On August 1-6, 2023, during the 37th World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, four friars splendidly represented the Order on the stage of the Vocations Fair. The Fair was also known as the City of Joy and was located in the Jardim Vasco da Gama in the Belém District of Lisbon. The four confreres were Friars Arun MANGALY (WILSON), Erik MATEJAK, Windpidisda-Alain ZOUNGRANA and Nicolas ABOU ANNY. They were all from the Seraphicum College in Rome, although each was a native of a different country.

During the first four days of WYD, the primary objective was simple and invaluable: to promote authentic encounters with Christ. Around one and a half million young participants visited 150 “houses” [exhibition stalls] representing different movements, associations, communities, religious orders and social projects. This incredible encounter with such a wide array of charisms adorning the garden of the Church led them to personal meetings with these different expressions of authentic Christian joy. These encounters inspired them to embark on a personal journey, in response to their call from God who calls everyone by name.
Amid the simple and profound atmosphere of these encounters, the friars from the Seraphicum met waves of young people from all around the world. Their youthful presence filled Lisbon with a contagious energy. Many of them stopped to ask the friars questions about God, Christ, faith, the saints, our Order, religious life and our vocation. They asked why one chooses to become a friar and leave everything. Many wanted someone to listen to them, while others were eager to listen to the friars talk. Quite a few of them held hands with the friars and shared prayers and hugs.
The friars distributed small holy cards depicting Saints Francis, Clare, Anthony, Maximilian Kolbe, Joseph of Cupertino and Beatrice de Silva, in different languages. These acted as valuable bridges to break the ice and establish authentic dialogue. Some people wanted them for souvenirs; some sought them to learn more about who the saints were, while others were keen to hear about the key events in the saints’ lives.
This experience gave the friars new strength and fresh energy, it filled everyone with immense joy and infinite gratitude. It enriched them with new perspectives. Pope Francis’ invitation to the young people: “Do not be afraid,” was repeated many times and expressed even more forcefully during the concluding Mass. The friars were inspired to accept this invitation, too. There is no need to be afraid to be with people who desire to meet the friars, and who want to meet Jesus through them.

The friars of the Seraphicum