This post was originally written on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of WYD2002.
As I remember the great event of World Youth Day 2002 and allow it to take on its true dimensions, one image fills my mind: the ferocious wind and violent storm that rocked Downsview Park on Sunday morning, July 28, 2002. It was for me and for many the wind of Pentecost that we read about in the New Testament.
And yet, in the midst of the howling storm, the nations of the earth—at least 172 of them huddled together in that field—understood one another as they gathered around the successor of Peter on that July morning five years ago. I believe that the Canadian Church was reborn that day on the shores of Lake Ontario.
We have felt the effects of WYD 2002 throughout our country over the past five years—from the dynamic Youth Ministry Program in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, to the powerful scriptural reflection evenings with the young people of Edmonton. The Cathedral of Kingston came alive with catechesis sessions for young people. Youth ministry programs in St. Catharines, London, Toronto, Cornwall have been revitalized. We have given thanks for the renewed energies among the young people of the Archdiocese of Montreal. In Atlantic Canada there has been a veritable explosion of youth activities in Halifax. WYD inspired the birth of the John Paul II Media Centre in Halifax, a creative media project led by young people. In Quebec City, birthplace of the Church in North America, the seeds and life of WYD 2002 have empowered young people and the Quebec Church to prepare for the Eucharistic Congress in June 2008.
The energy of WYD 2002 has swept across Canada through powerful, gospel-rooted movements like Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), now present on many university campuses across the country. NET ministries (National Evangelization Teams) continue to flourish with the WYD spirit. Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Television Network, one of the most visible fruits of the graced events of 2002, was born on the wings of WYD. And the story continues to spread each day in so many places of our vast land.
During the Angelus prayer at Downsview Park on that Sunday in July, Pope John Paul II summed up beautifully the sentiments of millions of people who were touched in some way by WYD 2002: “As we prepare to return home, I say, in the words of Saint Augustine, ‘We have been happy together in the light we have shared. We have really enjoyed being together. We have really rejoiced. But as we leave one another, let us not leave him.’ ”
Let us ask the Servant of God Pope John Paul II to pray for us and intercede for us, and especially for the young people who found in him a father, a grandfather, a teacher and a demanding friend who loved them. May these same young people find in the Canadian Church a rock, a shelter, a harbour, a home and a possible lifetime of service in the Church today—a Church that is “alive and young,” as Pope Benedict said at the inauguration of his Petrine ministry in 2005.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
National Director and CEO, WYD 2002