Group of priests start band to raise money to send youth to World Youth Day 2023

Priests in Concert Members of "Priests in Concert" perform to raise money for youth to attend World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. | Photo courtesy of Priests in Concert

A group of priests who met in seminary have formed a band to raise money for young people in their archdiocese to attend World Youth Day (WYD), which will take place Aug. 1–6 in Lisbon, Portugal.

“Priests in Concert” is composed of nine priests from the Archdiocese of Washington: Fathers Pawel Sass, Yan Pietryga, Grzegorz Okulewicz, Mattia Cortigiani, Philip Ilg, John Benson, Salulo Vicente, Emanuel Lucero, and Daniele Rebeggiani.

The priests all attended the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Hyattsville, Maryland, and are members of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Catholic movement that sends out families on missions around the world and the priests from its seminaries to evangelize.

Member of music group "Priests in Concert" performs on stage at event raising money for WYD2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo courtesy of Priests in Concert
Member of music group "Priests in Concert" performs on stage at event raising money for WYD2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo courtesy of Priests in Concert

Father Daniele Rebeggiani, the secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C., and an archdiocesan priest, spoke with CNA about the group’s fundraising efforts and his hopes for WYD.

Rebeggiani explained that the group formed earlier this year after a young adult event brought several priests together to host an evening of music. Shortly after, the priests were gearing up to start fundraising for WYD at their individual parishes. Realizing that the previous music event was a success, they decided to invite more priests to join the band, invite parishioners to attend, and put on a concert in order to raise funds.

Singing popular songs such as “Eye of the Tiger” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” the priests also include songs from other countries such as Spain, Italy, Poland, Mexico, and, of course, Portugal, as many of the attendees are from the Hispanic community.

Rebeggiani describes their concerts as “a night of music and witness.”

In addition to the setlist of songs, a concert may include a vocation story from a priest or a testimony from a young person who has attended a previous WYD.

Rebeggiani shared that many of the priests in the group have a close connection to WYD because many found their vocation to the priesthood while attending previous events.

“I would say almost all of us, we discovered our vocation as part of one of the World Youth Days,” he said. “So, in a sense, World Youth Day is an event that is closely linked to our vocation.”

Rebeggiani himself found his calling to the priesthood at the WYD in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.

Born in Rome, Italy, Rebeggiani grew up in a Catholic family. At the age of 13 he entered the Neocatechumenal Way and attended his first WYD in 1997 in Paris. He attended several more after; however, as he got older he “was living in a very secularized environment and began to drift away a little from the Church.”

“I thought that God was really not the key to my happiness and the key to my happiness would be success, especially success in studies,” he explained.

Driven by the desire to succeed, Rebeggiani had a nervous breakdown at the age of 21, and that was when he said God “reconnected” with him.

Soon after, he joined his parish on a trip to Cologne for WYD. While doing mission work in Strasbourg, sharing the life of Christ with people on the street, he received immense happiness.

“We were speaking to youngsters that were living on the streets, on drugs,” he said, “and I’m giving my experience to them and seeing how one of them especially opened up and spoke of his suffering, and he was very happy that someone was reaching out and talking to them about Father Christ’s love for them.”

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“And I remember thinking in that moment, feeling very happy, thinking, ‘If this is happiness to speak of Christ, to give my life for the evangelization, this is what I want to do.’”

Rebeggiani participated in the vocational meeting at the WYD in Cologne and from there entered the seminary.

The priests raised $20,000 between tickets and donations during their first concert. Their next concert is on July 21 at St. Mary of the Mills in Laurel, Maryland, and they are hoping to raise another $10,000.

The group of priests will be joined by roughly 400 young people from the area on their pilgrimage to WYD.

When asked what he hopes the youth will take away from WYD, Rebeggiani answered: “An experience, first of all, of the fact that God loves them.”

“In many cases, the youth we deal with come from situational suffering. They come wounded,” he added. “So these pilgrimages are always a way in which God shows them that their life has value — that it’s not like he is indifferent to their suffering, that he cares, that he provides.”

“Also that they have an experience of doing something for God and experience the joy of living for God. And have the desire to really abandon their plans to enter the plans that God has because, in my case, the plan that God had was so much better than the plans that I had, and so I’m sure that that’s the same for each one of the youth that will be going.”

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You can find tickets to their next concert and information to donate here.

A video clip of a recent young adults event in Washington, D.C., can be viewed below.

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