Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 20, 2000
Youth prepare their hearts
Group of 115 bound for World Youth Day eager for spiritual encounter
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The youth groups going to Rome for World Youth Day (WYD) 2000 should go as pilgrims not as tourists, advised Archbishop Thomas Collins, who will accompany some of them on the trip.
"There's the saying, a tourist passes through a country, but for a pilgrim, a country passes through them and transforms them."
Collins, who is on the organizing committee for WYD 2002 proposed for Canada, will experience his first World Youth Day this August. However, this will not be his first time in Rome. He spent five years studying there and visited last fall for the bishops' ad limina visit.
"I always treasure the opportunity to pray at the tomb of St. Peter's," Collins said. "It's always inspiring to return to Rome - you get a sense of the universal Church."
About 115 youth and parents in the archdiocese have signed up to attend WYD 2000, Aug. 15-20. More than one million youth are expected to converge on Rome for the event.
Accompanying the local groups will be Father Patrick Baska of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Pallotine Father Erik Riechers from Red Deer and Redemptorist Father Remi Hebert.
There are 43 people from the Red Deer area lined up for the trip. Group leader Dwight Acheson will make WYD a family vacation with his wife and three children.
"It's a time of renewal, a time of opportunity," Acheson said. "A pilgrimage of this nature is something that will help mould your life whether you're a youth or adult."
This will be the eighth World Youth Day since its inception in 1984.
"We sometimes run the danger of not understanding the wide picture of the world," the archbishop said.
Collins added that by attending events as WYD, participants "get a sense of the unity of the Church. It's a chance to focus in on a culture, and have a sense of the whole Church - something beyond our own parish, our own diocese."
Part of the preparation for WYD should be personal and spiritual, said Collins.
For their spiritual preparation, many of the groups have set up monthly meetings for prayer and fellowship.
Andrew Papenbrock, who is organizing the trip for the group from St. Alphonsus Parish, gathers them together once a month for talks and discussions.
Hebert has given a talk on the parish's patron saint, and a talk by Father Martin Carroll, St. Alphonsus' pastor, on the Incarnation is scheduled for the spring.
"It's to reflect on our community and our history," Papenbrock said.
He said the get-togethers will also help participants understand their journey to Rome will not simply be a two-week trip, but a lifelong learning experience.
The group was recently recognized for its upcoming participation at WYD by the congregation, which presented them with a journal and pen to record their experiences in Rome. They were also presented with a green apple which represents "how they're still growing in their faith," said parishioner Frances Cliffe.
Preparation for the big day in Rome also includes a lot of fundraising. Participants and organizers, some of whom have been blazing the fundraising trail for almost three years have done everything including hosting dinners and dances, chocolate almond sales, carwashes and raffles. The fundraising helps to alleviate some of the estimated $3,000 cost for each pilgrim.
Though the majority of this year's participants are WYD rookies, a handful of them are pilgrimage veterans. Like Wendy Bell, who attended the Denver, Colo., event in 1993. She hopes the event "will provide the opportunity for (youth) to experience the Christian Church in action - you get a chance to see the universal Church."
Bell said she expects many of the participants will return with a different attitude to their faith.
"There'll be a change in the way they express their faith," Bell said. "(Rome is) a safe place for them, to do that. They'll see all these cool people praying. It's the Church in action.
"It should be more phenomenal this year. In Denver, the kids were awestruck; all these people travelled all that way for this."
Bell and her husband Bill are organizing a group from Fort Saskatchewan, Hinton and St. Paul.
They will also participate in the Days of the Diocese program that immerses foreigners in the culture and daily activities of residents in one of the Italian dioceses. St. Alphonsus and the Fort Saskatchewan group will live and experience the culture of a diocese in Naples, the hometown of St. Alphonsus Liguori.
Ellen Fung, a parishioner at Mary Help of Christian Parish, will join the St. Alphonsus group to Rome. She was at WYD in Paris in 1997. Fung, 23, said that as much as she enjoyed Paris, she thinks Rome will be better.
"It's time to fill up my spiritual cup," said Fung, who only decided to go on the trip this month. "I think it's like a battery, we need to be recharged in our faith."
Janna Roesch, 20, is also a WYD returnee. Having been to Paris, she's heading to Rome, this time as a chaperone.
"I want to have a great time and pass this on to the younger people," said the University of Alberta student. "I want them to experience what I experienced - to see other youth out there who are so faithful."
Like Fung, the trip also contains a sense of renewal for Roesch.
"Especially in our lives, we are so busy," Roesch said. "We need to have time for ourselves. We need to dedicate five days to something like this."
This year's event is extra special, said participants, because it falls in the jubilee year and will be celebrated in Rome.
"It's a chance to go and see where everything started," said John Lueke, a Grade 12 student in Sherwood Park. "You're at the religious centre of the world."
Having it in Rome was a big influence in persuading Lueke to attend WYD. Had it been in another part of the world, Lueke isn't sure it would have been as appealing. "Rome just has this aura about it."
Many of the participants are already relatively active in their parishes, but they hope the trip to Rome will give their faith an extra boost.
"I hope to learn more about myself," Lueke said. "I'm a little spiritual, but not as much as I'd like to be. I hope to find more of that (at WYD)."