It didn’t matter to the throngs of teens who gathered at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines that it was the middle of the night.
To them, that was part of the attraction of World Youth Day Chicago Style II, a celebration timed to coincide with the closing of the international World Youth Day celebration in Madrid.
“It’s really cool to come together with people in spirit all over the world,” said Summer Fields, 17, a member of the youth group at St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish in Matteson. Several members of the parish youth group came to the event, praying in solidarity with three of their peers, who were in Madrid.
The event included concerts, catechetical sessions, opportunities for prayer and Mass, following a schedule that ran from 8:30 p.m. Aug. 20 to 5 a.m. Aug. 21. “Lunch” was served when Mass ended after 1:30 a.m. More than 1,200 people attended, according to Cathy Walz of the archdiocese’s Office for Catechesis and Youth Ministry.
Three young people and two chaperones from Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis Mission, a Lithuanian mission in Lemont, arrived at the event not knowing what to expect. Brigita Gerulskis, 13, said she wanted to come because her older sister traveled to World Youth Day 2008 in Cologne, Germany, and came back talking about how much fun it was.
“This is my world youth day,” she said.
She and her friends, Marja Cuivas and Lukas Razumas, were looking forward to staying up all night, they said.
Bishop Joseph Perry, who was the main celebrant of the Mass at midnight, told the congregation that they indeed were part of the international World Youth Day in Spain.
“You and I were unable to make the trip,” the bishop said. “We are nevertheless joined in solid communion with the pope and with young Christians from all over the world.”
While many of the adult chaperones looked a bit bleary-eyed when Father Jose Maria Garcia- Maldonado wished them a cheerful “Good morning!” at the beginning of his homily, most of the teen attendees and young adult volunteers were still ready to go.
“This is a holy place where thousands of people come every Sunday looking for God,” Garcia- Maldonado said of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Maryville. “But normal pilgrims, they come in the morning when we are ready to welcome them. Tonight is something quite different. You have come in the middle of the night, and some people are probably wondering, what are they looking for?”
But the middle of the night was one of Jesus’ favorite times to pray, and the young people at Mass were like the disciples he invited to pray with him, Garcia- Maldonado said. “All of us are trying to be in the real presence of Jesus Christ.”
Before Mass, the teens crowded into a gym to listen to a variety of musicians and disc jockeys, dancing in place and hitting beach balls toward the ceiling. While some wore clothes with the names of the hottest stores for teens — Abercrombie, Aeropostale and Hollister among them — many wore T-shirts emblazoned with the names of their parishes or youth groups.
One group played off the popularity of the “Twilight” saga, with shirts bearing a mock ballot offering the options of “Team Edward,” “Team Jacob” and “Team Jesus,” with “Team Jesus” marked with a cross.
The group of young people from St. Clare of Montefalco Parish, all in matching shirts, had staked out space near the stage. Marisol Aguilar, one of the group’s leaders, said members wanted to meet more young people who are dedicated to their faith.
Nicholas Gallinaro, 16, from St. Lawrence O’Toole Parish, said his group liked the variety of music — none of which sounded like what most Catholics hear when they go to Sunday Mass, what with lyrics explicitly denying much of what modern culture offers youth (“I don’t need your poison”) and the driving bass.
Elizabeth Wallace, 17, also from St. Lawrence O’Toole, said music is a universal language, especially for young people.
“It kind of ties everyone together,” she said.
She and other members of her group very much wanted to meet like-minded teens from other parishes and other areas of the archdiocese, bonding in person while they united themselves in spiritual solidarity with the million young people who at that moment were coming toward the end of their night-long vigil in Spain.
While the group who attended World Youth Day Chicago Style II did not come from such farflung locations as those in Madrid, all areas of the archdiocese were represented, and groups came from the Dioceses of Rockford, Joliet and Gary, Ind.
The event was rated a success by many participants, despite some minor glitches. Forecasts calling for rain forced organizers to move the event from under the stars to inside Maryville’s two gyms, and better than expected attendance led to a steamy atmosphere at Mass.
A group from St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Niles came prepared, toting pillows and blankets.
Joana Hildalgo, 18, said it was inspiring to see so many young people who wanted to come together for God. Her companions, sisters Althea, 15, Edrienne, 17, and Xenya, 18, Yap, said they would take what they learned back to the parish.
The night’s events included catechetical sessions as well as concerts.
Jesuit Father Michael Sparough, whose ministry includes teaching through performance and storytelling, used the Beatitudes and parables as a starting point, commissioning members of the audience to distribute blessed cards with mustard seeds to show what Jesus meant when he talked about faith as small as a mustard seed being able to move mountains.
“It starts small,” he said. “It starts with you being here tonight. … It starts with you inviting Jesus into your heart.”