WYD 2002 ripples continue

By  Valeria French, Youth Speak News
  • May 8, 2009
Since I first started participating in youth-related activities within my parish and diocese, just weeks prior to World Youth Day 2002, I have noticed a couple things. One is that twice as many youth are involved at my parish than when I was first starting. Secondly, everyone seems a little more keen on helping their community or openly sharing their faith with others.

To me this seems like an undeniable effect of having had WYD in Toronto. I’ve also noticed this in other youth groups I have come in contact with across the diocese. Having been involved in my parish since the age of seven and having a good Catholic upbringing, I was always very proud of my faith and would let the world see the wooden cross that is always around my neck.

But not everyone I went to Catholic school with was as proud. It just was not something that was spoken about unless we were in religion class or at church. I believe that because of the mark the late Pope John Paul II left on Toronto in 2002, it has led youth to go out and proclaim their faith more openly and not be shy about it. Instead of standing around and hiding it, people are using their talents and skills to get God’s word out. People still wear the souvenir WYD bags and t-shirts handed out to pilgrims, stories are still being shared and groups are planning pilgrimages to Spain for the next World Youth Day.

Luckily, Toronto has an office that co-ordinates many faith-based events geared to youth: the Office of Catholic Youth. Smaller dioceses do not have the privilege of having such a team working full-time for the youth of their diocese. Because of the OCY and my youth group, I was able to overcome many obstacles that prevented me from sharing my views on everything from religion to controversial political topics, many of which revolved around the fact I was once painfully shy.

Sometimes, within a large diocese such as Toronto, there are so many events to choose from on any given day that I would like to attend but cannot. There are also times when I can attend two or more in a day just because I can.  Yearly events bring many youth groups together from across the diocese, groups that may not run into one another again until the same event the following year since they are so far apart. Meanwhile, through these same events, other groups who are almost neighbours become like one big happy family.

The opportunities within our city are endless. Hopefully the seed that was planted seven years ago will continue to flourish. Having not been able to do any travelling within our beautiful nation outside of Ontario, I have still seen the fruits WYD left behind in Canada by merely taking a look at national youth groups and ministries, such as Youth for Christ and Christian Catholic Outreach, when they stop in Toronto. It goes to show us that we are a very long way from letting the flame die and the spirit here will continue to live on.

(French, 21, studies human resources at Centennial College and theology at the University of Toronto.)

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