The occasional ambulance siren and the thrumming of a helicopter hovering a few hundred feet above ground were piercing the stillness of a beautiful afternoon in Panama city’s Cinta Costera.
If it weren’t for the tens of thousands of young people present along this three-kilometre stretch lining the city’s Pacific Coast, you would think you were in an abandoned city.
The stillness was incredible.
“Do not be afraid. Be courageous to be a saint in today’s world,” one could hear blazing through the loudspeakers.
“Perhaps, as Church, we have been unable to transmit this with sufficient clarity, because at times we, adults, think that young people don’t want to listen.”
Those were the words of Mons. Jose Ulloa Mendieta, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Panama. His impassioned homily on Tuesday’s opening Mass was a rousing call for every young Catholic listening.
“Do not be afraid. You need to be heard. You need to keep making us adults nervous.”
Stepping Back: Preparing for a Pilgrimage
After having missed Krakow in 2016, a group of friends and myself decided sometime in early 2018 to go to Panama and “just do it.” And so that’s what we did — we bought our flights, paid the registration, and waited for January.
As the months flew by, it was becoming more and more apparent that this really was going to be a pilgrimage. Not that we didn’t know that ahead of time, but the questions we had during preparations made us realize things we otherwise wouldn’t have had if this were a vacation. Are we going to stay at a school gym or with a host family? Do we have a safe place to leave our stuff? Would I have a bed? Would we be able to do some laundry? How about my cameras: should I bring them? Which lenses should I bring? Do I really need them?
With all these little luxuries that I would otherwise take for granted on a normal vacation, I can’t help but see a significant parallel with our own spiritual life.
Aware of the fact that a wheelie luggage for this trip was a no-go (given the amount of walking we’d be doing), I was determined to fit all my clothes and belongings in a hiking pack — a small pack that forced me to reduce all that I’m bringing to not only the essentials, but to just enough quantity for these essentials.
One pair of shoes. Just enough clothes. Bible. Journal. No cameras.
Isn’t this true with our own spiritual life? The lesser the baggage, the better we’re able to focus on the journey. The lesser our attachment to earthly possessions, the greater the freedom we experience.
The warmth of a people
After waiting at Parroquia de Santa Maria for a few hours (together with hundreds of other pilgrims waiting for a ride to their accommodations), Xiomara finally arrived and came to see us. She and her husband, Rolando, together with their children Carlos and Andrea, would become our host family for the remainder of our stay.
The Mejia family was a real blessing. They made a home for those who needed one — mi casa es su casa, they say. But they weren’t the only ones: throughout the week, many of the people you’d meet on the streets would always be up for some conversation, despite us not speaking the same language. Hola! De que pais? My two years of Spanish in university was definitely useful, however horrible. I always asked them to speak slowly, otra vez y mas despacio por favor, so that I could understand them a little better. Then we were fine, or at least it seemed to me. And when we got to a point where we really could no longer understand each other, we would just end the conversation by laughing at ourselves. Ha!
I was struck by how friendly these people were. Late one evening, the manager of a local supermarket let us in their staff room to eat the free dinner we claimed at his store. On another occasion, several Muslim men set up a table outside their Mosque, handing out bottles of agua fria to the pilgrims who just came from the opening Mass not too far away. A big sign on their gate said: Bienvenidos amigos peregrinos (Welcome, pilgrim friends).
And who can forget that dreadful 21-kilometre hike to the vigil site: walking under the searing 35-degree heat for several hours, these friendly people boosted our morale by offering us a ride to our destination. At one point, a woman stopped her vehicle in the middle of the road and offered us a ride to her house nearby, urging us to take a rest and use the bathroom. And she wasn’t the only one!
