On Saturday June 10, 2023, the fifth annual St. Anthony Youth March took place in Zagreb, Croatia. This event is conducted in preparation for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the most beloved Catholic saints. The march was organized by the Conventual Franciscan Vocation Promotion Center of the Province of St. Jerome in Croatia, in collaboration with the Parish of St. Anthony at the Holy Spirit Friary, the Parish of St. Anthony at Sesvetska Sela, and the Holy Spirit evangelization group led by Friar Stjepan BRČINA.
More than five thousand young people from all over Croatia participated in the march. They were joined by young pilgrims from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia and many other countries. Everyone had a single goal: to glorify God with the authentic testimony of their faith. For the first time, relics of St. Anthony of Padua were placed in the cross that led the procession of young people along the pilgrimage route. The pilgrims started at the Parish of St. Anthony of Padua at Sesvetska Sela and marched to St. Anthony’s Basilica at the Holy Spirit Friary. Many carried letters containing the intentions of the faithful who were unable to physically participate in the procession.
The program began at noon, with Mass presided over by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Zagreb, Monsignor Tomislav SUBOTIČANEC, together with other priests, including the Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Jerome in Croatia, Friar Miljenko HONTIĆ.
In his homily, referring to the Gospel of Mark (12:38-44) which had been proclaimed, Monsignor SUBOTIČANEC told the youth to look at everything they see, and everyone they meet along the way, through the loving eyes of Jesus. Moreover, they should view themselves through those same eyes. He then invited them to bear witness courageously, with boldness, like St. Anthony of Padua. The Holy Spirit evangelization group prepared a program before the Mass and led the march that followed. The participants were also able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before the Mass. During the procession, the local citizenry greeted the marchers with smiles and cheers, while drivers honked their horns in support.
The march was sixteen kilometers [10 miles] long and was accompanied by joyful songs and prayers. There were dances and shows at the stations where the pilgrimage stopped, namely, the friary belonging to the Friars Minor of Herzegovina, the Immaculate Conception Church in Dubrava and Ban Jelačić Square in downtown Zagreb. The events were led by the Holy Spirit evangelization group.
The march ended at St. Anthony’s Basilica at the Holy Spirit Friary. The friars welcomed the youth with joy. The basilica turned out to be too cramped for everyone to attend, so the program was projected outside on a large video screen.
The Amorose choir and the Sveti Duh evangelical team led the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. During Adoration, in the presence of the living Jesus, the pilgrims were able to immerse themselves in deep prayer and give thanks for all the graces the Lord granted them and for what they experienced on this journey.
Friar Zlatko VLAHEK, Provincial Secretary