Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, says living the faith is very challenging in these times, particularly for young people. He has been a catechist in two past editions of WYD and wants for the youth of his diocese to experience the same kind of awe he experienced for the first time in WYD 2000 in Rome.
I am going to WYD because a good number of young people from Sacramento are going to Madrid. Sometimes the pastor leads the flock, and sometimes the flock brings along the pastor. In this case, I am catching up with the flock that is going to be with the Holy Father in Spain.
Living the faith is very challenging in these times. Particularly for young people in California, there is a sense of pervading cultural hostility to any public demonstration of faith. For the young men and women of Sacramento to have an experience of the global Church and to know that they are not alone will be an unforgettable life-changing experience. The other important factor is that the young people who go not only will bring the experience back to their families and parish communities. With the technology of today, particularly the social media networks,all the young people from Sacramento will be providing a virtual experience of Madrid to their families and friends. It's not just postcards but Twitter, Facebook, e-mails, instantaneous photos being sent across the globe, video clips on YouTube —all that will make WYD in Madrid a global phenomenon.
The youth from the United States bring a unique gift to WYD. American culture is both feared and desired all over the world. There are questions about how one's own faith survives the powerful technological and cultural tsunami that is American life. These young people will be a hopeful testimony of faithful and joyful disciples of Jesus who in the midst of an adversarial social environment still possess a faith that thrives on the good news of Jesus.
As for special moments, looking back, I still remember my very first WYD, Rome, Jubilee Year 2000. I had never been to Vatican City prior to that experience. I was with a group of my brother bishops. They took me into the Vatican through the back way. We entered St. Peter's Basilica from the side and then came out the front doors of the Basilica onto St. Peter's Square. I was breathless as I gazed out at the square brimming with young people and overflowing down the Via della Conciliazione. The Bernini columns of the Square reached out and embraced this boisterous and jubilant crowd. I will never forget that.
WYD has impacted my ministry as a bishop. I have had the privilege to be a catechist during two past WYD. Those experiences were a special grace. They made me more conscious of my role as a teacher, especially with young people. Besides the presentations I made, the opportunity to engage the young people in dialogue, the exchange of questions and answers these were a sacramental moment as God's word took hold of all of us as disciples. I am sure in Madrid this will continue. As globalization has a major impact in so many aspects of life, WYD makes globalization personal. The human person, the young person has a chance to experience firsthand a global sense of the Body of Christ and the possibility of an amazing global grace.
+Bishop Jaime Soto
Diocese of Sacramento, California, USA