The following letter is written by a Melbourne mother to her 16-year-old daughter as she prepares to go on pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon. In it, she writes movingly of her hopes for her child and offers advice for the incredible journey ahead.

Dearest daughter,

The days are drawing closer now. Can you believe that on Friday 28 July, you will check in at Melbourne Airport and we will send you off to World Youth Day 2023 with hundreds and thousands of other young Catholics from all over the world? I know how excited you are, and I know you may be feeling a little nervous too.

I want you to know how proud I am of you, that you have chosen to go on this pilgrimage. I remember like yesterday the day your earthly pilgrimage started, on the day of your baptism, when we consecrated you to God and ‘claimed you for Christ our Saviour by the sign of the cross’. Each day of your life, you walk your journey of faith. Your whole life in fact is a pilgrimage, a journeying into the heart of God. Sixteen years on from your baptism, you now embark on this World Youth Day pilgrimage.

All these months of preparation, fundraising, planning and praying have been graced-filled moments, where God is readying your heart to receive his Holy Spirit in a special way when you arrive in Portugal.

As you go to meet Jesus on pilgrimage, he comes to meet you! Just as the forgiving Father runs out to meet his lost son, so too the loving Father comes running out to meet and welcome you. I feel the Father saying, ‘Welcome my dear one to this time we are going to have together.’

A pilgrimage is a truly awe-inspiring experience, meeting other young Catholics and experiencing holy sites and the sacraments of the Church in a very powerful way. It is a sacred time, but sometimes it is not easy. There will be ups, downs and bumps along the way. It is in these rough times where you will meet Jesus and where Jesus will meet you! Jesus will be there—lean into Christ, and as he promises, ‘you will find rest for your soul’ (Matthew 11:29). The Holy Spirit will come and minister to your needs and strengthen you when you feel down, lost, lonely or afraid. His grace is sufficient for you. Trust in him and open your heart to receive Jesus more and more. Mary our Mother knew the trials of travel all too well. Pray to her and she will intercede for you in all your needs.

There is something that God wants to bless you and only you with on this pilgrimage. You go alongside thousands of other Catholics and the Holy Father, but Jesus wants to meet you personally. Jesus wants to touch you and draw you into a deeper friendship with him. He loves you and he wants you to know that. He will show you his love—just be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. As St John Paul the Great said to us on World Youth Day 2000, ‘Do not be afraid.’

On your pilgrimage, take quiet time to pray and open your heart to receive Jesus. If you are not sure what to pray, just invite the Holy Spirit in: ‘Come Holy Spirit. Come Lord Jesus. I want to know you more and I want to love you more. Increase my faith so that I can glorify you in my life.’

My dearest daughter, Jesus is drawing you closer to him on this pilgrimage as you walk your own journey of faith. This is truly a blessed time, a time in your life that you will not forget. I pray that this pilgrimage to Portugal is a pivotal movement of grace for you, as you discover the riches of God’s great love and the tenderness of his mercy. May you experience the healing touch of the Holy Spirit and his strength in difficult and tiring times. I pray that you feel the loving consolation of Our Lady of Fatima’s prayers for you all.

May our loving God bless and protect you. May Jesus touch your heart with his tender love—a love just for you. May the Holy Spirit guide you and fan into flame your young faith.

Love from Mum