The Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupré is one of the many sites that GTA Catholics will be visiting on their first annual pilgrimage this Canada Day weekend. Register file photo

Youth visit famous churches for Canada Day pilgrimage

By  Augustine Ng, Youth Speak News
  • June 26, 2015

TORONTO - GTA Catholic Events will embark on its first pilgrimage together this Canada Day long weekend to experience the spiritual sites of Quebec.

From June 27 to July 1, the group will be visiting numerous sites in Montreal and Quebec City before ending up in the nation’s capital for Canada Day. Holy sites will include Notre-Dame Basilica and St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec, Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupré and the Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in the Quebec City area.

Danielle Gonsalves, founder of GTA Catholic Events, hopes the trip will be a spiritual adventure for the group.

“The theme for this pilgrimage is that ‘Jesus is real,’ ” she said. “We feel that this is the opportunity for people to be really able to find comfort and excitement in a spiritual adventure. Let’s experience it, not just visit it.”

Gonsalves said the idea for this pilgrimage came from her experience in Rome for World Youth Day in 2000.

“It was such a wild experience to be setting foot on all of this ground that has so much history and it was such a privilege to be able to do that,” she said.

With this trip Gonsalves is trying to rekindle that excitement on home soil by showing participants what it is to encounter God.

“Pilgrimage is to go away from everything that is happening in your life,” she said. “Many times it’s so busy in your life that it’s challenging to focus on your spirituality. To go away is a perfect way to do that.”

Gonsalves started GTA Catholic Events in the summer of 2013 to combine her faith with her passion for fundraising and event management.

“The idea is to create events that will bring about this sense of connectedness to each other and to God,” she said. “Our mission is to create events that make people fully alive. When we’re part of something that makes us feel that way, then we’re glorifying God.”

The group acts as an event hub for young Catholics. It uses the web site Meetup.com, an online community that focuses on local engagements, to arrange different events and get-togethers.

“We’ve done about 65 events since then,” Gonsalves said. “There’s food, there’s fellowship but there’s also prayer and being there together as a support for each other spiritually.”

The group tries to design events that are not on the event circuit, things that people wouldn’t normally do, like virtually praying together. Other events include adoration, Mass, potlucks, barbecues and small get-togethers.

The group is mainly focused on young adults from 21 and up.

“People are coming from different places,” Gonsalves said. “Some people have a Catholic affiliation and some people who aren’t even Catholic, who aren’t even Christian, are coming curious to find out what kind of things we’re doing and to participate.”

Gonsalves also likes to promote other events that are happening organized by other groups.

(Ng, 18, is a first-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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