Local groups preparing for WYD in Madrid

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, July 17, 2011

When an expected more than 1 million pilgrims descend upon Madrid Aug. 16-21 for World Youth Day 2011, about 500 young people from the Archdiocese of Chicago will be among them.

The teens and young adults are traveling with archdiocesan groups, parish groups and on their own, said Maria Perez-Eraci, the Vicariate V youth ministry coordinator who is heading up planning for the archdiocese.

The young people traveling on their own and with parish groups can register with the archdiocesan number, Perez-Eraci said, so that they can attend the same catechetical sessions and other events with fellow pilgrims from the Chicago area.

Among them will be Tom Healy, his two sons and another member of the youth group at Transfiguration Parish in Wauconda. For Healy and his older son, now 21, it will be their third World Youth Day, he said.

They have already attended a couple of catechetical sessions to prepare, Healy said, and they know they are in for long days when they get there.

“The kids who want to do something like this want to be on a pilgrimage,” he said.

The groups that are going are preparing by focusing on this year’s theme, “Planted in the faith and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (Col 2:7), Perez-Eraci said.

This will be the 12th World Youth Day, a weeklong spiritual journey where young pilgrims from all over the world unite to share their faith. The week includes prayer, song, concerts, drama, sharing, liturgy, catechesis and a vigil and closing Mass with the Holy Father. The first World Youth Day was celebrated in Rome in 1984. Since then, the event has been held in Argentina (1987), Spain (1989), Poland (1991), U.S. (1993), Philippines (1995), France (1997), Italy (2000), Canada (2002), Germany (2005) and Australia (2008).

The event is drawing even more pilgrims than originally expected, Perez-Eraci said, something she attributes to a reawakening of faith among people. More than 200,000 had confirmed they would be there, with the largest number — 45,000 — traveling over the Pyrenees from France. The United States is expected to have about 13,000 pilgrims.

“Young people are being drawn back to the church more than ever,” she said.

Those traveling from the Archdiocese of Chicago — and those traveling with them in spirit — are invited to a special Mass of Blessing and Sending Forth July 29 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary Parish, 10 N. Buffalo Grove Road in Buffalo Grove. The Mass will be preceded at 4 p.m. by a concert featuring Jorge Rivera and John Angotti.

Each parish represented will receive a candle to take back to its church, where it will be lit during World Youth Day. Parishioners can then pray for and with pilgrims.

Those planning to participate in World Youth Day Chicago Style II (see related story) are also encouraged to attend the sending Mass.

Participants will receive medals they can wear around their necks or on their clothing. The medals feature the World Youth Day logo on one side and the theme on the other.

Healy said his group will likely leave wherever they sleep early each morning and not return until after midnight. In between, they will attend Mass and catechetical sessions, go to concerts and make a point of visiting the cathedral in Madrid, he said. They will make their way on foot to the airfield that will be the site of the papal vigil and Mass at the end of World Youth Day.

His advice? Besides bringing a pair of good shoes, he suggested bringing Mylar emergency blankets to the vigil — one underneath you and one on top can keep you dry. He also said pilgrims should remember to live in the moment, and not worry too much about getting pictures.

That happened to him in Sydney in 2008, when Pope Benedict passed right in front of his group.

“I was trying so hard to get the picture that I missed seeing him,” Healy said.