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300 young people moved by St Augustine "rise again with Christ" at the Augustinian Youth Encounter

Four years after the last Encounter in Panama, the AYE 2023 is now underway. 374 delegates - religious men and women, priests and young people - from 20 different circumscriptions are coming together in an atmosphere of "deep spiritual joy" from the 25th-30th July in Lisbon. It is a "new opportunity" to reflect, as a family, on the heritage that St Augustine bequeathed to the young Catholics in today's world

With only a week to go before World Youth Day, the marquee is packed to capacity on this opening night of 25th July. We are at the school of Santa Iria de Azóia, host of this Augustinian Youth Encounter. Among the backpacks, sacks, mats and flags of almost two dozen nations, the AYE is writing a new chapter in its own history. The sound of clapping fills the room as each circumscription makes its presentation.

Etched on the faces of the young people are signs not just of jet lag, but also from long hours of chatting and the rhythm of the activities that occupied the first evening of this AYE: card games, solidarity bingo, a game of volleyball or football together and, not least, a unique after dinner quiz on the history of Portugal conducted with great ingenuity and enthusiasm by the Lusitanian volunteers of the Augustinian Youth of Portugal, who organised and are hosting this AYE.

The Order has only two parishes in the whole country. However, their energy, generosity and passion, together with the eagerness of the five priests who work each day with the laity, is infectious. Everyone present is touched by it.

"We want the Order to know that they can count on us, that we are here, that we feel very proud to be part of the Augustinian family and to be able to organise this very special AYE", says João Miguel Campos, responsible for the volunteer communication team of the AYE, who share minute by minute on Instagram how the event is unfolding.

Andrea is responsible for the 100 plus volunteers who are there to support, guide and look out for each of the youths attending the AYE. Most of the volunteers have taken time off work or away from studies to "give themselves" to others; taking care of the attendees’ every need from the 12 help points found throughout the Encounter. One young Portuguese woman tells us she was motivated to accept this challenge because work carried out freely by those who give their time to others in service to the Church, the Order and their brothers and sisters in Christ is so important.

Fr Edward Daleng, Assistant General for Africa and member of the organising committee of this AYE, accompanied by general councillors Fr Javier Pérez Barba and Fr Alex Lam, shared his first thoughts about AYE Lisbon: "It fills our hearts with thankfulness to see these young Augustinians from the different circumscriptions. Ahead of us is a packed week of activities that will help us to get to know each other better and to deepen our Augustinian charism in a moment of synodality, and of profound ecclesial beauty. We welcome all the young people from Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, USA, UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Philippines, Australia and, of course, Portugal, to this fifteenth edition of the AYE. What a wonderful opportunity we have before us.”

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The AYE was life-giving to our pilgrims from Australian province because it was a practical lived experience of what is like being an Augustinian. Our youth and young adults learned humility and simplicity from the volunteers, interiority from each other through faith sharing and persistence to know the truth about charity in action. It was my first AYE experience and i understood the challenges the organisers and the volunteers were facing then. They gave a genuine hospitality despite of some hiccups along the way. There may have been few issues of communication due to language differences but the organisers, volunteers and coordinators from other circumscription managed to solve the issue. I am grateful for the Order for having organised…

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