A different kind of WYD pilgrimage

  • February 21, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - World Youth Day will start sooner for newlyweds David and Gillian Kantor than for most people.

They left their home in Oakville Jan. 14 and took a leave of absence from their jobs to be long-term volunteers in Australia for WYD 2008.

“We didn’t want to just go as a pilgrim, we wanted to give back because of what we’d received at World Youth Day,” said Gillian, a producer at Salt + Light Television in Toronto. 

She had volunteered in the head office for WYD 2002 in Toronto and David had volunteered with a hosting committee for pilgrims.  

“World Youth Day 2002 played a big role in both of our lives, in our spiritual journeys,” said David, explaining that while they’d served separately, now they wanted to serve together. 

The idea to volunteer came during a bus ride to the Vatican just after they attended WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. At the time they weren’t married or engaged.

“Let’s go to Australia,” said Gillian. “We knew we would be married, so knowing that, we also took seriously this random idea.”

Starting in March David will volunteer with the waste management department, putting his skills as an environmental engineer with the Oakville-based O’Connor Associates to use. Gillian will recruit and train volunteers, a similar job that she held during WYD in Toronto. 

“It will be very busy, we are not kidding ourselves, it will be tough work,” said David.

But “being on staff, it’s no less of an experience,” said Gillian. 

She remembers WYD CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., explaining that the preparation for WYD is just as much a part of the experience as the actual week.

“That’s World Youth Day, that’s what we want to participate in and experience,” said Gillian.

The World Youth Day organizing committee recruits volunteers 18 and older for short-term service during the actual week of festivities, July 14-20, while long-term volunteers are expected to commit between three and 12 months. Long-term volunteers receive skills training, pastoral and spiritual guidance, accommodation and meals.

“If you offer of yourself you will be taken care of. If you take that step toward God, He will guide you,” said Gillian. 

“It’s been a constant lesson in trust, roadblocks have turned up, but we’ve worked through them,” said David. “Time and time again we just need to keep our eyes on Him.”

This trip, however, is not all work and no play. The couple plan to work hard and travel hard, said David.

“As the idea grew we thought this could be a chance to see a bit of the world at the same time.”

In order to spiritually prepare for their volunteer time, the couple plans to visit Lourdes, France, where 150 years ago Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous. They also plan to spend a month walking the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, also known in English as The Way of St. James, a collection of old pilgrimage routes which cover much of Europe.

Married just over a year, the couple considers their travel and service experience a form of marriage enrichment.

“It’s going to be cold and wet on the Camino and travelling you go through rough spots. It’s all about getting through those together and to experience all the joys as well together,” said David.

The couple will record their travels on a blog at http://gilliandavid.blogspot.com.

For information on how to volunteer in Australia for World Youth Day 2008 visit www.wyd2008.org.

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