Catholic Youth Rally participants take part in a candlelight Stations of the Cross.

OCY re-enacts WYD experience in Midland

  • August 24, 2011

MIDLAND, Ont. - Madrid wasn’t the only place where Catholic youth were gathered in force on a rainy, hot August weekend.

At Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., another group of young Catholics made its own pilgrimage. And while it didn’t boast World Youth Day’s attendance of nearly a million and a half pilgrims, the Office of Catholic (OCY) Rally was still alive with the faith of the young. The annual rally, which ran from Aug. 19-21 this year, brought together about 600 Catholic youth ages 14-35 for a high-energy weekend of prayer, music, celebration and fun.

“It gives them a chance to feel like they’re connected to the universal Church,” said John Dawson, program co-ordinator and music director of the OCY. “Young people all over the world are celebrating at the same time.”

In fact, as pilgrims in Spain were walking the Stations of the Cross on the evening of Aug. 19, so were the young people in Midland — separated only by the six-hour time difference. Masses were celebrated at the same time of day, by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid and Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins in Midland. The two events also shared the same theme, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” The rally truly had WYD pegged down to a tee, even right down to the thunderstorms on the Saturday. But the Midland pilgrims — like those in Spain — didn’t let harsh weather dampen their spirits.

All these similarities have good grounding, as the OCY rally is modelled after WYD. Though the event first ran in the early 1990s at the Markham Fairgrounds under then OCY director Fr. Norm Roberts, it took on a whole new life in 2002 when WYD came to Toronto. While the rally has moved locations and grown considerably, it is still the peak of the OCY year. The weekend includes catechesis, reconciliation, eucharistic adoration and a variety of games and activities. Participants were also free to participate in an OCY version of The Amazing Race, the inaugural OCY Summer Games or head over to historic Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons during free time.

{iframe width="100%" height="125px"}{/iframe}This year’s rally also included a self-directed retreat for young people and youth ministers in attendance. In only its second year, the retreat was offered to participants older than 25 and allowed them to take hold of their faith in a way they wouldn’t have even imagined when they were teenagers, said Dawson.

“It’s just a chance for young adults to engage in our program and to also have a one-on-one experience,” he said.

That experience was led by Martyrs’ Shrine director Fr. Bernie Carroll, S.J. While the youth attended catechesis, participants in the young adult retreat got a chance to listen to Carroll and share their thoughts about prayer. Throughout the weekend, they were also encouraged to take time for themselves and reflect on the topics that arose within the young adult setting.

“They wanted to take time to grow in their commitment, to grow in their relationship with Christ,” said Carroll, adding that the schedule of the young adult retreat was open to however the particular participant wanted to approach it.

As Carroll pointed out, while WYD and the rally ended on Sunday evening, growing in the faith doesn’t stop when the pilgrimage does.

“You don’t do this in a half an hour,” he said. “It’s a lifelong thing.”

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