Fruits of World Youth Day
April 12, 2011 2 Comments
Regularly I hear people bemoan the fact that after spending money sending young people to World Youth Day, on their return they never see them again, that they never sign-up to read at Mass or join in as an Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and more often, never start a Youth Group.
What exactly then are the fruits of WYD? What should we expect from young people who return? Three years on, what do we have to show for WYD Sydney?
As Pastors, parish leaders or members of a Pastoral Council we need to be aware of sending our young people to WYD with an expectation. Yes it is fair to ask them to make a report on their return, even to speak at masses, but we should not be sending our young people expecting on their return that they will join every group, read at every mass or sing in every choir. World Youth Day is a spiritual encounter with Christ, and the fruits of WYD come in many and varied forms, and not every young person that returns from WYD is going to be ready to commit to reading, singing or establishing a Youth Ministry.
The life of young people is by its very nature one of change, flux and movement. School, Part-time work, new relationships, university. It is beyond reasonable to expect that just because a young person has attended WYD that they will be able to return and commit to ongoing parish ministry immediately. Young people, especially those who return from WYD need to be encouraged to establish firm foundations for their faith in their daily lives, in their studies, work and relationships rather than feeling pressured to ‘perform’ at mass each weekend.
I went to dinner on Sunday night with a group of friends. These six young Catholics were the key leaders of the World Youth Day Group I worked with in the lead up to WYD08, and were the driving force behind a group of 35 pilgrims attending from their Parish. As happens with young people in the WYD age range, three years on and this group have all moved on, none of them live in the same parish anymore, none of them have any contact with the Parish, and none are actively involved in Youth Ministry. Many would ask then, what was the fruit of their WYD experience.
This small group gathers once every two months or so for dinner. The group of six is now actually a seven as one of the couples has a beautiful baby girl, and in the coming weeks it will be an eight as another couple is expecting. These young Catholics, who had never spoken to each other before WYD now consider each other the closest of friends. Each was present at each others wedding, at the Baptism of the first Child, at my ordination for what it counts, and at family funerals. The friendships these Pilgrims made, through their preparations and ultimately through their experience in Sydney are friendships that will last them a lifetime. Like the first Christians, these pilgrims have returned home from their encounter with Christ (at WYD) and now look to each other for support, guidance and formation in faith. As young Christians, they come together to share their daily experiences of married life, encouraging each other, sharing in each others joys and sorrows and supporting each other as they all strive to live their lives aware of the call Christ has for each one of them. This support and encouragment takes a new form now as for the first time they are becoming Christian parents, with all this entails. This is the fruit of WYD.
The fruits of World Youth Day are not to be found in the boosting of rosters or the development of new and amazing Youth Ministries. The fruits of WYD can be found in the effect it has had on the individual lives of those who attend, the friendships formed and the ongoing daily practise of the faith in the lives of each individual pilgrim.
As we prepare to send another 100+ Pilgrims to World Youth Day in Madrid, let us be cautious on their return, that we do not expect to much from them. Let us not restrict the working of the Holy Spirit to the tangible ‘man hours’ of our daily parish life. Let us allow the Spirit to work in the lives of these individual in the way he sees fit.