A few hours and an obvious raccoon tan later, we finally made it to the vigil site: a vast, open field in an outer-city suburb that became the home for tired and exhausted pilgrims that night. It was an incredible experience: when the Holy Father led Adoration, the place was perfectly quiet and still. There we were, a few hundred thousand young people sitting out in the open under the clear night sky, adoring our Eucharistic Lord from a mile away. Later, when it came time for the Benediction, we all sang the Tantum Ergo. It was incredible. Everyone spoke different languages, but we all chanted that ancient hymn in unison — singing the Lord’s praises in the language of Holy Mother Church, which we all knew. It was a beautiful moment that sent chills down my spine: the sense of universality, of Catholicity, was so tangible.
A sense of where we came from
A few days before, we attended a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM or the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite) at a downtown Carmelite parish where Archbishop Alexander Sample was preaching. The Archbishop of Portland, OR has become somewhat famed because of his orthodoxy and fidelity to the teachings of Vatican II on the sacred Liturgy.
“Why are you here today?” asked the Archbishop, addressing a congregation full young people from all over the world. “You never grew up in this liturgical tradition, so why are you drawn to it?”
My experience of WYD has not been without its own share of wishy-washiness in the Liturgy. On two separate Masses — one even celebrated by a Cardinal — people seemed to be more intent on “celebrating” their culture instead of ordering all our attention to Jesus in the Eucharist. At one point right after communion (when everyone was about to kneel and pray), a priest took the mic and asked everyone to stand up and clap our hands to the rhythm of the song his choir was singing. On another occasion, a group went in front right after communion and started dancing to an upbeat, Caribbean-style dance music — the sort of which you’d hear on an Expedia cruise commercial — which was supposed to help everyone “better reflect on the Mass.” Yikes.
Hence, being at a TLM that afternoon was a source of assurance and an experience of the sacred, giving us all a sense of where we came from.
“I think it’s important for young people to see, experience, and participate in the Mass of the Ages…the same form of the Mass that nurtured our grandparents and so many of the saints we venerate today.”
Put out into the deep
Having gone to several conferences before, I never thought that World Youth Day would hang heavy on my heart the moment it’s over. However, this one is different.
Throughout this entire pilgrimage, a message that I kept on getting from the catechesis, homilies, talks, and conversations was do not be afraid. And how appropriate — I was at an event started by a saintly man who never tired of saying the same thing during his pontificate.
“Most of us sinners live our lives in the shallow and spend our lives on the seashore,” said Bishop Barron, speaking about us being too easily amused with insignificant things and staying within our own comfort zones. “But when Christ the Lord steps into your boat and gets in your life, he will bring you to the deep.”
Do not be afraid….He will bring you to the deep.
This whole journey has been a reward in itself. Everything else was just a bonus. Now that I’m going back down to the valley after my mountaintop experience, the real earthly pilgrimage continues.
Written by: Ryan Factura
She comes to school hungry and afraid. He walks the halls alone. Both are noticed by their high school peers, but the latter don’t often know what to do. Some will reach out, some will say a prayer—and thanks to a social justice initiative championed by Calgary’s Catholic high schools, others will mobilize for change.
Organized by the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) and its 12 high school chaplains, the second-annual Social Justice Summit is a day-long event designed to inspire Catholic high schoolers who feel called to action, says Cathy Sandau, summit organizer and a consultant with the district’s Religious Education and Family Life department for grades 7 to 12.
“Our high school students are looking for ways to do Christ’s work in their schools and city and the theme of this year’s summit; We are the Hands and Feet of Christ, reinforces that desire.”
A proponent of the summit, Simoni believes the event helps students develop a greater connection to Christ while nurturing their faith through discipleship and evangelization. After last year’s summit, Simoni worked with students at Grandin to launch a social justice initiative to help economically-vulnerable students afford lunch.
Building on the success of a competition staged at last year’s summit, each of the 13 schools at the 2019 summit has been asked to present a 60-second video pitch to earn a $1,000 grant. The money will help the winning school launch or enhance a social justice program of its own. “It’s really wonderful to see what the students come up with,” says Marilou LeGeyt, outreach ministries coordinator with the Calgary Catholic Diocese.
