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Off to WYD: Maryland family of 10 heads to Lisbon for special pilgrimage

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The Love family pictured a couple of years ago, before their youngest, Edmund, was born. / Photo courtesy of Alexis Love

Denver, Colo., Jul 29, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

A family of 10 is packing their bags and getting ready to embark on a journey they’re calling their “last hurrah as a family unit.”

John and Alexis Love are a Catholic couple from Maryland who, along with their eight children — Anthony, 18; Rosemary, 16; Thomas, 14; Cecilia, 13; Catherine, 10; Gloria, 9; Josie, 3; and Edmund, 1; as well as John’s mother, Sarah Kirk — will be attending World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, from Aug. 1–6.

As they were preparing for their trip, the Loves spoke with CNA about what they’re most looking forward to and their hopes for the experience.

The family will be overseas from July 29 to Aug. 11 visiting not only Portugal but also Spain. They will be stopping at several Catholic destinations such as Fátima, the grave of St. John of the Cross, and places associated with St. Teresa of Ávila.

John Love, a Catholic theology professor, said he’s most excited for his kids to see “the global Catholic Church community.”

“It’s not just us, it’s not just our friends, but this is a global endeavor and people are going to come from all over and all speak different languages, but have a common faith,” he said.

“I think what you get from a World Youth Day is you see that you’re not alone,” Alexis Love, who homeschools their children, added. “Being Catholic, certainly, you are supposed to be set apart, in a sense. You’re supposed to be striving after holiness but while we’re far apart, we’re not alone on the journey. The Church is with us. And young people in particular are on fire and are embracing what the Church teaches.”

Cecilia Love shared that she is most excited about hearing Pope Francis say Mass.

Park Edward VII, which will be called “Colina do Encontro,” will be one of the locations where several of the big WYD events will take place, such as the opening Mass and Pope Francis’ welcome ceremony. Thanks to Kirk, who made plans in advance, the Loves will be staying in an AirBnb that is only a seven-minute walk from the venue.

The Loves will also take part in the two-and-a-half-hour pilgrimage walk to the vigil Mass with Pope Francis, which will take place at Tagus Park, called “Campo da Graçe” during WYD.

Keeping it light: Each member of the Love family packed just five outfits for their 12-day pilgrimage to WYD in Lisbon and then to Spain. Photo courtesy of Alexis Love

So, how does a family of 10 get ready for a trip like this?

The Loves say previous experience traveling in Europe is playing a key role in their preparations. Avid travelers, the family did a 14-country road trip through Europe five years ago. Now, they’re ready for this 12-day trip with “light, streamlined strollers” and will only be taking five outfits each in order to avoid too much bulk.

“Experience helps a lot and when you’ve been traveling in Europe before, then you know what you’re looking for,” John explained. “You know what doesn’t work, like ‘That backpack is going to hurt your arms,’ ‘you need thicker straps,’ ‘this thing is too heavy.’”

John and Alexis explained that their oldest son, Anthony, will be attending Franciscan University of Steubenville two weeks after they get back, making this trip their last as a family unit.

“It’s kind of our last time all being under one roof and traveling this way. So, I think my intention is as we start to transition to a new phase of family life, for unity and for continued closeness,” Alexis said.

John added: “World Youth Day has this vision of not just sort of a mountaintop experience that then you leave behind, but taking it out into the world and going forward. So, I have that kind of mission idea for our oldest son going forth.”

“I also hope for both a broadening for our kids’ experience and a commitment to the faith as well as a deepening,” he continued. “In everyone’s journey and everyone’s story there are those moments that stand out and that become anchors, become turning points, in your life and your walk of discipleship, and so I’m really hoping for that for my kids.”

The next time we catch up with the Loves, they’ll be in Lisbon, experiencing their first WYD.


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