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World Youth Day (WYD)

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WYD 2011 Madrid


At St. Benedict Parish, preparations are well underway for WYD 2011. Our youth will again participate as part of the international Salesian Youth Movement under the title Don Bosco Youth Canada. This group is 42 members strong: 17 from St. Benedict's, 11 from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Surrey, BC, and 14 from Missione Maria Ausiliatrice in Montreal.


World-wide, the Salesian Youth Movement will bring thousands of young people together to live the experience in the spirit of St. John Bosco.


Check out the promo video for WYD 2011


What is WYD?

WYD is a yearly youth celebration that was started by Pope John Paul II as a way to inspire a new generation to know, trust, and live the teachings of Christ. In 1984 and 1985 he invited the youth of the world to Rome for a Palm Sunday celebration in St. Peter's Square. Later, announcing the institution of WYD on December 20, 1985, the first official WYD was held in 1986. 1987 brought about a historical tradition, when the second event and first international WYD took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The young people, from many countries and nations around the globe, come together showing the universality of, and diversity within, the Catholic Church. It is a time for the youth to share their faith and be rejuvenated to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in their homelands. It is also a way to come to understand other cultures and spread peace and understanding throughout the world. As they wave their countries' and region's flags with pride, the youth unite as one in their walk of faith.

During the week leading up to the final mass at World Youth Day, the youth gather in catechesis to learn the teachings of the faith and celebrate in other festivities. The graces flow and the fruits are abundant because it is truly a pilgrimage in which self-sacrifice is an intricate part. Some save and prepare for years to attend. Others sacrifice by traveling a great distance. All are joyful as they move through the crowds of people, sometimes in uncomfortable conditions, yet by thinking of others through it all.

St. Benedict Parish & WYD

Youth from St. Benedict Parish have been attending WYD since 1991.

Certainly, our richest WYD experience as a parish family dates back to 2002 when we hosted the world to WYD TORONTO! Host families, dinners, the Salesian Youth Rally at Monsignor Persey Johnson Highschool provided memories that are forever etched into our hearts.

Currently, a new group of parish youth are getting organized to attend WYD Madrid in 2011.

Fr. Mike Pace, our pastor, shares these reflections on the last International WYD, held in Sydney, Australia, 2008.

WYD Sydney Australia from July 15 – 20, 2008: Why Its Worth All the Time and Expense.


Our Don Bosco Youth Canada group was 44 people strong, representing Missione Maria Ausiliatrice in Montreal, St. Benedict Parish in Toronto, and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Surrey. Sydney was my sixth WYD experience, so while these most recent thoughts come from “the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit”, as Australia, was once called, they also reflect some consistent themes linked to the “WYD culture” that has shaped the JPII generation.   


To be sure, WYD could be dismissed by some as "catholic sight-seeing", but that would be to miss the genius of Pope John Paul II who re-invented the ancient practice of spiritual pilgrimage for modern youth. I am convinced of the validity of WYD as an important experience of Salesian youth ministry and spirituality. I am convinced it opens the hearts of the young to the “catholicity” of the church, and the importance of the role of unity offered by the successor of St. Peter. As a group leader, and as a Salesian at that, I  am challenged to keep these dimensions ever present in the minds and hearts of the pilgrims I accompany, both in the preparation for WYD and especially – most especially - in the follow up.


The physical journey from home to the WYD destination is an apt metaphor for the spiritual journey that our young people desire to make. As a Salesian, it is a metaphor for the mission we embrace as faith-educators of the young. One line from the homily of Pope Benedict at the closing mass captured this for me personally: One mission, lived fully, is more important that a thousand options never taken.


At WYD, one joins joyful throngs of young people, enjoying the simplicity of laughter shared in good company. One shared their heartfelt and spontaneous participation in prayer, their preparedness to make sacrifices to attend a catechesis and listen to the Pope, their spiritual awakenings and their humble questioning of their faith, their courage to break the silence about fears and doubts that heretofore lay silent in their hearts .



