Photo: World Youth Day 2008
A new generations of Catholics will seek out their place in the church in Madrid this August at World Youth Day 2011.
The Spanish capital will undergo a rejuvenating transformation in August as the world’s Catholic youth bring to life the theme of World Youth Day 2011, “planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”
World Youth Day not only brings Catholic youth together in one place but speaks a message of church unity to millions across the globe. Started in 1985 by Pope John Paul II, the event has taken place in 10 different countries and continues to gain recognition for its impact on youth.
Attending World Youth Day 2011 was all University of Dayton student Flower Ortega wanted for her 18th birthday. She was devastated when the opportunity almost slipped away after a minor setback in funding, but she is able to attend with the financial help of her parish priest, Father Andrew Curry.
“I really truly believe that I am meant to go,” Ortega said. “It’s funny when you know that something is coming that is going to change your life forever.”Curry and Ortega will take part in an organized World Youth Day pilgrimage with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Along with 100 people from the diocese, they plan to extend their pilgrimage an additional week to visit Lourdes, France and other European cities.
Curry attended World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 and in Toronto, Canada in 2002. As a 13-year-old at the Denver World Youth Day, he realized that his faith can be practiced anywhere in the world.
“I think that it was amazing in Denver as a young teenager to see so many other people who were open to learning more about their faith in Jesus Christ and to see the church on a universal level instead of just at Holy Family Parish, my small basement-of-a-school church on the west side of South Bend, Indiana,” Curry said.
As a 22-year-old at Toronto’s World Youth Day, Curry was contemplating the priesthood. “The experience and a further look into the life and thought of Pope John Paul II gave me zeal and help to pursue the priesthood a year later,” Curry said. “WYD is not a tour but a pilgrimage, an experience of the church on a grand level, where you get a peek at seeing the whole church on its journey.”
Ortega is also discerning religious life and believes that World Youth Day 2011 will help her make a decision.
“I’m not going into it expecting to get all of the answers out of life,” the freshman, who is majoring in psychology and religious studies, said. “It is just building more upon that foundation and being firmly rooted in the faith.”
The week-long Madrid World Youth Day program is scheduled to open August 16 with Mass and will include cultural exhibits, concerts, and plays. Bishops from around the world will lead language specific catechesis sessions for the youth. Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive in the city August 17 and ride through the streets of Madrid in the Popemobile.
“I know I may not get to see him but even at a distance, that is enough for me,” Ortega said. “It is so powerful—that many people united in one city to transform the place, to transform themselves. They are all there for Christ.”
Participants will sleep outside on the last night at the Madrid airfield, Cuatro Vientos. They will wake Sunday, August 21 among thousands of people to a concluding Mass at which the Holy Father will address the youth and send them to spread what they have witnessed.
“No matter what I have envisioned, no matter how amazing I think it will be, it will never come close to how amazing it will actually be,” Ortega said.