July 25, 2008

The Holy Spirit at work: World Youth Day pilgrims grow in faith in Sydney

Members of the Cathedral High School boys’ state championship golf team are, front row, from left, Mark Welsh and Kevin Bowen, and back row, from left, Tim Bowman, Henry Plager, Ben Smith, Brad Gehl, Jason Seward and Corey Ziedonis. (Submitted photo)

Ninety-one archdiocesan youths, young adults and adult chaperones pose on July 17 at St. Christopher Church in Panania, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. The pilgrims stayed at the parish during World Youth Day and organized catechetical sessions held there. (Photo by Katie Berger)

By Katie Berger (Special to The Criterion)

What is it about an 81-year-old man that captivates youths from around the world, gathers hundreds of thousands of people along the streets upon his arrival and who can bring a crowd of a half million people to complete silence?

The Holy Spirit at work.

Pope Benedict XVI’s almost rock-star status brought hundreds of thousands of people, including 90 pilgrims from the archdiocese, this time all the way to Sydney, Australia, for the 23rd World Youth Day. (Read Katie Berger’s weblog from World Youth Day and view more photos from the pilgrimage)

The event begun by his predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II, aims to gather together the world’s youth on an international level every two to three years.

This year’s theme from the Acts of the Apostles 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses,” led the young people to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Holy Spirit working in their lives and challenged them to take the Spirit into the world. (Download our 1 MB photo spread -- PDF format)

Jessica Chamblee, a young adult from St. Agnes Parish in Nashville and a senior at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, considers the Holy Father to be the most popular person in the world.

“Not everyone knows movie stars,” she said. “But everyone knows who the pope is, no matter if you’re Catholic or not.”

It is in his profound challenges that the pope finds so many young people who love him, said Trina Trusty, a young adult member of St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis who attended World Youth Day for the fourth time.

“Even though he doesn’t get up and entertain us, we’re all seeking the truth and he’s providing it with love,” Trusty said.

Archdiocesan pilgrims, like many from around the world, were able to recognize the ways that the Holy Spirit had led them to this large gathering, and watched as the Spirit guided the days’ activities.

Chamblee said the Holy Spirit was the reason she went on the pilgrimage. Just weeks ago, she was not planning on attending World Youth Day, but three weeks before its start, a person backed out and everything fell into place. She already had a passport and was able to raise all the funds needed within two weeks’ time.

Like Chamblee, Brendon Young, a member of St. Mary Parish in Mitchell and a senior at Mitchell High School, recognized the Holy Spirit’s role in his participation in the pilgrimage. He originally just wanted to see what Australia had to offer, but his focus changed radically as the trip progressed.

“I’ve thought my life through more and I really want to become a saint now,” Brendon said.

The large and enthusiastic crowd of international guests also left their mark on the city of Sydney. The streets of the harbor city were filled with large groups chanting, singing, waving their flags and meeting one another.

During the day, the pilrims navigated through the streets to attend concerts by Catholic musicians such as Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Stan Fortuna, hear speakers such as Christopher West, pray in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at places like the famous Sydney Opera House and receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

“One of the biggest things that struck me is that we all speak different languages, have different colors of skin, but we have the same faith,” Chamblee said.

“Seeing all these kids coming together, you can definitely see the Holy Spirit in it,” said Brendon. “Most of them have changed from when they first got here, especially after the arrival of the pope.”

Many pilrims had opportunities to take time away from the hustle and bustle of life and really listen to God speak to them. For seminarian Jerry Byrd, a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, it brought him peace and more clarity.

“I think the Holy Spirit has affirmed what I’m called to,” Byrd said.

Byrd, along with other seminarians from the archdiocese and the Lafayette Diocese, encouraged other pilgrims to consider the vocation that God is calling them to in their lives.

“I’m very impressed and amazed at the way that this group has embraced the pilgrimage. It all comes down to the fact that the young people are open to the movements of the Holy Spirit,” Byrd said.

When the archdiocesan pilgrims arrived in Sydney, they were given responsibilities during the days of World Youth Day.

World Youth Day leaders asked for volunteers to organize all aspects of the various catechetical sessions.

“We felt like we had enough talent in our group to make that happen,” said Kay Scoville, program coordinator for the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry.

Catechesis plays an important role in each World Youth Day. For three mornings, all registered pilgrims gathered at their assigned site to receive instruction about the Holy Spirit presented by bishops from around the world.

Led by Scoville and the archdiocesan director of youth ministry, Father Jonathan Meyer, the archdiocesan pilgrims worked to give participants the best possible pilgrimage experiences through games, prayer, praise and worship, Mass, and assisting the visiting bishops.

Multiple pilgrims gave their time and talent in music ministry, liturgical ministries and welcoming approximately 800 pilgrims from other groups at St. Christopher Parish in Panania, a western suburb of Sydney.

Archdiocesan pilgrims also learned about sacrifice during the pilgrimage. From the late arrival of their sleeping bags and change in their accommodations to being cold, tired and sleeping outside with 200,000-plus people, they frequently had to adapt and step out of their comfort zones.

“What a blessing it has been to have a group that was so flexible,” Scoville said. “They had faith and trust in what we were doing for them.”

The theme of the last day of the catechetical sessions was about how the Holy Spirit guides all to be missionaries or, as the Acts of the Apostles says, to be “witnesses” for Christ. Many of the pilgrims said that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in their lives as they return to their schools, jobs and communities.

The Holy Spirit: Always at work.

(To read Katie Berger’s weblog from World Youth Day and view more photos from the pilgrimage, log on www.archindy.org/wyd.)

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