By JOEL DAVIDSON,  CatholicAnchor.org

A total of 50 Alaska pilgrims will join hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world for the upcoming World Youth Day celebration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.WYD-image

The official event, which will be celebrated with Pope Francis, takes place July 23-30.

Throughout Alaskan’s pilgrimage the Catholic Anchor will be posting photos, videos and short articles of the pilgrims’ journey. These can be accessed at CatholicAnchor.org or on theCatholic Anchor Facebook page. The Southeast Alaska Catholic Online will be posting video updates as well at akseac.com.

World Youth Day is the largest periodic gathering of Catholic youth in the world. This will be the 13 such event, which typically draws several hundred thousand attendees.

The Alaskan contingent consist of roughly 32 high school youth, 10 young adults and several older adults, including two priests, along with Anchorage Archbishop Roger Schwietz and Juneau Bishop Edward Burns.
“We have been encouraging spiritual preparation for the pilgrimage,” McMorrow told the Catholic Anchor. “I know many young people are attempting to go to daily Mass, regular reception of reconciliation, spiritual reading and works of mercy. Many are also trying to learn some Portuguese before we go.”According to organizer Bob McMorrow, in Anchorage, the Alaskans have been immersed in “packing, praying and Portuguese.”

The Alaskans will land in Sao Paolo before heading to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and spending a couple days in the colonial town of Paraty. From there, they will travel to Rio de Janeiro for the official start of World Youth Day.

Pope Francis will arrive on July 25 and spend four days, praying, celebrating Mass and teaching the pilgrims.

A total of  267 venues will offer lessons on the faith during World Youth Day. These include presentations by bishops and cardinals in 20 different languages.

The three days of teaching will focus on the themes of “Thirsting for hope, thirsting for God” on July 24, “To be Christ’s disciples” on July 25 and “To be missionaries: go forth!” on July 26.

For World Youth Day’s overall theme, Pope Francis chose: “Go and make disciples of all nations” from Matthew 28.

According to Catholic News Agency, one of the main venues for English-speakers will be the Vivo Rio Pilgrim Center, where artists such as Steve Angrisano, Jesse Manibusan, the Jacob and Matthew Band, and Danielle Rose will be perform on stage throughout the week.

The educational sessions will begin at 9 a.m. with praise conducted by a group of volunteers selected by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.

A different bishop or cardinal will speak each day for around 30 minutes, followed by a question-answer session with pilgrims. Bishop Edward Burns of the Diocese of Juneau is scheduled to be one of 8 English speaking Bishop-presenters for the catechetical sessions.

According to Catholic News Agency, each day will close with Mass presided over by the catechist, alongside any priests who are present. During the morning portion of the gathering priests will also be available for confession.