Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
God's grace shone through the hassles of World Youth Day
By BECKIE KUEFLER
When I learned World Youth Day was coming to Canada I didn't see what the fuss was about. I only considered going because my husband and I were youth ministers at our parish and were approached by our priest. I had no idea how my life was about to change.
Last June, our parish had a meeting for those interested in World Youth Day. A handful of people came and before we left our first fundraiser was planned. Without realizing it, our pilgrimage had started. Over the next 12 months our group grew to 23 pilgrims ranging in age from 16 to 43 with me in the middle at 28.
With the support of my husband I spent those 12 months gathering information, planning meetings, fundraisers and socials, and becoming a fast friend of the other pilgrims.
Friday and Saturday nights at our home were no longer quiet evenings with movies and popcorn but became hangouts for the other, often younger, pilgrims where we talked about our concerns, problems, Church, faith and everything else of importance.
At first I wondered why everyone kept coming back each weekend because we rarely watched the movies they brought or finished the game we started. I couldn't understand how hanging out at our house was better than spending the weekend with their friends. When unlikely friendships started growing I decided it didn't matter why. We were becoming a family.
During Lent I began to realize something was happening to me on a level I couldn't explain. Over those 40 days, God sent me the biggest test of my faith and only with the support and prayer of this new family was I able to survive it and become a much stronger Catholic.
By the time I boarded the airplane for Toronto I was a different person and couldn't wait for the promises of World Youth Day. I was one of the most excited people in our group and knew great things were about to happen.
Often during the first few days of our trip I was disappointed. There were unexpected hassles that came up and being the group leader it was my job, along with the help of my parish priest, to handle them.
For various reasons I missed concerts and events I wanted to attend and I found the crowds to be overwhelming. I wasn't able to get close to Pope John Paul and felt I missed the most important part of World Youth Day. After all, wasn't he the reason we were there?
Then the greatest thing happened. I began to realize World Youth Day wasn't about the concerts or the pope but about what they represent, the graces of God. God showed himself to me several times that week and I was repeatedly humbled.
I've returned home a different person in many ways, most of which I can't explain. I'll never understand what happened within me during this past year. What I can explain is that a pilgrimage is for your relationship with God and that's what World Youth Day is about.