Share this story

Teresa Peterson

Journey to World Youth Day Begins for Local Participants

July 28, 2023 | It all starts and ends with Mass.

For 118 pilgrims from the Diocese of St. Petersburg who left for World Youth Day on July 28, 2023, the journey began with Mass at St. Paul Parish in Tampa. They asked God’s blessings and protection upon all participants traveling to Lisbon, Portugal.  Their pilgrimage will end with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Sunday, August 6th.

Leonela Montalvan, 31, of Corpus Christi Parish, Temple Terrace, is one of the diocesan participants. She has never been to World Youth Day before.

“I hope to encounter God and the Holy Spirit like never before and to be transformed by His presence and be inspired by the faith of millions of people around me,” said Montalvan while en route to Miami to catch a plane to Portugal.

Sophia Alfonso Gunderson, 50, and her teenage daughter are also part of the diocesan delegation.

“I hope to experience the Holy Spirit and the joy that will bring. I hope to be fertile ground for that seed of the Holy Spirit to grow. I look forward to seeing the holy father and experiencing all of that joy in such a huge community together,” said Gunderson, of Sacred Heart Parish, Tampa.

Anna, 17, is attending World Youth Day for the firs time. She has never traveled outside the U.S. before.

“I am looking forward to seeing Europe and also experiencing how God wants to work with each one of us individually on this trip,” said Anna, a parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua in San Antonio.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg pilgrimage includes a one-day retreat at Our Lady of the Rosary of Fátima, about an hour away from Lisbon, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917.

Eighteen Diocese of St. Petersburg seminarians are also attending World Youth Day, along with the Diocese of Vocations Director, Father Chuck Dornquast and Vocations Assistant, Jasmine Pujol.

About World Youth Day

World Youth Day (WYD) is a gathering of young people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and languages coming together in unity, becoming witnesses of Christ's love. It is also a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Catholic Church and an intense moment of evangelization for the young Church. 

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is sending one of the largest U.S. delegations, with 118 pilgrims going to World Youth Day, August 1-6, 2023.

Follow Their Journey

Facebook: @DioStPete

Instagram:  @DioStPete | @DOSPYoungChurch 

Photos from Day One by Keishla Espinal (hover mouse over image and click on arrow)

World Youth Day Journey Begins

World Youth Day Schedule