March 2003
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World Youth Day 2002: An Amazing Experience
By Adam P., Grade 12, Marystown Central High, Burin, NL

The Pope, the 82 year old leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics, descended the staircase of his airplane marking the beginning of World Youth Day 2002.

World Youth Day(WYD) is a gathering of young Catholics from around world who come together to celebrate their faith and their experiences and to take witness to the Church of God. WYD ended on the 28th of July with a strong message from his Holy Father, "You are to be the saints of the new millennium, go and be not afraid my children". The effects of this gathering will echo throughout the Canadian Catholic Church for much time to come. The effects reported by parishes in Canada and throughout the world are astonishing: large involvement of youth in parish ministries, an increase of vocations to religious life and courage and faith that now remain in the hearts of the 800,000 pilgrims that gathered myself included.

On September the 11th, The Holy Father proclaimed it to be a dark day for mankind in a dark world. Terrorism is not the only struggle that faces the world, the lack of morals and beliefs has been a concern for the Vatican for many years. However, WYD 2002 and the sixteen previous World Youth Days have made an extreme impact upon the lives of many young Catholics. I landed in Toronto with a faith in God, I left Toronto with a faith in God and his Holy Church. Youth ministries have been formed, Arch Diocese have even hired youth ministers for the high demand. The young now have courage to stand up for their faith even within the worst of times, this I have seen with my own eyes.

The streets of Toronto were massively crowded with people, in fact it was one of the largest gathering in Canadian history. It was unbelievable to see the hundreds and even thousands of young priests and sisters that came to this event. The young sisters from all over the world, walked the streets with a sense of comfort in knowing that the Pontiff was in their presence. I had the chance to meet many young priests who give the credit to their vocations to the previous WYD celebrations. Seminarians from all over the globe came and gave speeches to young men on how to develop and to take witness to the calling from God. As his Holy Father lifted the Consecrated Host in the air, he looked onto the 800,000 people and silently proclaimed it for the future Shepard's of the Church.

The many scandals that face the Church today has left a negative impression on the hearts of many Catholic throughout the world. They are left broken hearted, rebellious and questioning our faith. The Holy Father refused to make direct comments on these events as they unfolded, but why? At the closing mass of WYD 2002, the Holy Father said in a strong and loving voice "Do not be discouraged by the faults and failures of certain sons of the Church. The harm caused by certain priests to many young people has filled us all with sadness and shame....In the difficult moments of the history of the Church, the call to holiness becomes more urgent". Perhaps the Pope left his feelings and impressions on these situations unmentioned until the closing mass, so he could comment and address this serious matter to the people of whom it means most, the future of the church and the victims. After these strong messages from the Pope, myself and the pilgrims, left Toronto with courage and a new found respect for the church.

Even though the Church was left with a 38 million dollar deficit, the effects were powerful and outstanding. The next WYD is to be held in Germany in 2005, will the effects be as powerful? "We now have a foundation laid" said many priests at the festivities. It is now up to us as the young Catholics of the world to strengthen themselves in faith and to help mold the living Church of Christ.


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