The excitement was palpable as pilgrims gathered from across the diocese for a special Mass and World Youth Day informational meeting at Sacred Heart Parish in Warsaw, Indiana on July 22.
One-hundred-and-twenty youth and adults will be led by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of South Bend on a 12-day spiritual pilgrimage through Europe that will culminate in Madrid, Spain, for the five-day World Youth Day event Aug. 16-21 — the 12th event held since 1986.
Mass was celebrated by Bishop Rhoades who was joined at the altar by newly ordained Fathers Terrance and Matt Coonan, Father Drew Curry, Father Paul Bueter and Franciscan Father David Engo, all of whom are scheduled to travel to Spain.
The congregation that gathered had truly begun their pilgrimage of prayer. Warsaw had been hit by severe storms earlier in the day that rendered Sacred Heart Church without power.
Without benefit of air conditioning, lights or audio system, the Mass brought the group back to basics. Fortunately the oppressive heat did not dampen the prayerfulness or joy of these faithful travelers who chuckled as Bishop Rhoades admitted, “This is a good way to start a pilgrimage — with a little hardship.”
Miraculously, the power came on part way through the bishop’s homily, much to everyone’s delight.
During his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the theme of World Youth Day chosen by Pope Benedict XVI from Col. 2:7, “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith,”
“Think about those words — We’re here because we’re rooted in Jesus Christ,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“We all need to be built up in Jesus Christ. All seek to follow, but all can grow in faith and be firm. That’s why we’re going,” Bishop Rhoades said, adding that he hoped that the pilgrims would all be changed when they returned from their spiritual journey.
“You’re going to experience the Church like you never have,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades informed the rapt pilgrims of the historic locations they would be visiting on this trip abroad and spoke briefly of the many saints that enrich the ancient history of Europe, including St. Bernadette of Lourdes, France, St. Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross and St. Therese of Avilla.
Turning to the Gospel, Bishop Rhoades identified Mary Magdelene as one of closest disciples to Jesus, who chose her to be the first to see Him in His glorified body after His resurrection. “Then, she went to tell the Apostles. … Isn’t that our vocation? To have a close relationship with Jesus and bring His message of love to others?” the bishop challenged.
He reminded the congregation that it takes courage to share their faith witness.
“I can’t think of better evangelists than young people like you,” he said.
The bishop offered a special blessing on a collection of pilgrim shells, a tradition of pilgrimage, that will be distributed to the travelers at the beginning of their journey. He prayed, “Bring all to greater holiness,” as he sprinkled the shells with holy water.
The Mass was followed by a light supper in the school gymnasium where the staff of the diocesan offices of Campus and Young Adult Ministry and Youth Ministry and Spiritual Formation kept the plates overflowing with pizza. The cohesive group visited with resounding joy as Bishop Rhoades made his way around the room meeting the families and youth of the diocese.
The meeting officially began with a rousing rendition of an original diocesan World Youth Day song written by Father Drew Curry, pastoral vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, and Deacon Jacob Meyer, and performed by members of the youth group there.
Following logistic details of the trip provided by Cindy Black, director of the Office of Youth Ministry and assistant director, Megan Oberhausen, adult leaders were recognized and paired with young pilgrims who would travel together as groups. The small groups then assembled separately to get to know each other and discuss their preparation plans.
Caitlin Worm of St. Pius X in Granger is a student at the University of Chicago. She is a 2009 convert to the Catholic faith and feels that attending World Youth day will rejuvenate her developing faith.
“I love the universality of the Church,” she said. “It’s great to have the same Mass all over the world. There will be people there from every country. Amazing!”
“The chance to see the Holy Father is an amazing opportunity,” Worm added. “… I want to embrace the brotherhood of all my Catholic brothers and sisters from around the world.”
Lucy Swick of St. Mary Parish in Bristol will be a freshman at Butler University in the fall. She and her two brothers, Nathan and Brendan will be attending World Youth Day.
Though she admits to having no expectations, Swick said, “I’ve never been out of the country. It’ll be intense to be with so many Catholics from all over who share the same beliefs.”
Franky Navarro and brother Jesse both students at Northrop High School in Fort Wayne are on their way to Madrid with the blessing of their mother Blanca, who attended World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.
“It was an amazing experience that I wish everyone could have,” Blanca said of her experience. “I was blessed and I want them (her sons) to be blessed. Money was an issue at first but they worked really hard.”
Friends, family and community members have donated to their diligent fundraising efforts of car wash and chocolate sales.
Franky said of his vision of the trip, “It’ll be a cool experience so you can grow your faith and know your religion.”
Brother Jesse added, “It’ll be cool to have Mass with the Pope and meeting people with the same faith from all over the world.”
St. Therese parishioner Katie Stein, who will attend Indiana University-Purdue University in the fall, said she’s not sure what to expect, but she “hopes to come back changed.”
“It’s an incredible opportunity to go out of the country with a huge gathering of Catholics,” she said.
Stein’s friend, Peter McGovern, also a student at Indiana University-Purdue University, was a toddler when his parents took him to World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. He’s excited to experience this pilgrimage as a young adult and said, “It’ll be amazing to see that faith is not just in your city … but universal … and learn from it, and see the pope.”
McGovern, who attends St. Patrick Parish in Arcola, hopes to “grow closer in his faith and make a lifetime memory” in Madrid.
One of the adult leaders, Patrick Glowaski, parishioner of St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne, is a business man in the city. Like many of the pilgrims interviewed, he holds no expectation for the pilgrimage and said, “I felt like this was a good spiritual journey for me to understand faith a little better and share it with people.”
Best friends, Rose Becker of St. Jude Parish in Fort Wayne, and Morgan Merser of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, will both be seniors at Bishop Luers High School in the fall. The friends became interested in the trip to World Youth Day when Bishop Rhoades spoke of it at their school. After some internet investigation they decided to make the pilgrimage together.
Bishop Rhoades noted that there is “joy in these young people and an excitement.”
He added, “ They’re open and excited about their faith. … I can tell it’s going to be a incredible pilgrimage.”
Cindy Black summed it up for all when she said, “Everyone that is going has been called. … God has called them and has something in store for them.”
Follow the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend World Youth Day travels on the official diocesan blog at www.wydfwsb.blogspot.com.
Printed with permission from Today's Catholic News, newspaper for the Diocese of South Bend, Indiana.