evening by the presence of the Pope with his words of wisdom and encouragement, and above all by the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope’s words were like a balm that slowly healed the pains in our aching bodies and slowly filled our hearts with something good.”

There were many other strong places and times of experience as the Way of the Cross, the Vocation Stand and the very streets where we crossed paths every day. The Vocation Stand far exceeded our expectations, testing our physical and emotional endurance, given the abundance of young people who visited us all the time. It was with great joy that the FMM face presented to the young people was one of Unity in Multicultural Diversity with many languages and colors and expressions. Mary of the Passion was certainly happy to see us.

In these deeply troubled times for the world, this little piece of land has been a place of prophecy written by the Spirit in the hearts of his sons and daughters. An FMM sister said: “He continues to call young souls in a special way to be his witnesses and bearers of his immense mercy and love”. And we FMM have a responsibility to facilitate this discovery. In fact, the Pope invited us: “In the face of the darkness of the world and the fear of failure, listening to the words of Jesus is the secret of Life, this is the secret of life“. At the end, an FMM sister exclaimed: “All my experience tells me that there is hope in the Church, let’s have faith in her. The witness to the Gospel continues. God is preparing beautiful souls to continue this legacy. Let’s keep trusting and believing that there is a better future”.


May the Spirit of God – who brought together thousands of pilgrims from the four corners of the world – encourage us (as we prepare to step a new Sacred Land that God has given us, the Regions) and may we all persevere in faith and hope in Jesus, our Savior, letting what God has sown in our hearts bear fruit.

Isabel Balbino, fmm