Pilgrims take part in the Office of Catholic Youth’s annual Palm Sunday celebration in Toronto March 31, carrying the WYD cross through downtown streets. Photo by Bill Wittman

Taking Palm Sunday to downtown streets

By  Jed de los Reyes, Youth Speak News
  • April 3, 2012

TORONTO - A spirit of joy always has to be deep in our hearts, Cardinal Thomas Collins said during this year’s World Youth Day Palm Sunday celebration in Toronto on March 31.

Organized by the Office of Catholic Youth, the event drew about 400 youth from across the archdiocese for a night of prayer, reflection and public displays of faith as they carried the World Youth Day cross from St. Paul’s Basilica to St. Michael’s Cathedral in downtown Toronto.

“St. Paul found that deep joy,” Collins, the archbishop of Toronto, said during his catechesis session, pointing up at the ceiling of the basilica, which boasted elaborate paintings of St. Paul’s conversion. 

“Sometimes, the most profound joy comes when we enter into a deep understanding.” 

The youth demonstrated strong faith and enthusiasm early on as worship songs resonated throughout St. Paul’s Basilica, people clapped in the aisles and OCY volunteers threw prizes to the audience. 

“When everything kicked off with the music there was a lot of high energy that filled the basilica,” said Carlyn Sigueiredo, a 21-year- old OCY volunteer from Scarborough’s St. Lawrence Martyr parish.

“It’s our job to make youth feel engaged and welcomed, but we didn’t have to do a lot of that because everyone was already excited.”

After the crowd settled down, Collins talked about the problems facing youth today with media and technology. He suggested disconnecting from the world and taking life slowly and silently.

“If you’re too busy for prayer, you’re too busy,” said Collins.

Afterwards, OCY volunteers handed out palms and commenced the journey on foot from the basilica to St. Michael’s Cathedral. Police cars flanked the streets, passersby watched and songs were sung as the youth carried the cross and made their faith clear.

“It was pretty powerful to see that many youth coming together to show their faith,” said Rose Anne McAvoy, a 25-year-old leader from the Aurora’s Our Lady of Grace youth group. “It’s not always easy to stand up for what you believe in and to do it in such a public way. Some of our youth were asked to help carry the cross down Queen Street. It was a pretty amazing moment for them.” 

At the cathedral, they celebrated the Lord’s Passion and listened to Collins’ homily on how it is important to understand God and His love.

Miri Romero Alvarez, youth ministry co-ordinator at Mississauga’s Merciful Redeemer parish, said it was great to see the large numbers in attendance.

“There was a deep feeling of unity. The amount of people participating in this Mass was a beautiful example of faith and community.”

Andrea Reodica, a 19-year-old member of Couples for Christ Youth and a yearly attendee, was among the 400 youth who returned home satisfied.

“It was a blessed experience,” she said.

“It reminds you about how Catholic youth should live their lives. It always brings new experiences to the table and we always learn something new.”

(Jed de los Reyes, 18, is a French Studies student at York University in Toronto.)

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