Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 25, 2008
Australia WYD ignites local youths' faith
Returning pilgrims extol the joy and blessings received from their journey
By RAMON GONZALEZ
- photo supplied
Mark Feeney and a bevy of enthusiastic Lloydminster pilgrims proudly display the Canadian flag.
She is ready to comply with the pope's request and, along with other pilgrims from St. Vital, plans to share her experience and her faith with younger kids in her parish.
"If we don't talk to younger kids about our beliefs, they may get lost one day."
Courtney, a nursing student at Grant MacEwan College, described her Sydney experience as "amazing," even though she isn't sure how it changed her.
"It was a really amazing experience, especially when you realize how many people are there to worship one God," she said. "I'm pretty sure it changed me somehow and I haven't realized it yet."
What Courtney did realize, though, is that World Youth Day boosted her faith and that she must live it out in her community. "It definitely reaffirmed my faith."
"For me, World Youth Day was an eye-opening experience," said Melanie Charbonneau, also from Beaumont. "It definitely reinforced my faith and made me realize how God plays a part in my everyday life."
The pope's arrival was the best part of the festival for Charbonneau.
"It was one of the best experiences because everyone was so excited," she said. "We moved to the front and me and my other girlfriend were on our friends' shoulders so we were up high taking pictures.
"We got so close to the pope it was ridiculous. That was one of the best experiences."
World Youth Day also helped Charbonneau realize what's important in life - namely God and family. "You need to always have a strong bond with God and your family because they'll never leave you," she said.
"Yes, I knew that before, but World Youth Day reinforced it even more."
Naomi Noster, one of five youth from tiny Derwent who attended World Youth Day, described her Sydney journey as "interesting."
"It definitely reinforced my faith and made me realize how God plays a part in my everyday life."
- Melanie Charbonneau
"Being from a small town and living on a farm, to be in a sea of people from all over the world in Sydney was quite an experience," the 19-year-old said.
She was also affected by the energy and enthusiasm of young Catholics from other countries who seemed to be having "the time of their lives."
"Sydney gave me a taste of the universality of the Church and helped to solidify my faith," said Noster, who is heading to Italy in September to study arts.
Kessia Brenneis, a member of St. Peter's Parish in Villenueve, was one of 19 young pilgrims from the Sturgeon Region of the archdiocese who went to Australia.
"It was the best experience of my life," the 20-year-old said. "Seeing the pope was very overwhelming, even though he was driving by in his popemobile. That was a really cool experience."
Another cool experience was the week the group spent in the Fiji Islands doing a WYD service project prior to the Sydney event. It consisted of painting a 200-year-old church in a poor village of 300 people, 100 of whom are Catholics.
The group also left $3,000 in the village for Catholics to repair the leaking roof of the historic church. Parishioners from the four parishes of the Sturgeon Region donated the money.
"The stay in Fiji was an absolutely amazing experience," Brenneis said. "We met so many beautiful people and learned so much about their culture and how to live happily without really anything. That was the emotional part of my trip."
Brenneis, who travelled with her 18-year-old brother Tyler, said the year-long preparation for World Youth Day and the event itself transformed her.
"Being with 19 other pilgrims from my community among thousands of people from different countries and cultures made me feel really proud of being Catholic and being part of this wonderful Church and religion," she said. "It definitely made me sure of my faith.
"The Sydney WYD was the third World Youth Day for Mark Feeney of Lloydminster. He had previously attended events in Toronto and Germany.
Feeney went to Australia under accompanied by a priest and seven young women from St. Anthony's Parish.
"What World Youth Day in Australia did for me was it really challenged me to actually go out and be open with my own faith and ask people if I can pray for them on their behalf," the 28-year-old said.
"That's what I really got out of this World Youth Day. It's really a call to evangelize."
Feeney believes every young Catholic should attend a World Youth Day. Why? "It just gives them that excitement where they actually want to continue on that high that they receive at World Youth Day."
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