Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 24, 2002
Olds youth eager to learn about their faith
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Rika Koelstra, 31, missed growing up in a Catholic home. Now she is catching up on being a Catholic youth.
"I really want to experience what it is like being with the young people in the Catholic Church. I think you can't get a better experience than World Youth Day," Koelstra, a mother of three, told the WCR.
Raised in the Christian Reformed Church, Koelstra converted to Catholicism when she married six years ago. Now, active in the young adult group at St. Stephen's Parish, she is committed to learning more about her faith.
"I don't think I am going to learn all I wanted to learn about this faith in Toronto. But it's important for me to be a part of this journey. Maybe it will bring me to another journey."
Judy Walstrom, parish World Youth Day coordinator, praised the oozing enthusiasm of the group. "Our young people are very eager to do the catechesis."
Walstrom noted that the group meets longer than usual youth meetings by the choice of the participants. One session lasted for four hours.
"They are really into it, very eager and very energetic," Walstrom said.
A common thread that holds most of the group together is their involvement with the Search program, a retreat program for youth 16 to 25 years of age.
"Most of the people in our group know each other and there is a comfort level," Walstrom said.
There is even one Calgarian who registered with the Olds group because he was involved with Search.
"I think there's a potential for a lot more leadership experiences. And I think we will feel a stronger involvement from the group in our parish," said the parish WYD coordinator.
The group has used more than half of the book Salt and Light, published to guide pilgrims in their preparation for the event.
For Koelstra, Salt and Light was really helpful. "We learned so much about significance of the theme this year."
"I really think this will be a huge boost to my faith. I am really thankful that I became Catholic; that I met a Catholic husband, who introduced me to the Catholic Church. I am really lucky."
With a fourth child on the way, she wants to be able to raise her children in the Catholic faith. Thus, embracing and knowing it deeply is important for her.
"Being a Christian Reformed is okay too, but it's not comparable to being Catholic," said Koelstra.
She experienced acceptance and support from the people in the parish. "It's an incredible feeling you get here, the support you get when you are in trouble or something. People are always caring."
For Jayme Dyjur, 20, "Toronto is going to be whoa! I expect it to be one of the biggest things I've done in my life so far."
He heard a lot about it from people who attended previous WYDs. "I thought it would be really cool to experience my faith with like a million or more other young people."
Dyjur stressed the catechesis and other preparation help the group grow and bond through shared experiences.
"Our past experiences become a source of learning for others in the group. And all the activities we've done have made us a tightly knit group and we're all looking forward to experience WYD together."
Amanda Doyle, 16, will take her brother's slot with a group from Calgary because he had to cancel out of the trip.
"My brother and my mom really encouraged it. My dad, who is not Catholic, encouraged it. I think it will be really exciting to see the pope as well as the religious experience of meeting other young people from around the world who share the same faith."