Last year’s top prize went to Bishop Grandin’s affordable lunch program. “One of my favourite pitches was for a peer-to-peer support program for immigrant students at Father Lacombe High School,” recalls LeGeyt.
This year’s grant, sponsored by the Calgary Catholic Education Fund, is called the Bishop Henry Social Justice Grant and Simoni admits he’s excited to see what issues the students decide to tackle.
While the video competition is likely to be one of the summit’s highlights, Sandau is also excited about student reaction to the rest of the program. Participants will attend three of six breakout sessions led the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, L’Arche Calgary, Inn from the Cold, Mission Mexico and Development & Peace. The sixth session will be hosted by Dwight Farahat, a spoken-word poet and songwriter from Siksika First Nation.
Over the lunch break, students will visit a kind of social justice trade fair to interact with representatives from Providence Care Centre, CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), Calgary Homeless Foundation, Catholic Christian Outreach, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, NET Ministries and Ten Thousand Villages. The Diocesan social justice department will also be represented, as will one of the Diocese’s major social justice initiatives, Feed the Hungry.
“Our goal is to give students a place to talk to each other about what they’re already doing in their schools and community and to learn what others are doing—and how they might get involved,” says Sandau.
“This is the first year I’ve been involved, and I’m really excited to build on the success of the inaugural year,” adds Sandau. “Young people of faith have so much to offer. It makes sense to connect students with the people and organizations who want their help—and to encourage them to develop new initiatives, too.”
Written by: Joy Gregory
“You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy: 2: 1-2).
It is with these words that the Apostle Paul exhorts one of his closest collaborators in undertaking the task of evangelization. In fact, it could be said to have been one of St. Paul’s key strategies: identify the obvious leaders from among the Christian communities he was establishing and invest extra attention and formation in them in order that they could go forth and more effectively preach the Gospel.
A hallmark of the Pontificate of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been his call to go out to the peripheries. This has become a popular anthem but before we charge out to these peripheries, we should ask a few questions first. Questions such as, who are on the peripheries? what are we bringing them? what’s the most effective way to do so? As exciting and adventurous as it may sound to rush out to those margins inspired by the call of the Pope and love for our Lord, we should do so strategically.
Borrowing the strategy of Paul for Timothy is how we hope to do so with what has become a time-honoured tradition in our diocese and province.
Upon my interim appointment to supervise the Office of Youth Ministry, one of the responsibilities I inherited was to work with our One Rock coordinator, Raluca Ungureanu, in organizing this year’s event. After careful review, under the direction of Bishop McGrattan and with the support of his brother Alberta Bishops, we have significantly modified the event which we are now calling: One Rock 2.0
This will be an event exclusively open to young adults ages 18-35 (married or single) contained to one day at St. Michael’s Church, Calgary on Saturday, 29 September 2018. Based upon recurring feedback over the years combined with the absolute need to tighten the expense, we have introduced these modifications.
The exciting approach we will begin using to register attendance is designed to directly impact our parishes. We want this day to be an enriching and formative experience for the young adults in our communities who are already showing signs of leadership- our “Timothys”. As delegates from parishes, the young people who attend One Rock 2.0 will be inspired to return home, empowered to be protagonists in the New Evangelization.
In light of the vision our Bishop has set for intentional outreach to young adults in the diocese, soon to be followed upon by the October 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, now is the time to step up and do all in our power to support the future leaders of our Church. This will require challenging our parishioners to support the next generation, spiritually and materially.
I, along with our dedicated One Rock Steering Committee, have every confidence that this event, though smaller in scope, will be powerful in the intensity of its focus. Not only do we count on your support, but we very much look forward to working together to empower our modern young people to be the up and coming pillars of our parishes and local Church, boldly and strategically reaching into those peripheries with the transformative power of the Gospel.
Who do you know and hope will be at One Rock 2.0? Well, TELL THEM!
By Fr. Cristino Bouvette | Director of Vocations & Interim Director of the Office of Youth Ministry
For more information about One Rock - visit http://onerock.ca
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers