Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Introducing: Bishops energized for World Youth Day

The countdown to World Youth Day (WYD) Madrid 2011 surely is underway. Nearly 30,000 U.S. young people are scheduled to participate, beating U.S. records of participation outside of Toronto and Denver. Many are starting their pilgrimage in the next few days by visiting some of the famous sanctuaries in Europe (Fatima, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, Barcelona’s newly consecrated Holy Family Church) before they descend on Madrid. Some will be spending time with families and parishes throughout the Spanish landscape to participate in the preparatory “days in the dioceses”, where they no doubt will be showered with the traditional Spanish hospitality, cultural and faith celebrations, and, very likely, with some “jamón serrano,” paella and chorizo, too.

But youth aren’t the only ones excited about attending WYD. We’ve asked the U.S. bishops attending why they are going, what they expect young people get from participating in this festival of faith, and how they see this experience will impact their dioceses. They’ve responded enthusiastically, some of them even sharing anecdotes and experiences from past WYD.

Starting today and leading up to the event itself, U.S. bishops going to Madrid will offer their reflections and expectations about WYD in this blog.

Here is what a newly minted prelate, Bishop Donald F. Hanchon, auxiliary bishop of Detroit, had to share with us:

This will be my first time attending a World Youth Day...and certainly the first international event I attend as a newly-ordained bishop.

I am going to accompany the youth from the Archdiocese of Detroit, to see with their eyes the hope of a worldwide Church, animated by the Holy Spirit. Detroit youth will bring all their hopes and idealism to the event in Madrid. What I sincerely hope is that these days together with their peers from around the world will enable them to return home with a very different view of other people and cultures.

A great deal of the negativism associated with the issue of immigration, in the US, is based on ignorance. Helping these young men and women to hear the stories of others like them in so many ways will, I hope, lead them to question the perception or characterization of strangers to our country as entirely negative. I am also sure, based on my own experience as a teenager experiencing a new culture in the mid-1960's, that they will return home with a deeper appreciation of the incredible blessings and advantages they have received...and perhaps more motivated to share their gifts and be more compassionate with so many others who may be they less materially wealthy, but usually are so full of life and hope. I pray that they will come home willing to live more simply, so that others may simply live.

I look to these young ambassadors from Detroit to show a lively, sincere faith with their peers, and to return home motivated to share their faith and their experiences with other young people unable to travel to Madrid. This will all be possible by their efforts and experiences of forming a deeper friendship with Jesus, and with one another.

I know that all that WYD means began with a simple insight of Blessed John Paul II, who enjoyed his ministry with youth as a young priest. I pray that the priests, bishops and other adults accompanying these young Catholics are inspired by their young ambassadors' faith and idealism, leading them to question the stereotype of self-centered, commercially indulgent and culturally-ignorant young Americans.

The late Blessed John Paul II had this kind of hope for youth, and for the light of the Gospel, lived in all its joy and simplicity. So do I!

+Bishop Donald F. Hanchon
Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan

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