CCCB and National Associations Forum: World Youth Day challenges the whole Church

Tuesday, May 08 2001

(CCCB – Ottawa) … All the energy and force of Catholics across Canada is needed to organize World Youth Day (WYD) in Toronto in July 2002, expected to draw more than 500,000 youth. “World Youth Day will work only if the whole Church gets involved,” said Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, WYD 2002 national director, at the opening of a recent Ottawa forum of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) with 18 national associations, May 4 and 5.

Those participating in the forum, organized by the CCCB Commission for Relations with Associations of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Laity, included representatives from the Catholic Women’s League, Development and Peace, the Canadian Religious Conference as well as the Scouts of Canada. They were asked to reflect on what is involved in World Youth Day and to indicate their expectations about this extraordinary event that is to culminate with the Pope visiting Canada.

Members of the WYD 2002 National Team (left to right): Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, National Director; Mr. Paul Kilbertus, Director of Communications; Sr. Francine Guilmette, FMA, Associate Director; and Ms. Katherine Rouleau, Director of Diocesan Hospitality

It was quickly evident that the associations are concerned about the future of the Church. Words such as renewal, rejuvenation, revival and transformation were often used throughout the meeting. Noting that previous world youth celebrations have meant new life for the local Church elsewhere, particularly in Argentina and France, Father Rosica pointed out, “The Argentinean bishops say that a national youth ministry was launched in their country because of World Youth Day. In France, the bishops saw World Youth Day as their ultimate opportunity to revitalize the Church there. As a result, after the Paris event, there was an explosion of youth ministry throughout the dioceses.”

Rosalie Gagné and Leah Daly

Two young women involved in youth ministry were specially invited to the forum. Leah Daly and Rosalie Gagné were clear about their feelings of discouragement and hope in the Church. Both also equally insisted they want World Youth Day to open up new forms of opportunity in the Church for young people. “I discovered at the Denver World Youth Day what I had missed and did not have in my parish — a place where I felt comfortable as a young believer, where I could affirm my Catholicism and where I was allowed room to express myself. I have been dreaming for so long for a similar event to take place in Canada. And here it is at our door,” declared Leah Daly, a university student from Ottawa who until recently had been studying in New Brunswick.

Rosalie Gagné, working in youth ministry near Quebec City, said young people need to have a place in the Church. “The Pope said to us in Rome: ‘Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.’ But we need to be trusted in the Church and allowed to live up to its challenges. Instead of asking what the Church can bring to young people,” she insisted, “we must ask what youth can do for the Church?”

Five members from the WYD national team were present at the forum. They emphasized how essential it is for young people themselves to be involved in World Youth Day. According to Father Rosica, the Toronto celebration will be filled with the imagination, enthusiasm and the creativity of the young. “But we must let young people exercise their leadership,” he insisted.

A number of representatives at the forum said their national associations were already in the process of mobilizing their members for the event. At the same time, most of the participants insisted Catholics need to do more than prepare dioceses to receive World Youth Day pilgrims July 18-21, 2002, followed by the central celebrations in Toronto, July 22-28. Even more urgent, they said, is preparing for what comes afterwards. “We must plan for it right away,” said Sister Francine Guilmette, FMA, WYD associate national director. “After World Youth Day, there will be tremendous energy generated among young people and in our communities. We have to be ready for it.”