Diocesan youths prepare for World Youth Day 08
by luke eggleston
sun staff writer
Most people would agree with the statement, “The youth are our future.”
The late Pope John Paul II went so far as to make young people a priority during his tenure, founding World Youth Day in 1984.
Initially, the event was biennial, now it is held every three years.
The first World Youth Day was held in Rome. Since then, locations for the event have included such diverse places as Buenos Aires, Manila, Denver and Toronto. The last World Youth Day was held in Cologne, Germany.
This year, young pilgrims from throughout the world will venture to Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day. Just under 30 of the attendees will hail from the Syracuse Diocese.
According to Syracuse’s Diocesan Director of the Office Youth & Young Adult Ministry, Bob Walters, World Youth Day invigorates the faith of the young people who attend it and it also instills faith in each host city.
“Sydney is a great location,” Walters said. “The church usually targets places that are very large and very secular and in need of evangelization. World Youth Day always reinvigorates the church in that location in ensuing years. When the pope came here [to Denver in 1993] it really catapulted youth ministry. It revitalized it.”
He noted that the process of preparation for the papal visit alone usually electrifies the faith of young people in the host country. In turn, young people give the church in the host country a renewed vigor.
“Once you mobilize the youth, you’re not going to stop them and that revitalizes the church there,” Walters said.
Walters noted that each new location presents unique challenges to organizers. Cologne, for instance, offered problems for lodging participants. Sydney has proven particularly problematic for making travel plans, specifically with regard to airlines.
“You’re basically trying to fly all these people to a large island,” Walters said.
Initially, the group from the Syracuse Diocese intended to fly into Cairns where they would visit the Great Barrier Reef. From Cairns, they would have flown into Sydney. Following World Youth Day, the group would have stopped in New Zealand on its way back to the U.S. However, during the planning phase, Walters encountered several problems and had to alter the diocesan group’s route.
He had an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons though when he determined to fly to Hawaii before going on to Australia. The stop drew out the trip and made it more expensive, but now the group will have an opportunity to visit the island of Molokai, where Blessed Mother Marianne Cope ministered to the lepers.
Some of the original participants decided not to go because of the leap in cost, but many more were intrigued once Molokai was put on the itinerary.
Mary-Clare Stokes, a parishioner of St. Paul’s Church in Rome, N.Y., was motivated to attend World Youth Day based on her experience at March for Life in Washington, D.C.
She said being around so many young people who share her faith was a powerful experience.
“There were so many people there who are my age and I was moved to see so many kids of the same faith as me,” said Stokes, who also attends Rome Catholic School.
Once she returned home, Stokes and her friend, Maureen Moulton, a parishioner at St. Joseph’s Church in Lee Center, immediately set about finding ways to raise the funds for World Youth Day. Rome Catholic Principal Chris Mominey agreed to allow the students to run the school’s shop, keeping the profits from sales, and they also wrote letters to various companies asking for sponsorship.
Stokes said that her father and her brother, Jon and Martin Stokes, volunteered to attend World Youth Day in Cologne and they both encouraged her to go to Sydney. In addition, Stokes said Australia has always been a dream destination.
“I’m very excited about World Youth Day. My brother and my father both volunteered to go when it was in Germany. I’m too young to volunteer but they both said it was amazing,” Stokes said. “Also, this year it’s in Australia and I’ve always wanted to go to Australia.”
Stokes said she is especially looking forward to being in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI.
Kimberly Petrella, a parishioner at St. Anthony of Padua in Cortland, is part of a significant contingent from Cortland County that has been working diligently to raise money for the trip to World Youth Day. Petrella needed little motivation beyond her daughter, Rachel, telling her she wanted to go. Seven people from Cortland County, including parishioners from St. Mary’s in Cortland and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cincinnatus, are signed up for the event.
The group has sold candy and hanging baskets and also held 50/50 raffles and garnered corporate sponsorship.
“We have a lot of people behind us who really want us to go,” she said.
Petrella said that she went on three missions (two in Europe and one in Australia) through Teen Mission International as a youth and she wanted her daughter to have the same kind of experience.
She noted that her parish, under the pastoral care of Father Mark Kaminski, places a heavy emphasis on youth ministry.
“Father Mark and I believe that the children are the future and we want to instill that faith in them,” Petrella said.
Father Kaminski added that while the youth are certainly the church’s future, they are also the present. Before he arrived at St. Anthony’s over four years ago, Father Kaminski was in residence at St. Daniel Church in Syracuse. He said he was surprised by the high level of activity at St. Anthony’s considering its size relative to St. Daniel. He noted that the emphasis on youth involvement seemed to vitalize the parish.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that spending the time and resources on the youth bears fruit,” said Father Kaminski, who, as a young person himself, attended World Youth Day events in Rome, Paris and Barcelona. He also attended the event when it was held in Toronto.
Father Kaminski said that World Youth Day can be a powerful tool for evangelization.
“It broadens their horizons on a faith level,” Father Kaminski said. “Once you have had that profound experience of faith and joy, you have to share it with someone.”
Father John Putano, the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal, is going to World Youth Day along with four youths and a parent from his parish. Previously, Father Putano attended World Youth Day in Toronto and Cologne. Like Father Kaminski, Father Putano believes that World Youth Day is enlightening because it gives young Catholics a sense of community on a global scale.
“I like to encourage the young people to attend because it gives them a sense of the worldwide church,” Father Putano said.
Father Putano believes that the church should place a strong emphasis on youth ministry in general.
“I think we need to devote more time to our youth and how to live their faith,” Father Putano said.
As of last week, Walters said that two spots were available for anyone wishing to join the group from the Syracuse Diocese.
The group will depart from Syracuse July 14 and touch down in Honolulu the following day. It will then arrive in Sydney, Australia July 16. Papal Masses are set for July 19 and July 20.
The group will return to Hawaii July 23 and then leave July 26.
The total cost for the trip is $4,200.
For more information contact the Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at (315) 470-1419 or visit www.syracuseyouth.org.