CNS PHOTO | RICARDO MORAES, REUTERS
Christ the Redeemer statue is bathed in different colours atop Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro to represent the 150 countries participating in WYD July 23-28.
Just because you cannot go to Brazil for World Youth Day does not mean you have to miss the experience altogether.
A smaller contingent than usual of young adults from the Edmonton Archdiocese will attend this year's World Youth Day, but an event closer to home is garnering plenty of attention.
Six priests and around 125 young adults from the archdiocese are going to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for this year's World Youth Day, from July 23-28. Typically, about four times that number goes to the global gathering with the pope.
Across Canada, however, this year's event is drawing one of the larger contingents to go WYD.
"We expected to be lower with Rio simply because it's only two years between World Youth Days, and we've been used to three years, so we had less planning time," explained Andrew Papenbrock, director of youth evangelization for the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"We were coming out of World Youth Day in Madrid, and we went immediately into Rio mode."
Travel costs are almost double compared with other World Youth Days, which has proven to be another deterrent for some people.
"It would be difficult for groups to fundraise in such a short time," said Papenbrock.
There is representation from several parishes, including both St. Albert parishes, Spruce Grove, Wetaskiwin and the Edmonton parishes of St. Charles, St. John Bosco, St. Dominic Savio, St. Theresa's, St. Thomas More and St. Matthew's.
"I am really happy with the representation considering the circumstances and the costs. Brazil is not the safest country to be travelling to with their infrastructure," said Papenbrock, but noted that there is safety in numbers.
"There are risks, but we know that with World Youth Day that because of the sheer numbers, if you stay with your group and stay where you're supposed to stay, it's actually one of the safest places to be."
Despite lower numbers from Canada, the expectation is that this will be the largest World Youth Day ever. Many South Americans want to see Pope Francis.
World Youth Day is much more than a getaway or a vacation for young adults. Papenbrock emphasized its importance to young adult ministry in local parishes.
A highlight for the youth going to Brazil will be the opportunity to participate in an international Oblate gathering for Mission Week.
"They are going to meet with an international gathering of thousands of Oblates from around the world, and spend Mission Week with them, learning about the reality of Brazil and the mission work that the Oblates are doing there," said Papenbrock.
He expects that doing mission work in a poor country will be an eye-opener for them.
Papenbrock looks forward to meeting with the young adults upon their return. He wants to see how the experience changes them, having an encounter with Jesus and the other young people there, and how they live out that change in their daily lives afterwards.
"We see that all the time. That's the grace of World Youth Day in our archdiocese," said Papenbrock.
Meanwhile, World Youth Day at Home will be held at the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre in Cochrane. This is shaping up to be an exciting event, mimicking in many ways what will be happening in Brazil at the same time.
"One Rock has taken on a life of its own. We've got six bishops coming because they realize it's important for them to be with their young adults. We can't go to Rio, but we can still celebrate here. It's like a mini-World Youth Day," said Papenbrock.
The event is set for July 26-28. There will be big screens and live broadcasts of the papal Mass from Brazil. The event will be part of the centennial celebrations of the Edmonton Archdiocese and Calgary Diocese.
The event ties in with the annual One Rock Music Festival, with more than 5,000 young people expected to attend. Popular Christian musicians Audrey Assad and Dan Dematte are the headliners.
The three-day event is a vibrant, faith-filled Christian music festival for young adults and their families. It includes Christian music, praise, worship, testimonies, prayer and inspirational speakers.
Highlights include a Stations of the Cross dramatization, a reconciliation pilgrimage, a priests-vs.-youth soccer game and Eucharistic Adoration with Bishop Gregory Bittman, with everything building up to the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday. For more info, call the youth ministry office at 780-469-1010.