Archdiocese of Detroit prepares for World Youth Day

The Michigan Catholic

METRO AREA - They're not making sure they have an extra pair of socks in their suitcase, or their German-to-English translators handy.

That comes later. For now, Detroit-area youths who plan to attend World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, are beginning to prepare themselves spiritually for the experience. And a couple groups in the Archdiocese of Detroit are lending the pilgrims-to-be some guidance with concerts, rallies and retreats.

On March 20 and 21, East Area Youth Ministers, a group of youth ministers from Detroit's east side, are putting on an inspirational concert featuring nationally renown singer and speaker Jesse Manibusan. Then, Trailblazers, a nonprofit group that promotes and organizes participation in World Youth Day, on April 4 will have a retreat at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, themed "The Star: Following Christ." It is one in a series of retreats the Trailblazers have scheduled leading up to the August 11, 2005, event.

The organization also is recruiting pilgrims for a three-day journey in May to the National Shrine and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Euclid, Ohio. Organizers said the activities leading up to World Youth Day serve to inspire worship, fellowship and reflection. And the organizers stress to those who will celebrate World Youth Day, either in Germany or at local celebrations in Detroit, that the most important part of preparation isn't what you place inside your knapsack. It's what you prepare inside your heart. "If a pilgrim only prepares the good things of the body - money, bags, exercise for walking - without paying much attention to the good things of the soul, then, that pilgrim may be in great danger of not experiencing the totality and profundity of the experience," said Deacon Paul Ward, an organizer of Trailblazers.

Deacon Ward is preparing at Sacred Heart Major Seminary for ordination to the priesthood in May. Even Pope John Paul II - who began the tradition of World Youth Day - recently stressed the need for young people to concentrate on Jesus, and not get "suffocated by the noise of the world and the seductions of pleasure."

"Whether we are aware of it or not, God created us because he loves us and so that we would love Him in return," the pope said to young people on March 1 at the Vatican.

Preparations for the World Youth Day pilgrimage apparently can be experiences in themselves, too. Joyce Francois, director for the office of youth ministries of the Archdiocese of Detroit, said Mainbusan will offer concert-goers a taste of what World Youth Day is like.

"Jesse Manibusan does an excellent job of spiritually engaging the young people," Francois said. " Not only does he do it through music, but he does it through telling his stories. He puts it all in perspective." Manibusan has performed at past World Youth Days, which occur every two or three years. "Not only do we want a retreat experience or pilgrimage experience," Francois said. "We want to give them a sampling of what it might be like." Francois said that Manibusan will also help raise awareness for World Youth Day.

The celebration is 18 months away and the office for youth ministries and Trailblazers suspect there are pilgrims out there that have yet to be found. A January Trailblazers retreat, for example, received sparse attendance - though Deacon Ward remains confident that attendance of future Trailblazer retreats will pick up. "We believe that starting small is OK," he said. Also, he stressed, those who minister by promoting World Youth Day should be careful not to get carried away with numbers. "We need to be careful about measuring success or progress in youth work by tallying up lists," he said. "Each youth is a special person, not just a number on a list, and we prefer to measure our success by the growth of love and enthusiasm our pilgrims attain for God, neighbor and the Church by availing themselves of Trailblazers."