A View From Cologne

Sept 8 – 14, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 30
A View From Cologne
By Sarah Macchiano/ SUN Contributing Writer
World Youth Day participant Sarah Macchiano offers reflections from Syracuse Diocese fellow travelers

Early in the morning on Aug. 10, a group of 30 pilgrims departed from the Syracuse Diocese to make their way to Cologne, Germany for World Youth Day. Like the magi who found their way to the Christ Child, our group traveled different routes to Cologne once in Europe.

The larger group set out for Brenken, Germany to stay with host families. Once there, the pilgrims experienced culture and language differences. Andrew Lambe, 16, from Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, said, “This was the first time I encountered people who didn’t speak English.”

“Despite the language barrier, we felt like part of the family. The host families treated us like family,” commented Peter Murphy, 16, of Immaculate Conception in Fulton. Caitlin Slattery, 16, from Our Lady of Sorrows, was excited to find “how similar people from around the world are.”

Many of the pilgrims found spending time with their German peers the most enjoyable aspect of their stay in Brenken. “We taught them how to play football,” said Zac Illoff, 16, of Our Lady of Sorrows.

The second group traveled to Taize, France to stay a few days with the Taize brothers. The Taize order is an ecumenical community which strives to make Christianity a way of life. Upon arriving, they found thousands of pilgrims from around the world looking to experience Taize. The Syracuse pilgrims shared living arrangements with groups from Argentina, Portugal, France and California. Many who gathered in Taize headed to Cologne at the end of the week. Father John Putano, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, commented that going to Taize was “a time of preparation to attending World Youth Day. Time to experience quiet, meditative prayer with other pilgrims and to help us focus on what World Youth Day is all about.” James Macchiano, 23, of Our Lady of Sorrows said, “The whole reason everyone was at Taize was to deepen their relationship with God and learn more about what it means to be a Christian. You see that you are not alone.”

After three days, both groups converged on Cologne to start World Youth Day events. However, they were not alone. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world were also gathering. Linda Farden, a chaperone from Immaculate Conception in Fulton, said, “There was a lot of people and a lot of waiting.” Her son, Chris Farden, 20, shared that sentiment, “One thing that amazed me is that you stand in a crowd and see people standing for the same reason; we are all Catholic and we are all trying to be closer to God.”

Many groups would shout chants or sing while traveling through the city. Colleen McDade, 24, from St. Joseph in Deposit described the crowds, “Everyone is so happy to be here that they can’t contain themselves. They have no inhibitions about singing at the top of their lungs.”

Father Andrew Baranski, Assistant Chancellor and Director of Vocation Promotion, said, “It is very inspiring to see a variety of young people. It is inspiring to see young sisters and priests who give witness in order to awaken a spark of vocation in young men and women all over the world.”

Dennis Slattery, a chaperone from Our Lady of Sorrows, said, “It was very exciting to have Mass with 50,000 people. It struck me that we are a global church, and, although different languages were spoken, the celebration of Mass is universal.”

A major highlight of the pilgrimage was the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI. “His presence energized the group,” said Dom Florini, a chaperone from Our Lady of Sorrows. After seeing the Pope make his way to Cologne Cathedral, Linda Farden commented, “When you have faith and you know this person represents God on earth, and though he may be a speck, you can still feel the Holy Spirit.”

Like the magi, the pilgrims traveled on faith, and, as the World Youth Day slogan proclaims, “They have come to worship Him.” The pilgrims worshiped in song, exchanges of cultures, sharing of gifts, and communion with Catholic youth from around the world. Cardinal Lehmann stated in his homily during the opening Mass, “We have come to profess our faith, to give witness that our Catholic faith is very much alive in spite of what we see in the secular world.” If anyone were to doubt the strength of the Catholic youth, he or she need only to look at the 1 million who gathered at Marienfeld, including our own youth from the Syracuse Diocese.

Sarah Macchiano is a parishioner at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal. She experienced World Youth Day first hand.

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