Thea and Patrick preparing for World Youth Day 2023.
Thea Arandia Frigillana, 29, first thought of attending World Youth Day (WYD) in 2021 when she came across an old poster of World Youth Day 2016 in Poland. While the poster piqued her interest, she knew that she couldn’t take a week or two off of her job as a full-time elementary school teacher with the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). So she went on her way, thinking it would be nice to attend WYD some day.Then, in July 2022, Arandia Frigillana heard about the next WYD happening in 2023. She assumed the event would occur in February, but a friend showed her WYD’s official Instagram page, and she discovered that it was going to be held in August when she would be on vacation.“Perfect!” she thought to herself. “When do I ever get the chance to go to World Youth Day on the month that I’m off?” At the time, she didn't know which country was hosting the event. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that World Youth Day 2023 would be held in Portugal. Arandia Frigillana had seen the Fatima (2020) movie and fell in love with the story and the conviction of the three shepherds who had seen Mary multiple times.“I cannot miss this opportunity,” she thought upon learning that it would be in Portugal. “I love Mother Mary, I have a devotion to her, and the story with the three shepherds just truly inspired me. This is a sign. This is God telling me with all my heart, He’s telling me to go.” “It was also the time when I had also gotten engaged and so there was a lot happening, but never once did it slip my mind that I wouldn’t attend World Youth Day, whether I was single or engaged or whatever life was throwing at me at that time,” she said.Now, newly married, Arandia Frigillana and her husband, Patrick Frigillana, will be going to Portugal after their honeymoon. They will be landing in Lisbon on July 29 and will remain in Portugal up until August 7. They’ll be going along with three friends from Toronto, fellow members of the Missionary Families of Christ (MFC) community: Kristine Sabido, JC Asuncion, and Jover Briñas. Since committing to go, the five of them have met up twice a month to discuss planning and the itinerary. They have also prepared for World Youth Day by walking together, praying for each other, and asking for prayers from others.“Just thinking about leading up to World Youth Day, I’m imagining the thousands of people gathered together, different languages, different cultures, different flags, different countries, but one faith,” Arandia Frigillana said. “I think that is what I’m most looking forward to witnessing, seeing all the young brothers and sisters that are also from other parts of the world gathering together.”She hopes that during World Youth Day, the Holy Spirit ignites each of the pilgrims to live out authentic Catholic and Christian lives so that when they arrive home, they evangelize others just by living out their faith.“I hope and pray that it’ll inspire us even more to really be on fire with our faith to really scream it out to the world how beautiful our Catholic faith is and that it is so important to have many more missionaries in whatever vocation we’re all in, to really have God at the centre of our lives,” she said.“So, I’m just really looking forward to encountering Christ this World Youth Day. I think there’s a reason for everyone being there, and I hope that they encounter Christ once more when they’re there [and] they fall in love even more with their faith. And I do hope that many more young people attend this event for many more years to come and share it on social media, share it to their friends, their family, for everyone to really know how important these World Youth Day events are as made by St. John Paul II.”