MAGIS: Creating a Hope-Filled Future

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.

Four FCJ Sisters were involved in MAGIS UK this year – Anouska fcJ and Lynne fcJ were on the planning group with Frs Dushan SJ and Jim SJ, and Alvea (Oxford University Chaplain). Ramona fcJ and Christine (fcJ novice) came as volunteers accompanying the group. We had ongoing preparation meetings with the young people we accompanied, helping them to grow in their understanding of Ignatian spirituality so that they would be able to enter deeply into the experience of MAGIS when we arrived in Lisbon. Together we were a group of 35 travelling from UK.

MAGIS has 5 ‘pillars’, or components of the experience: personal prayer, being sent on an apostolic experience, daily Eucharist, MAGIS circle (a process of faith sharing in groups), and the awareness examen.

There were 2000 participants from 87 countries in MAGIS Lisbon. We had two days together in Lisbon before being sent out in international groups of approximately 30 people, on our apostolic experiment in locations across Portugal and Spain. The experiments were: Ecology, Arts and Culture, Spirituality, Pilgrimage, and Service & Solidarity. Ramona was with the group walking the Camino from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, Lynne’s experiment was about Ecology and Environment in Almeirim, and Anouska and Christine were together in an Ecology experiment in Evora.

After 5 days of experiment, all groups returned to Lisbon to share together on the experience before moving to World Youth Day.

Read the reflections of some of the participants.

Christine Sterlini (nov fcJ)

It was my first time at Magis and World Youth Day!

What I was most apprehensive about: the heat! On the hottest day we hit 41 degrees and as we walked through the streets of Portugal local residents sprayed water over their balconies and others handed out drinking water. It was amazing how accommodating and thoughtful everyone was, and the cheering and singing and positive attitudes of all the pilgrims made for a fantastic atmosphere and helped us power through (plus regular breaks for Ice cream also helped!).

Most memorable moments: There were so many!

At first I was just hugely struck by the sheer number of people coming from all over the world to celebrate their faith together. Being in a crowd further than the eye can see surrounded by different flags and languages, with singing and dancing I was struck by how big, beautiful, varied and united our Church is. I was touched by the depth of conversations and openness of people I had just met, and hugely inspired by people’s stories as they shared their desires and hopes for the future, as well as sharing how they put their faith into action in their lives.

Receiving Communion with 1.5 million people  – I didn’t expect that we would be able to receive communion as there were just too many of us , and then suddenly white umbrellas started popping up all over and ministers began to distribute Communion. I felt it was a powerful experience of how Christ has a deep and personal love and relationship with each and every individual, and the words of St Augustine came back to me “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us”.

What I’ll take away with me: Hope.

The theme of World Youth Day was Rise up; a calling to be like Mary who arose and rushed off to greet Elizabeth and share her good news. Daily news reports tend to focus on devastating problems in the world and can often leave me feeling disempowered and desolate. But seeing such a great witness of faith by so many young people at Magis and WYD has left me hope-filled and hugely inspired, with a desire to be a witness of hope as others have so generously been to me. The Church with all its struggles and messiness is beautiful, loving and courageously and determinedly active in our world.

Anouska fcJ

The sixteen days this summer this summer were intense, but having had the privilege to attend three MAGiS and four World Youth Days, I knew they would be. Each one is different, yet each one has been an experience of going deeper into God, and reflecting on God at work in me, in my reality, as well as celebrating the truly universal nature of our church, and the gift and the challenge that this can be to each of us.

My MAGiS experiment reminded me of the gift of giving young people time to be true to themselves and speak from their heart as they did in the MAGiS Circle each evening. To accompany people from France, South Korea, USA and hear them share how they had encountered God during the day was a real blessing. The joy of the young people was palpable and as MAGiS invited us, to become creators of a hope-filled future, I think having lived this experience all is possible.

What remains with me after the event, is not the physical effort it cost or the lack of personal space, but the words of Pope Francis and the Way of the Cross. These each spoke to the many realities that the young people I meet in ministry face, whether that be to do with mental ill health, unemployment, poverty, exclusion on the grounds of race, sexuality, gender or class, and for me the message that everyone was welcome in the Church was spoken loud and clear throughout the celebration and at least 1.5 million people heard it.

Lynne fcJ

This is my third MAGIS and WYD and this year my MAGIS experiment was somewhat different. I was asked by the MAGIS organisers become the ‘spiritual director’ of an ecology experiment with young people from the USA, Portugal, Cambodia, Spain, Hungary, Poland and South Africa. It turned out that this meant leading the experiment and animating the group!

It was an amazing experience – we had some great opportunities during the five days of our experiment and there could easily have been a temptation to stay at the surface level of fun; we visited a cork farm, kayaked on a river, went to a sustainable but intensive corn farm, did wine tasting and visited a social project working to provide meals for children in Mozambique… there was a lot of laughter and joy throughout, but what was very moving was the way in which the young people engaged with the process, using the MAGIS circle to share deeply with each other, to question what they were seeing and to enter into a deep connection and understanding of integral ecology.

Personally, I loved the experience and was very touched by the welcome and inclusion that each of the young people extended both to me and to each other. There was genuine sharing and interaction across cultures and different perspectives, and it was very inspiring to be with the group.

World Youth Day was very different but also full of joy! I loved working as a group of FCJs to make contact with young people, to witness to our way of life and to be alongside them in the joy of being together from all over the world. Young people from such diverse life experiences hearing the message together from Pope Francis – in the Church there is place for everyone! Todos! Todos! Todos!

This WYD had a strong Pope Francis influence – with a focus on sharing, talking, listening together. Themes of Integral Ecology, Social Friendship and Mercy made up the core of the catechesis sessions, and the vocations stalls and exhibition was placed in a park renamed as The City of Joy!

The theme of MAGIS was ‘Creating a Hope-filled Future’ and I came away from the whole experience feeling a sense of joy, hope and empowerment!


Read other testimonies of the experience of MAGIS and WYD by Ramona fcJ and by other members of the MAGIS UK delegation.