IHMC pilgrims prepare for World Youth Day

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By Kirsten Laskey

World Youth Day is a touching experience for those have participated in the event.

Toni Rogers, a volunteer at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and a participant of World Youth Day when it was held in Denver, remembers young people cheering for the Pope like he was a rock star and a group of cardinals doing the wave in the auditorium stands.

“It’s really, really touching,” Rogers said. “It’s a lot of prayer and sharing with each other about their faith.”

She added, “It really, really made a lasting impact.”

World Youth Day, which is held every three years, will occur in Sydney, Australia, and a new group of pilgrims from the Catholic Church are working to experience this significant impact for themselves.

Eleven of 23 pilgrims are relying on fundraising to pay for the trip. So far, Assistant Youth Minister Cathy Kohlrust said, these pilgrims, who are in high school, have raised a total of $23,000.

“Many of them have fundraised most of their trip costs,” she said.

Money is being raised through graduation balloon bouquets, which are on sale today; admission fees to the Los Alamos Big Band Dance, which will also be held today; and breakfast burrito sales.

Kohlrust said breakfast burritos will be sold after the 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Mass Sunday. Young people will also sell them on Father’s Day, June 15.

“They have worked so hard,” Kohlrust said. In fact, pilgrims have spent two years raising funds for the trip.

The pilgrims will leave July 7 to travel to Auckland, New Zealand, to be involved in Diocese Days. During Diocese Days, young people will spend time with host families, interact with parishioners, complete a service project and celebrate liturgies.

On July 13, they will travel to Sydney. World Youth Day is actually five days long, Kohlrust said.

During the first three days of the event, there will be catechesis sessions in the morning and youth festivals in the afternoons.

Following this will be the Stations of the Cross, which Kohlrust describes as a sort of play. On the final day, the pilgrims will travel to Ranwick Racecourse, where a vigil will be held. In the morning, Pope Benedict XVI will lead a Mass for the 400,000 pilgrims who spent the night at the racecourse.

Kohlrust said the parish participates in World Youth Day because “It gives young people a chance to experience the universality of the church.”

In the past, when young pilgrims returned from the event, Rogers added, their faith grew stronger. They were more involved in the church and youth ministry, they went to Eucharist, said the Rosary, and did things they didn’t do before as a group, she said.

“They were not afraid to talk about their faith or share their faith with other people,” Rogers said.

Kohlrust said Pope John Paul II started World Youth Day. She explained as a young priest, Pope John Paul II was involved in youth ministry and as Pope it was important to him to reach out to young people.

World Youth Day, Kohlrust said, is a way to revitalize the faith in the church through young people.

To learn more about World Youth Day, go to www.wyd2008.org.