….Whether they were among the reported 1.5 million pilgrims who descended on Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day, or the 700 teens and youth ministers who engaged in the City of Saints event held Aug. 4-6 at UCLA, young people from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles exhibited their faith in major ways both near and far.

Pilgrims in Portugal spent several days in both grueling travel and temperatures, but basking in the expressions of faith, prayer and memorials, including Fátima and the audience with Francis. Parishes who sent pilgrim groups included St. John of God Church in Norwalk, St. Margaret Mary Church in Lomita, St. Paschal Baylon Church in Thousand Oaks, Epiphany Church in South El Monte, and St. John the Evangelist Church and Ascension Church, both in South LA, among others.

Besides seeing the pope during the World Youth Day vigil and Mass, the St. John of God group was especially fortunate to see Francis up close multiple times, including once where he unexpectedly drove past them not more than 10 feet away.

“I thought I’d come and see him from far away, but we were nearly 10 feet within him,” said Dianne Oliva, 17. “That was really the biggest surprise.”

Back in LA at the City of Saints event, with the motto “Be Here, Be You, Be God’s,” hundreds of young people experienced a weekend filled with adoration, reconciliation, Catholic lectures and worship music.

“I felt a lot of relief and a lot of love through being here, through the people, and through God himself,” said Sidney Ramon, a parishioner of St. Frances of Rome Church in Azusa. “I feel embraced.”

City of Saints, hosted by Archbishop José Gomez and the Office of Religious Education, was created so young people could encounter Jesus and strengthen their relationship with him. This eighth year marked the return of a full weekend program following the COVID-19 pandemic. During the Saturday evening Mass, Archbishop Gomez urged teens to think of Jesus as their most trusted friend.

“Jesus wants to walk with you, to be your friend, to be your best friend, your companion in the journey of your life,” Archbishop Gomez said during his homily. “Listen to him … he will lead you to happiness and heaven. Isn’t that what we all want, happiness and heaven?”

Sophia Reyes, 15, said this kind of encouragement is exactly why she came to City of Saints.

“I’ve been far from God lately and just hearing the homily, reflecting on it, it impacted me,” said Reyes, a parishioner at St. Agatha Church in Los Angeles. “Sometimes I struggle spiritually and I need God’s guidance.

“I’m finding that help and it’s nice.”

On the event’s opening day, Archbishop Gomez led teens out of Mass and into a Eucharistic procession that wound through the university campus. Some parish youth groups wore matching T-shirts and carried signs with messages like “Free Hugs.”

“We’ve come with open arms, ready to embrace the Lord and anyone who wants to join us,” said Zachary Venegas, a parishioner at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights. “This is my first time experiencing this and it’s beautiful.”

The procession ended with adoration held in the event’s “Sacred Space,” a room filled with flowers, a decorative font and pictures of holy people like teenager Carlo Acutis. The possible soon-to-be-saint was often highlighted during the conference because of his young age. After adoration, teens unburdened themselves by going to confession or writing their intentions on the Prayer Wall….

From Angelus News