Elderly Catholic men’s group, preparing half a million crosses for World Youth Day

Sydney, Australia, Mar 2, 2007 / 12:21 pm (CNA) .- World Youth Day has given a sense of hope and purpose to a community of senior men.

The patrons of the Men's Shed at the Mary MacKillop Outreach in Lewisham, a wood-working workshop for men, are making 500,000 mini-crosses for the lead-up to the international Catholic youth pilgrimage in 2008.

The mini-crosses will be distributed during the cross-country tour of the WYD Cross, which begins in July.

Cora Velasquez, who works alongside her husband, Sim, told The Sydney Morning Herald that each cross is a prayer. Sim Velasquez used to be a financial controller. A stroke two years ago left him unable to speak and with almost no use of his left arm.

Since starting on the project, Cora said, her husband has regained some control of his left hand, has become more alert and responsive, and feels valued again— an answer to her prayers, says Cora. The project has also strengthened their faith. The couple visits the St. Mary's Cathedral every day before heading home.

Martin James, who also suffered a stroke, glued together the first cross, which will be given to Pope Benedict XVI.

Organizers could have opted for a cheaper way of making these crosses, “but this is not what World Youth Day is all about," said Alice Priest, the co-ordinator of the WYD Cross in Australia. "The whole process is … a powerful witness to what the cross stands for: the cross is about transformation and resurrection,” she told the Herald.