Pilgrims at MAGIS 2023: Signs of Abundant Hope

MAGIS is a worldwide programme for young people between 18 and 35. MAGIS 2023 took place from 22-31 July in Lisbon in preparation for World Youth Day with Pope Francis. FCJ Sisters from the Liverpool and London communities helped organize the MAGIS UK delegation.
Two of the young people who went as part of the delegation and a Spanish pilgrim tell of their experience. 

Emily Gorton (MAGIS UK Pilgrim)

The theme of MAGIS was creating a ‘hope-filled future’ and indeed the signs of hope were abundant. MAGIS began with a 2000-strong, international Ignatian gathering for a weekend in Lisbon. Amongst these were 35 pilgrims from the UK. We slept on the sports hall floor, and got to know each other queuing for meals and showers.

MAGIS and World Youth Day gave me a sense of the Church being alive.


For 5 days, we were sent off in smaller groups for an ‘experiment’ – practice finding God in all things! Our group felt we got a very good deal; we were staying in a Jesuit holiday villa. Surfing, swimming and beach games were the order of the day. I was most touched by the generosity of our hosts, who had prepared all year to receive us. Although we were strangers to them, they said the day of our arrival was like the wedding day. It was wonderful seeing how different people’s gifts and talents came out during the week. I had a real sense of the Church being the body of Christ; we are his hands and feet. Different aspects of his personality seemed to be shining out, through the different personalities in the group.

When we moved to World Youth Day, our small group of 2000 became part of the 1.5 million pilgrims in Lisbon. Along with the joy of meeting many people, the large number brought logistical challenges. We spent lots of time queueing in the sun and navigating public transport. It was here that the Ignatian principle of finding God in everything really came into play! The vigil on the last evening was beautiful: all the pilgrims had gathered in a park, and now knelt in adoration before the Eucharist. I was moved knowing Jesus was intimately present to each of us, every step of the way.

Love is shown more in deeds than in words.

St. Ignatius Loyola

Allena Andres (MAGIS UK Pilgrim)

MAGIS was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It was extraordinarily brilliant to have had the opportunity to give back to the community with love and joy! To be amidst a community of nearly 2000 young Catholics and to have the freedom to express and resonate each other’s faith and respect it, was truly a gift to behold. To be able to welcome each day in prayer and community was essential in teaching me to realise God’s presence and find it in all beings and things around me.

The MAGIS experience was the most powerful and unforgettable part of this journey for me. Working with 20 individuals representing diverse cultures and backgrounds and to have the opportunity to learn and heal together was remarkable.

Our experience was Service and Solidarity, and was based primarily in Cruz de Pau, Matosinhos, Porto with an organisation called CIAP (Centro Incentivar a Partilha) that works in partnership with various other non-profit organisations and universities for the development and upliftment of low-income neighbourhoods.

Working with the CIAP members in tandem with my group, the sense of family and belonging was very strong.   We participated in different activities that they had organised for us which were spiritually eye-opening for me.

While engaging with the elderly I was reminded of my own grandparents and felt like I was remembering my old memories and making them more precious with this new MAGIS family.


To be a Catholic is to be in a personal relationship with God. My time with my MAGIS family helped me rebuild my relationship with God and invoked in me the desire to live again, to live with love and joy as children of God. Our morning prayers, MAGIS circles for reflection, glorious music, Mass and communion with this wonderful Catholic community from across the world brightened my soul and made me feel hope again.

To build this relationship, I tried to find God in all things visible and invisible; and I succeeded. I found his love in each member of my MAGIS group- in their smiles and their laughter, in their times of sorrow and in their joyous moments, while breaking bread together as one family and in supporting each other through each experience every day. I found him in strangers on a tram, in children playing and in the nature around me.

The Ignatian spirit was kept strong in all the activities we participated in while at Matosinhos. Our group’s cultural diversity brought us together while performing activities like making waste bins from reusable tires for children in collaboration with ArkiPlay, sensing the presence of God and realising he is within our hearts while creating music through sounds and nature- painting with Espiral organisation who work tirelessly to bring MORE, the true spirit of MAGIS, to children with functional difficulties. We also interacted with organisations that support refugees and immigrants to have autonomy of their own future.

I was fortunate to experience the love of God and embrace it with open arms in presence of beautiful souls that ignited hope and faith in me once again. This experience also provided a truly phenomenal opportunity for a woman like me born in an unknown part of the world in India, to stand amidst 1.5 million Christians and be blessed to participate in the Holy Eucharist with The Pope. It was the single most powerful moment of my life where I experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit.

I’m truly humbled by the grace bestowed upon me through this MAGIS and World Youth Day experience and the sense of community and profound faith I discovered in each person I encountered. I will be forever thankful for the friendships I formed, everlasting bonds I’ve made and above all to have found Jesus in me, once again.


Pope Francis arriving to World Youth Day

Victoria Llanes- Sevilla, España (MAGIS España – Ecology Experiment Almeirim)

Durante la semana que pasamos en Almeirim, Portugal, descubrí a desconectar para conectar conmigo misma gracias a la naturaleza. A entender que la religión no entiende de nacionalidades ni de fronteras; que Dios es un Dios universal y que a veces no hace falta nada más que la simplicidad de un viñedo para apreciar que el amor de Dios es gratis y abundante, y que dando ese amor que nos llega, es también como se recibe.

During our journey in Almeirim, Portugal, I learnt how to disconnect in order to connect with myself thanks to the nature. To understand that religion is not about nationalities nor frontiers; God is for everyone and universal; and sometimes there’s nothing else needed than the simplicity of a vineyard to appreciate that God’s love is free and enormous, and giving it to others is also a way of receiving it back.


I want to tell you: carry on, keep riding the waves of love, of charity. Be ’surfers‘ of love!

Pope Francis at World Youth Day