The archdiocesan representatives — who included 43 scholarship recipients aged 18-35 and about 700 members of the Neocatechumenal Way faith formation program — got to see Pope Francis twice during their pilgrimage, which also included trips to multiple Portuguese and Spanish holy sites. On one such visit, the pilgrims danced for joy alongside fellow Catholics from Mexico, Chile, Italy, and Austria outside the Cathedral of Santiago in Compostela, Spain. During another, they climbed over 500 stairs to pray at the top of the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Tenões, Portugal, a feat which some accomplished barefoot.

One of the most significant parts of the trip occurred when the pilgrims brought several elderly and sick residents of a local nursing home to the Sanctuary of Fátima in Fátima, Portugal. Many of these citizens had not left their building in at least a decade, so the youths enjoyed brightening their day as they attended Mass at the sanctuary together. Afterward, they participated in a candlelight procession in Fátima along with hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims. Matt Olivo, a parishioner of Old Tappan’s St. Pius X Parish, carried the processional cross.

“We’ve had such an amazing time,” said Father Kevin Kilgore, pastor of St. Pius X Parish, who co-led the pilgrimage of scholarship recipients with Montclair State University campus minister Ricardo Casimiro. “Lives have been changed. We look forward to the future, to evangelizing this generation, which has truly been transformed.”

Initiated by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984, World Youth Day is held by the Catholic Church every two to three years in cities worldwide. This year’s festival saw Pope Francis pray for peace at the Sanctuary of Fátima, hear confessions from several youths, and remind a large gathering that, “There is room for everyone in the Church.” The event culminated in a closing Mass in Lisbon at which the pope urged all young people to love like Jesus, listen to Christ, and be unafraid to change the world. He also revealed that the next World Youth Day will occur in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. 

About the Archdiocese of Newark  The Archdiocese of Newark serves 1.3 million Catholics throughout Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Union counties. The Archdiocese has 212 parishes, 73 Catholic schools, and many missions and ministries. Hundreds of Masses are celebrated in more than a dozen languages each week. Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., the sixth archbishop of Newark, leads the Archdiocese with four auxiliary bishops. Together, they serve the northern New Jersey community through faith, education, and social services. For more information, visit

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