.- When a group of young adults from the Diocese of Sioux City heads off to Spain for the 2011 World Youth Day, among the diocesan pilgrims will be nine seminarians. According to seminarian Pat Behm, the experience will allow them to grow spiritually.
“Fundamentally, World Youth Day is not a vacation; it is a pilgrimage,” he stressed. “It is a pilgrimage to another part of the world to meet the person of Jesus Christ and the pope, his vicar here on earth. The opportunities for adoration, Mass, confession and catechesis are great and their value is beyond measure.”
He cited other benefits of the pilgrimage such as an opportunity to be connected to the universal church.
“This obviously means being connected and united with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, but it also means being united with the Body of Christ throughout the world,” Behm said. “World Youth Day is a tremendous way to be united with and experience in a radically new way, our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
Another valuable experience, he added, will be in seeing the poor. Even in the midst of an economic crisis the seminarian said the United States remains a wealthy nation by the rest of the world’s standards.
Andrea Jenson, assistant director of youth and young adult ministry who is coordinating the trip, said she is very excited to have the seminarians along on the trip “because they are the future priests. I hope that this pilgrimage will encourage the seminarians in their discernment and strengthen them in their call to the priesthood.”
The Diocese of Sioux City is presently seeking donations to offset the cost of the pilgrimage for the seminarians. At $3,800 per person, the diocese hopes to raise $34,200. If they raise over that amount, it will be set aside for the World Youth Day 2014.
“The seminarians are dedicating their time and service to the Diocese of Sioux City through answering God’s call,” Jenson said. “They have such busy schedules with school, ministry and prayer that they are not able to work during the school year. We are hoping that the diocese will respond generously in support of the seminarians as well as pray for God’s blessing on this pilgrimage.”
Behm, who was born in Fort Dodge and raised in Storm Lake, said that parishioners’ support will help the seminarians grow closer to one another and closer to the Holy Father.
“God-willing, when we become priests, this experience will make us better priests and better able to serve the people of the Diocese of Sioux City,” he said. “If you generously choose to contribute to this effort, it is very possible that you will be helping to support your own future pastor. I would also like to say that the Lord is never outdone in generosity. We see this evidenced over and over again in Scriptures, but it is really true.”
He pointed out that he attended World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto and found that to be one of the most formative experiences in his life and it even contributed to his entering the seminary in 2003.
Father Brad Pelzel, director of vocations, pointed out that he has attended World Youth Days in 2002 and 2008 and found them to be moments of joy and re-commitment to his faith and vocation.
“To be gathered with millions of other Catholics celebrating their faith joyfully and publically is a moment I wish every Catholic could experience, especially priests and seminarians,” he said.
With WYD intended for people aged 18-40, Father Pelzel said the gathering is not meant for the church of tomorrow but rather the church of today.
“To witness the energy, goodness, vitality, commitment and joy of millions of Catholics, young and not so young, actively engaging the world through their faith is to experience the working of the Holy Spirit in truly its most universal, that is “Catholic” manner outside of the sacred Mass itself,” said Father Pelzel, who will be unable to accompany the seminarians due to prior commitments.
Jenson said that having the seminarians in the group will be great for the others on the pilgrimage as they will be able to witness how the young men are living out their call from God. The seminarians will also be able to share their knowledge of the faith.
By the time of the trip, Behm should be ordained a transitional deacon. The seminarian is hopeful that he will be able to not only assist at Mass with the Holy Father but also to preach at a small, private Mass for the diocesan pilgrimage group.
If someone is on the fence about making a donation to this cause, Behm would encourage them to pray about this and discern if this is what Jesus is calling them to do.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Globe, newspaper for the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa.