Pilgrimages are one of the best known demonstrations of popular religion, mostly amongst the people from north east Brazil. And why wouldn’t one, during the month dedicated to Mary, join in with the various groups of young people and other citizens to experience a day of pilgrimage? It was with this idea that, in 1991, Fr. Nélio Vieira and the youth ministry team from the province set out to organize the “Youth Pilgrimages” with young people. Initially focused on Jaboatão and then Recife, the event attracts “pilgrims” from various cities and other states. With the passing of time, the event has grown both in its dimensions and the number of those who take part, to the point where these pilgrimages now happen in eight locations: Recife (PE), Fortaleza (CE), Natal (RN), Petrolina (PE), Aracaju (SE), Maceió (AL), Juazeiro do Norte (CE), Abreu and Lima (PE) and Matriz de Camaragibe (AL).
FIRST THREE YEARS
During its first three years, the pilgrimage took place in the vicinity of Jaboatão and concluded at the Salesian Camp, at the Basilica of Our Lady Help of Christians. From 1994, they year that the centenary of Salesian presence in the north east was celebrated, the 4th Youth Pilgrimage took place along the streets of the capital city Pernambucana, Recife. “The idea was to make it a more city-based event, more a conversational occasion for young people. There were always large numbers who wanted to take part. And their interest grew when the decision was made to focus the event on the Parque on 13th May and have a pilgrimage through the streets with floats, music, and then Mass celebrated at the College (Parque Don Bosco) with cultural presentations in the afternoon”, explains Fr João Carlos, ex delegate for SYM (the Salesian Youth Movement) from 1996-1999 and currently Salesian Provincial in the north east.
SALESIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT REORGANISED
In 1996 Fortaleza had its first experience of the pilgrimage. In that same year the Salesian Youth Movement in the northeast was being restructured, as also throughout Brazil but in the following year, 1997, was the event officially organised with forward planning and inclusion in the annual calendar of events. Fromn that point on the Pilgrimages began to multiply in several north east locations. “The Pilgrimage is a special moment of encounter for the young people of Ceará, or wherever it take place. It is a privileged moment for education and evangelisation amongst the young”, says Fr Antônio Gomes, Rector of Dom Bosco Salesian College in Fortaleza and also ex-provincial delegate for the SYM (from 2000 to 2003).
THE EVENT ITSELF
The pilgrimage is always packed with young people from the different elements of the SYM, singing religious and popular songs which help them reflect ont he theme chosen for the year and helps make the walk a lively one. With occasional small variations in itinerary and timetable, the pilgrimages, in general, begins with a Eucharistic celebration, and then when they reach their destination, the young people break into groups to present dances, theatre and music. It is a case of young people evangelising other young people, sharing their talents and values.
“A youth Pilgriamge has these objectives: awakening the desire to witness to faith, to live united with Jesus, and to deepen one’s sense of the Christian life”, says Fr Luiz De Liberali, who is the current delegate for the SYM. “That’s why we think it is worthwhile for young people to join in with an event like this one”.
This year, inspired by the 2007 Strenna of the Rector Major, the Youth Pilgrimages had as their theme: “Maria, mother of life”, with the slogan: “a heart that say ‘yes’ to life”.
Histórico das Romarias Jovens
1991 - I Romaria Jovem
“O jovem com Maria construindo a Igreja”
1992 - II Romaria Jovem
“Caminhando com Maria, abrindo caminhos novos”
1993 - III Romaria Jovem
“O canto de Maria: meta da juventude”
1994 - IV Romaria Jovem
“Jovens, missionários da esperança”
1995 - V Romaria Jovem
“Jovens organizando, esperança brotando”
1996 - VI Romaria Jovem (Fortaleza realiza sua 1ª Romaria)
“Juventude e Cidadania - Jovens lutando, espaço conquistando”
1997 - VII Romaria Jovem (a AJS Assume a organização do evento)
“Juventude e Jesus - Jovens caminhando, com Cristo libertando”
1998 - VIII Romaria Jovem
“Espírito Santo e Juventude - Espírito educando, juventude transformando”
1999 - IX Romaria Jovem (Natal realiza sua 1ª Romaria)
“O Pai e a juventude - Com o Pai na Caridade, se Constrói sociedade”
2000 - X Romaria Jovem (Maceió realiza sua 1ª Romaria)
“Juventude e Ecumenismo - Ecumenismo na sociedade, construindo a Humanidade”
2001 - XI Romaria Jovem
“Maria na caminhada dos cristãos - Eis aí tua mãe: Maria mulher, vida, coragem e fé”
2002 - XII Romaria Jovem
“Direitos Humanos e Juventude - Juventude na luta por uma sociedade mais justa”
2003 - XIII Romaria jovem (Petrolina passa realizar Romarias de forma conjunta)
“Juventude e Construção de um mundo de paz”
2004 - XIV Romaria Jovem
“Juventude e compromisso social - Sonho que se sonha junto é sinal de solução”
2005 - XV Romaria Jovem (Aracaju e Juazeiro do Norte realizam sua 1ª Romaria)
“ A Igreja tem uma mãe - Maria caminha com seu povo”
2006 - XVI Romaria Jovem
“Maria, guia da nossa família - Que a graça de Deus Cresça em nós sem cessar”
2007 - XVII Romaria Jovem (Abreu e Lima e Matriz de Camaragibe realizam sua 1ª Romaria)
“Maria, mãe da vida - Um coração que era sim para a vida”