If you want to experience World Youth Day without going to Toronto, plan to attend Days in the Diocese, a three-day program filled with World Youth Day activities to happen in the Edmonton area from July 18-21.
The Days in the Diocese program was originally slated to provide foreign pilgrims with a taste of the diocese's faith and culture, but since the Edmonton Archdiocese only attracted 45 international pilgrims, local WYD organizers decided to turn it into an activity for everyone.
The main celebration will occur July 19 on the grounds of the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 8421-101 Ave. Organizers are trying to get at least 5,000 people to attend this family-oriented activity that includes food, games, live concerts and the commissioning of close to 1,000 young people attending the Toronto gathering.
"We are using this as a real opportunity to involve everyone else in our diocese in World Youth Day so that everyone of all ages can participate and experience World Youth Day whether or not they go to Toronto," said Nicole Wilson, the archdiocese's assistant coordinator of youth ministry.
"We want lots of people to come and participate. It really is the way people here in Edmonton can take part in World Youth Day regardless of how old they are."
The foreign guests, namely 41 Germans and a few young people from India, will participate in most of the Days in the Diocese activities in addition to touring some major city landmarks. This might include visits to St. Albert's historical sites, the Ukrainian Village, the Provincial Museum and probably West Edmonton Mall.
The German visitors are being hosted by the Red Deer parishes, "so they'll be doing a lot of activities with the Red Deer group," noted Wilson. The 41-member group will also spend one day in Calgary and one day in Edmonton.
Days in the Diocese activities begin at 7 a.m. on July 18 with the Klondike Days Parade, where young people along with the Knights of Columbus will sponsor a World Youth Day float. "We will be carrying our World Youth Day cross in the parade," noted Wilson, referring to a model of the WYD cross that toured the archdiocese last year.
Young people dressed with backpacks, WYD flags, T-shirts and noisemakers, will walk along with the cross, she said.
Later that day, the program moves to St. Albert Parish, where Bishop Lawrence Huculak of the Ukrainian Eparchy will commission 125 young Ukrainian Catholics attending the Toronto event at a 5 p.m. Divine Liturgy. A barbecue on the parish grounds will follow at 7 p.m.
On Friday, July 19, activities begin at 10 a.m. with young people taking part in social service projects at the Marian Centre, Edmonton Food Bank, St. Joseph's Auxiliary Hospital and other venues.
Festivities at the pastoral centre grounds begin at 3 p.m. that day with music, food concessions, clowns, jugglers and face painting. At 6:45 p.m., Archbishop Thomas Collins will preside at a Mass on the grounds where he will commission and bless nearly 1,000 young people attending World Youth Day.
The festivities will continue after the commissioning Mass, showcasing World Youth Day performers such as dAYZ wAGE, Youth Quake and magician Sheldon Casavant.
"We are inviting everyone from the archdiocese to participate in this family event," Wilson said. "People can bring their footballs, their Frisbees, their softballs and really make it a family outing." The archdiocese's ethnic parishes will set up food booths on the grounds and will provide food free of charge.
To prevent parking problems, organizers have set up a park-and-ride system from McNally High School and Bonnie Doon Mall.
The following day, Saturday, July 20, at 10:30 a.m., Collins will gather with young people in an informal atmosphere at St. Alphonsus Parish, 11828-85 St.
"It's an opportunity for young adults to go and meet the bishop and talk with him a little bit in a more casual setting," Wilson said. "Everyone is invited, especially the pilgrims going to Toronto."
At 6 p.m. that day, St. Charles Parish, 17653-112 St., will host a spaghetti dinner for pilgrims going to Toronto. A prayer service and a dance will follow. The public is welcome to attend but must call the youth ministry office first for tickets.
The Days in the Diocese program concludes on July 21 with all pilgrims still in the city attending the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage. Collins will celebrate Mass at the pilgrimage shrine at 10 a.m.