Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller is inviting San Antonio’s youth to join him on a pilgrimage from Mission Concepción to Mission San José Saturday morning for World Youth Day.

The holiday, initiated by the Catholic Church in 1985, honors Catholicism but is open to children of all religious backgrounds. It’s celebrated every three years in a different country – this year’s event will take place in Kraków, Poland. The event often spawns smaller, localized celebrations such as Saturday’s mission-to-mission pilgrimage organized by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio.

This year’s theme is: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7). The Archdiocese asks that attendees begin gathering at Mission Concepción at 7 a.m. Saturday, but the two-mile pilgrimage won’t kick off until 8 a.m., with an opening prayer from the archbishop.

At the end of the walk, attendees will be lead through the Doors of Mercy before participating in a mass presided by the archbishop from 10-11:30 a.m. A concert by Christian rock band Paradise Awaiting from 12-1 p.m will follow at Mission San José.

“The whole idea is that we want to help get the next generation of Catholics involved, committed, and excited about church,” said Father David Garcia. “We want to let them know there is a place for them in church.”

Jordan McMorrough, Archdiocese of San Antonio director of communications, said the archbishop is hoping for about 2,000 attendees. Many will come with their parish in big groups, but McMorrough expects a fair amount of families to come on their own.

In addition to members of the Archdiocese, the Catholic Television of San Antonio (CTSA) will be in attendance to live broadcast the event.

To prepare for the event, the Archdiocese encourages attendees to hydrate and bring hats and sunscreen to combat the sun. The pilgrimage will take place in the morning in order to beat the Texas heat, but attendees should still expect temperatures of up to 95 degrees. More tips for the event can be found here.

In the event of an emergency, there will be more than 100 volunteers at Mission Concepción as well as an ambulance, first aid assistance, and police officers on hand.

Garcia said the archbishop chose Mission Road as the route for the pilgrimage because he wants to promote the idea of the Missions as nationally and internationally-recognized pilgrimage sites.

“The Missions connect (San Antonians) with a long history of the church in San Antonio and (we want) to let locals know that they are a part of that history,” Garcia said.

“This is something new for San Antonio. The World Heritage designation has lifted up the profile of the Missions, so this could really grow in the future to be a really successful part of what the Missions are about — pilgrimage sites for the nation and world.”

Top image: Children walk through Antonian College Preparatory High School for the Archdiocese’s 2013 World Youth Day celebration while the international World Youth Day event was taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

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Katie Walsh

Katie Walsh studies journalism and English at the University of Texas at Austin and will graduate in May 2017.