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Maryland family of 10 is making the most of their first World Youth Day

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The Love family at the Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal, during WYD 2023. / Photo credit: Alexis Love

Denver, Colo., Aug 4, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

After a long flight across the ocean, the Loves, a Catholic family of 10, arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 before festivities officially began earlier this week. 

The Love family at the airport on their way to World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo credit: Alexis Love

Alexis and John Love, 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 — arrived in Lisbon on July 29 as part of a 12-day trip to Portugal and Spain.

CNA first spoke to the Loves right before they were about to embark on this special journey. Then we caught up with the family days into their trip about their experience so far.

The family of 10 has been keeping themselves busy with visits to Fátima, Elevador Santa Justa (an iconic observation tower in Lisbon), St. Anthony’s birthplace and museum, and the Lisbon Cathedral. They found the world’s oldest bookstore, took a boat tour of the Tagus River, and, of course, have had their fair share of gelato.

The Love family enjoying gelato with priest friends they ran into while in Lisbon, Portugal, during WYD 2023. Photo credit: Alexis Love

The family has also participated in WYD events such as the welcome Mass, the vocational fair, the welcome ceremony for Pope Francis, and the entire family went to confession at Reconciliation Park.

Alexis called Fátima “peaceful, beautiful, and simple.”

“There’s a simplicity to both the place and the people of the story, the children,” she added. “They call them ‘the shepherds’ in Fátima. It is striking how Mary consistently chooses the simple, the little ones, to appear to.”

Both Catherine and Cecilia enjoyed seeing the houses in which Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco lived.

“It doesn’t seem to have changed very much since the apparitions, especially the little town where the saints lived,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Rosie Love outside of the home of Jacinta and Francisco Marto in Fatima, Portugal. Photo credit: Alexis Love

While in Fátima, the family experienced a beautiful moment with a man from whom they were buying rosaries. Alexis explained that the man began to talk to their 3-year-old daughter, Josie, in Portuguese. They told him they only spoke English. The man then began to speak in broken English and said, “I am the nephew of Jacinta and Francisco. I was born in the same house as them. My father lived in that house.”

He went on to share that the boxes on which he had his rosaries set up were boxes that belonged to the Marto family.

“What was striking to me about the holiness of the place is that it’s real,” Alexis told CNA. “Real people, their wooden boxes, their genuine offering up of simple sacrifices, and Mary asking us all to pray the rosary through them. It’s not [just] a nice story, it’s a real message for us from heaven.”

The Loves shared that the entire family is enjoying discovering the beauty of Portugal and its people.

“The Portuguese people have been really kind, patient, helpful, and caring towards our kids — I mean shopkeepers, grocery store staff, pretty much everyone,” John said. “As a large family, we have felt like celebrities, with tons of people asking to take pictures with us. Everyone who has talked to us has said things like, ‘Love big families. Thank you for having a big family!’”

Gloria and Edmund Love enjoying some down time in Lisbon at WYD 2023. Photo credit: Alexis Love

Nine-year-old Gloria has loved “seeing all of the new things and eating ice cream!” And, she said, buying “Alice in Wonderland” from the oldest bookstore in the world. “I’m almost done reading it now because we wait a lot for buses and things,” she said.

“This is kind of random, but I like being able to see all of the cobblestones and the cool designs on them,” Catherine added.

As for the WYD events, the family has loved immersing themselves in the “loud and jubilant” atmosphere.

Edmund Love, the youngest family member, in the streets of Lisbon for World Youth Day 2023. Credit: Alexis Love

“It’s chaotic but fun, much like life in a large family,” Alexis said. “You’re always a little late, a little lost, but something good is happening if you look around and take notice.”

“​​My favorite part has been talking to people from all over the world and trading signatures with them,” 16-year-old Rosie added.

John’s mother, Sarah Kirk, told CNA: “It’s beautiful to see all the young people so joyful, and open to each other’s cultures.”

Anthony Love outside of the baptistery where St. Anthony of Padua was baptized, in Lisbon, Portugal, during WYD 2023. Photo credit: Alexis Love

Anthony, the eldest sibling, noted: “The thing I like is seeing all the different people, all the different nationalities united by one thing.”

His brother, Thomas, agreed. “It’s cool how many nationalities are here. We’ve already identified 104 countries, not including all of the provinces and states.”

Regarding the welcome ceremony for Pope Francis, Alexis said: “It was very joyful. A lot of energy! People and flags streaming in from all over the place.” 

Cecilia and Catherine Love representing the United States at the Welcome Ceremony for Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2023. Photo credit: Alexis Love

Alexis continued: “When the pope arrived, all of the difficulty of being in a hot, crowded environment evaporated and everyone was cheering, hugging, and high-fiving. In a world where we rarely come together in this way over anything besides celebrities, concerts, or sports, it was lovely to see the unity that people felt over seeing our Holy Father.”

The next time we speak with the Loves they will be back in Maryland after 12 days in Europe preparing to send their eldest son to college. When World Youth Day ends on Sunday, they will head to Spain to visit some holy sites and continue their family pilgrimage.


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