This week, in the of Diocese of Rochester, NY, our leaders recognized that making a pilgrimage to Poland is not possible for everyone who wanted to attend World Youth Day 2016. Instead, we joined other dioceses around the country in celebrating WYD in an off-location celebration. Our “World Youth Day USA Stateside DOR Celebration” was held over two days, with the first day focusing on young adults and the second on teens. I attended the second event with some of my church’s youth group members.
My first observation on the event was that it was very well-organized. There were ample adult and teen leaders to move the program forward. The speakers were wonderful and the authentic Polish food offered there was absolutely delicious. I was also impressed with the large turnout (about 135 in attendance) on a warm summer evening when many teens could have been at the beach, at parties with friends or hanging out at the mall. The teens from the home parish of St. Jude’s hosting the event inspired me with their thoughtful presentations on different Saints and their willingness to devote time and energy to this event.
To demonstrate the importance of this type of ‘pilgrimage’ Fr. Peter Matolla gave a talk to the young people about the history of pilgrimages dating back to Abraham. He reminded them of the origins of the World Youth Day pilgrimage and the importance St. John Paul II placed on reaching young people. He defined a pilgrimage as “a journey with a purpose, a purpose to honor God.” He instructed the young people, “Give the message of salvation to others.” This is similar to St. John Paul II’s reminder to “be bearers of the Gospel to others.”
The event proved to be an excellent investment of our time. One of the best moments of the evening came during Bishop Matano’s homily during Holy Mass. He recounted to the young people stories of teenage and young adult Saints. The Bishop shared the heroic stories of Dominic Savio, Maria Goretti, Pier Giorgio Frassati and Charles Lwanga. He explained that when Jesus calls people ‘blessed’ He is calling them to sainthood. He told the teens, “You are never too young to begin your life with Jesus. You are not too young to talk to Jesus in prayer… You are not too young to know what is right or wrong.”
Following Mass, we had a beautiful procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the grounds outside the church and then a time of quiet Adoration and opportunity for Confession. I wondered what would inspire young people to spend their time in this way. Alex Lamparella, a teen core team member of St. Leo’s Youth Group in Hilton, stated, “The most important relationship we can have is with Christ. Adoration gives us the chance to look Jesus straight in the face.” He added that he enjoyed this type of event because “you get to see the future of the Church. The ‘renaissance’ of Rochester, NY.”
Barb Legere, Youth Minister at St. Pius the Tenth, had personal and professional reasons for attending with some of her youth group. She attended the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver and as she puts it, “I have been to the mountain.” She wanted to share that connection and experience with the teens. Professionally, she sees this type of occasion as a chance to “gather and connect to a diocesan event and the larger Church.”
For me personally, it is all about exposing my kids to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in every sense of the word. If our youth is exposed to violence, we beget violence. If, however, our youth is exposed to holiness, perhaps we will encourage and nurture holiness in them. It is easy to feel hopeless and discouraged in this world; our youth gives me hope. God bless.
© 2016 Mary Lou Rosien
All Photos of young people have been used with parental permission.