Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
November 26, 2001
Young Catholics entranced by an old rugged cross
High voltage rally keeps thousands of students energized
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Archbishop Thomas Collins urged young Catholics Nov. 19 to turn to the battered World Youth Day cross for strength as they put their faith into practice.
Collins, who is Western Canada coordinator of World Youth Day 2002, spoke about the Pilgrim Cross Nov. 19 while addressing thousands of Catholic students at the Skyreach Centre.
He referred to it as two simple planks of wood that speak about the love of our Lord Jesus and urged students to come to it for strength.
"We come to the Lord to receive strength but then we go to serve," he said. "It's the purpose of our life to serve others, to make Jesus' love present to those we meet day by day.
"We bring him our cares, needs and troubles. He gives us strength and new life. And then we don't just stay with the Lord, we don't stay at the foot of the cross. We go."
The archbishop noted the Pilgrim Cross is showing signs of wear and tear but he said its battered looks are in keeping with the struggles of daily life.
The energy-charged rally, which drew students from Catholic schools across central Alberta, featured the Cleveland-based Christian rock band Gabriel's Harp as well as a string of student dancers, musicians and singers. Videos on the meaning of the cross produced by various schools were also shown.
But the main event of the two-hour rally, called Godiseum, was a procession of the four-metre World Youth Day cross on the main floor of the Skyreach Centre. About six students carried it, followed by another 120 youth carrying lit candles.
It was preceded by a procession with cardboard footprints that students from about 30 schools fixed on a large plastic cross provided by St. Joseph High School. The footprints symbolized the footsteps of Christ.
"This rally was amazing. I never expected it to be this good," said Archbishop O'Leary student Kristen Nigro, 15. "It was an honour to have the cross here. I had a great time."
"This was great," said student Julian Gareau of Ecole Marguerite D'Youville in St. Albert. "I had a lot of fun. I think it's miraculous that the cross came here."
Megan Kazlewood of St. Albert High School said the rally and the cross filled her with enthusiasm. "I think this is an amazing opportunity for all of us to renew our faith and to continue our journey towards Christ and everlasting life," the 16-year-old said.
Cardinal Francis Stafford, president of the Vatican's Council for the Laity, said when he returns to Rome, he is going to tell the pope, "'Holy Father, faith in Christ and faith in the Church is alive and well among young people in Edmonton.'"
Stafford urged rally participants to listen to the pope at next summer's World Youth Day in Toronto.
"He is going to speak to you about how you use your freedom," he said. "He is going to ask you how do you plan to use your future?"
The pope is also going to ask young people how they will use their freedom when confronted with the violence and the brutality that plagued the world in the second millennium, Stafford said.
And he will say there is no reason to load blame on others because Jesus took on that role. "He is the scapegoat who took away all your guilt, all your sins. You have no reason to be afraid. You have no reason to choose another scapegoat."
Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe, a former altar boy who takes pride in taking his children to church on Sundays, told students being positive and caring toward others is what life is all about.
Lowe presented Stafford with two Oilers jerseys, one with the number 3, for the Holy Trinity and another with the number 1. "The pope is number one so we put that number there for him."
Andrew Papenbrock, coordinator of World Youth Day for the Edmonton Archdiocese, was pleased with the rally's outcome. "What we have seen here is just a glimpse of what the spirit of World Youth Day is," he said. "We saw the spirit alive in the young people."
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