Fr. Thomas Rosica pictured at World Youth Day in 2002 where he acted as the national director and CEO of the event. Photo by Michael Swan

Fr. Thomas Rosica - The Good News of July 2002 still fulfilled today

By  Fr. Thomas Rosica, Catholic Register Special
  • July 20, 2012

World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto was not a show, a rave party, a protest or photo opportunity. It was an invitation and a proposal for something new. Against a global background of terror and fear, economic collapse in many countries and ecclesial scandals, World Youth Day 2002 presented a bold, alternative vision of compelling beauty, hope and joy.

We may choose to speak of our World Youth Days as something in the past — that brightened the shadows and monotony of our lives at one shining moment in history in 2002. Some may wish to call those golden days of July 2002 “Camelot” moments. That is one way to consider the WYD — fading memories of an extraordinary moment in Canadian  history.

There is, however, another way: the Gospel way.  The Gospel story is not about “Camelot” but about “Magnificat,” constantly inviting Christians to take up Mary’s hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the ways that Almighty God breaks through human history here and now. This way is not only nourished by memories, however good and beautiful they may be.  The resurrection of Jesus is not a memory of a distant, past event, but it is Good News that continues to be fulfilled today — here and now.  The Christian story is neither folklore nor nostalgia — a trip down triumphal Church lane. 

As we continue to bask in the glorious light of the summer of 2002 in Canada, we must be honest and admit that World Youth Days offer no panacea or quick fix to the problems and challenges of our times, or the challenges facing the Church today as we reach out to younger generations. Instead, World Youth Days offer a new framework and new lenses through which we look at the Church and the world, and build our common future. One thing is clear: no one could go away from Toronto 2002 thinking that it is possible to compartmentalize the faith or reduce it to a few rules and regulations and Sunday observances.

In Canada after World Youth Day 2002, we realized that we have much work to do in reaching out to young adults across our vast territory. July 2002 was not an end or accomplishment of some fete; it was rather the beginning of a new adventure of faith and hope for the entire Canadian Church. Youth and young adult ministry will never be the same and should never be the same after World Youth Day has visited a country.

World Youth Day 2002 and the visit of Pope John Paul II brought Toronto not gold, silver and bronze medals, but something even greater: it gave Canada its soul. Through those blessed days, we experienced once again the fulfillment of the Second Vatican Council’s desires: together we were witnesses to the Council’s hopes and dreams for the Church and for humanity, when every nation, every tribe, came together to worship the Lord. 

In July 2002, we heard once again the summons to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We received the power from on high to be a light unto the world (Acts 1:8).

Let us pray together that the Generations of John Paul II and Benedict XVI will truly become the Spirit’s joyful witnesses to the ends of the Earth… that they may truly become Catholic, universal, open to the world.

(Rosica is the former national director and CEO of World Youth Day 2002. He is currently CEO of Salt+Light Catholic Media Foundation in Toronto. This is an edited version of a reflection he wrote on the 10th anniversary of WYD Toronto.)

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