Looking through Salesian lenses, it is obvious that WYD resonates with the same pastoral genius as Don Bosco’s oratory: the power of the “educative environment” to communicate a message even before a word is spoken; the group experience that is for many young people the first - if not the most meaningful - experience of “church”; the International Salesian Rally, now a hallmark of every WYD, as an eye-opening experience of Salesian family as they witness Don Bosco’s charism shared across the planet, filling them with pride and surprise that they belong to something so “big”, that reaches beyond their country, culture or language.


As an ecclesial event, WYD has no parallel. At morning catechesis, young people experience first hand the teaching role of the bishops; they listen to a catechesis offered by a successor of the Apostles, and then enjoy a relaxed and rare opportunity to ask them questions. They eagerly frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. They attend the Eucharist with reverence. Where else can young people experience both the “Magisterium-in-action” and the paternal leadership of the episcopacy in such a personal, unintimidating, youth-friendly way? How easy it is to discuss with the youth  the bishop’s role to teach, guide and sanctify after they’ve had the experience in a positive way! Furthermore, in the light of the Papacy’s charism to attract crowds, linked with Pope Benedict’s more reserved character, it has become increasingly clear to the young pilgrims that we attend WYD not simply to "see" the Pope, but to encounter Christ, to whom the Pope points and around whom the faithful gather in unity for direction and leadership.


Finally, the presence of Mary, is keenly felt at WYD. Again, as a Salesian, it was particularly sweet to invoke Mary as Help of Christians in Australia, where she is invoked as Patron under that title. By now, most people are familiar with the WYD cross; less familiar perhaps is this: with the WYD cross travels an icon of the Blessed Mother. In every language under the sun, Mary is a pilgrim who journeys with us. For many pilgrims, the opportunity to learn the Hail Mary by heart through the daily rosary shared with new-found friends is a precious WYD souvenir that they will carry with them for life.



The theme for WYD Sydney was from Acts 1:8,  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses. In so many ways, this new Pentecsost has begun. At the end of WYD, one pilgrim from Toronto shared her appreciation of the Holy Father’s words at the Prayer Vigil, where he drew on St. Augustine to teach about the Holy Spirit. Because of that talk, she said, “I can now pray to the Holy Spirit as someone I know, as someone I can listen to; before, I knew that I was supposed to believe in the Holy Spirit as the 3rd person of the Trinity, and I mentioned him every time I made the sign of the cross, but now He is much more alive for me. One Montreal pilgrim was touched by the Spirit at Lake Garibaldi outside Vancouver, where the “sheer beauty of the mountain and the lake made  me feel God so close to me, like never before. I had goose bumps and just had to be alone for a while to say thanks”.  Especially for first-time WYD pilgrims, the power of the Holy Spirit was felt in the sheer volume of Catholic young people, together in one place, simply because they are catholic. This was a powerful antidote to the isolation of our post-modern age; in a world that increasingly “privatizes” religion, the Holy Spirit empowered the young to pray in public, and thus to have taken one significant step forward as witnesses to Christ.



The WYD program revolves around the paschal mystery Christ, depicted through the Via Crucis on Friday, the Vigil on Saturday, and the Celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday. This year’s Crucifixion scene was iconic. A crucified Christ hung along Sydney Harbor as the sun set dramatically in the background. Scripture, drama, cinematography converged to speak eloquently about this pivotal event of Salvation History. Between the dying Christ and the Good Thief stretched the Sydney Harbour bridge, suggesting visually the timeless truth that Christ is the bridge between life and death, between a meaningless existence and fullness of life, between heaven and earth. That image alone, etched on the hearts of the young, would have justified the journey to the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit. Blessed as we are by the digital age, we have every possibility to deepen the experience by downloading the teachings and homilies offered at WYD and discussing them, meditating on them, as a way to keep the experience alive on our on-going pilgrimage to the Father.



1991- Czestochowa, Poland You have received a spirit of sonship. Romans 8:15
1993- Denver. USA I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.
Jn 10:10
1995- Manila, Philippines As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.
Jn 20:21
1997- Paris, France Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see.
Jn 1:38-39
2000- Rome, Italy Jubilee - The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jn 1:14
2002-Toronto, Canada You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world.
Mt 5:13-14
2005- Cologne, Germany We have come to worship him.
Mt 2:2
2008- Sydney, Australia You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses
Acts 1, 8
2011- Madrid, Spain Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith
Col 2:7
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