With the arrival of World Youth Day in Lisbon, a question has arisen: how will the accommodation of all the pilgrims work? There is no shortage of solutions, from hotels, local lodgings, to schools and pavilions that will serve as dormitories. But there is one in particular that brings out one of the values of WYD, solidarity. Host families are an example of this.
Host families are families who are willing to welcome pilgrims into their home, embarking on an experience where interculturality and sharing are given priority. These have been a milestone in the history of World Youth Days.
Young people who have had the opportunity to be hosted by families say that the experience is much more welcoming and promotes cross-cultural sharing and involvement in the culture of the host country.
Families “do this with a big heart, not only to serve, which is already a great thing, but also to open themselves up to other young people and other cultures, to another way of seeing life.” (Pope Francis)
Also at WYD Lisbon 2023, some pilgrims will be welcomed into the homes of Portuguese families, where they will be able to enjoy typical cuisine, learn about the traditions of Portuguese families and how they live in their daily lives.
In the first person
Without ever having participated in a Journey, Susana Escária joined good will with availability and decided to welcome pilgrims in her home. Mother of three children, all Salesian students, she says that this is an opportunity for her and for them to live with young people from “different realities and different spaces”, and with whom she will share her “daily experience”.
Susana, who had already had a similar experience, hosting an Erasmus student, will host two pilgrims from the Philippines and tells us that the process is very well organized, with “the commitment of the staff, students, teachers and the entire pastoral care”.
A representative of the Churches family of Campo de Ourique, Eduardo will welcome two pilgrims to his home.
After being invited to a Eucharist, Eduardo admits that he immediately felt the “bug” inside him. However, it was after receiving a flyer from young volunteers that he felt a click in his heart and decided to be a host family.
Having already had the opportunity to be with one of the young people he will host during the week of the Journey, Eduardo describes the experience as a very “rewarding” moment, which will “last”. The interviewee also says that he recommends all people and families to live an experience like this.
Moved by the desire to live World Youth Day in a more special way, and having in their hearts the responsibility of being Christians, João and Carmo Ribeiro decided, in addition to participating as pilgrims in the events during the week, to be a host family.
The couple welcomes two young Brazilians into their home and say that, although they give their humble “service” and testimony as a “Christian family” and do not need to receive anything in return, they know that they will receive much more than they will ever be able to give.
Welcoming is a bridge between pilgrims and families, where contact and experience with the local community are the key points. With the challenge of welcoming, in a spirit of sharing, empathy and communion, the families who accept this challenge live a unique experience of cultural and spiritual growth.