WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Local World Youth Day pilgrims listen to a presentation at the grave of Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk.
Young people from the Edmonton Archdiocese are busy preparing for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from July 23-28.
More than 50 youths attended an outdoor commissioning Mass July 6 at the grotto by the St. Albert Catholic Church.
Prior to the commissioning Mass, Oblate Father Ken Thorson told the group that St. Albert is an appropriate place for their preparations, given its historical importance to the archdiocese.
"This is a day to introduce you to a little history of the Oblates and our founder, Eugene de Mazenod," said Thorson.
Young people toured the crypt, visited the gravesite of Venerable Brother Anthony Kowalczyk, and learned some history of the Oblates' adventures in St. Albert. They sang the official World Youth Day song, Hope of the Dawn, and visited the Father Lacombe Chapel.
This year's World Youth Day theme is taken from Matthew 28.19: "Go and make disciples of all nations." The theme summons young people to take a call to mission, living as witnesses of the risen Christ.
Thorson said the WYD theme motivates each participant to let the light of Jesus dissipate the darkness of fear and doubts that paralyze.
While most young Albertans going to Rio have done some travelling, this is the first pilgrimage and first World Youth Day for most of them.
Sandy Prather, the former executive director of Star of the North Retreat Centre, provided the young people with an overview of the Oblates' charism, and also what they can anticipate in Rio.
Prather also told the youth about the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, which they will visit.
"It's one of the greatest Marian shrines in the world. The basilica itself is second only to St. Peter's in the Vatican, and it has now become the most popular Marian pilgrimage centre in the world," said Prather.
Its popularity now exceeds that of the shrines of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and Our Lady of Lourdes in France.
Pawel Zygmunt, from Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish, is leading a contingent of youth from his parish to World Youth Day. Their aim is to share their faith in Christ, and meet other young Catholics.
"It's an amazing thing to share your faith with other people from all around the world who have the same beliefs, regardless of language or culture, and you come together and enjoy the joys of Christ," said Zygmunt.
Inclement weather, and strikes with the railway and bus systems caused problems when he attended WYD in Madrid, Spain.
"I hope we have great weather and we get to meet a lot of cool people, and we get to visit some of the communities there, connect there, so we can network and later on continue having friendships with people from all around the world," said Zygmunt.
Sabina Mackowiak, also from Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish, said, "We want to enrich our belief in God. From this trip, we will get a greater feeling that God is in our lives.
"We are really close to God here, but I think if I go there I will get an even stronger, deeper connection."
Mackowiak said the young people have been meeting monthly and fundraising for their pilgrimage.
"We not only get to enjoy each other's company and get to know each other as people, but we also get to know each other as followers of Jesus," said Zygmunt. "It's been really cool to connect in that way."
A WYD at Home event is planned for July 26-28 at Mount St. Francis in Cochrane. Six Alberta bishops will be attending.
The event will a include a Stations of the Cross dramatization, a priests vs. youth soccer game, catechesis sessions with the bishops, a concert with Audrey Assad, Eucharistic Adoration with Bishop Gregory Bittman, music, testimonies and prayer.