Led by Bishop John Noonan, 57 pilgrims from the Diocese of Orlando, most of them young adults, are anticipating what they know will be a life-changing experience – not just for them – but for the world and the generations to follow.
It changed the life of seminarian Dominic Buckley who discovered his calling to the priesthood during World Youth Day 2005 in Germany.
“World Youth Day (WYD) is an intense spiritual pilgrimage that brings you on a direct collision course with God,” explained seminarian Dominic Buckley, who is attending this pilgrimage and assisting with the planning as well. “We’re not going on a tourist trip — we’re going on a pilgrimage to be changed by the living God.”
On August 11, the pilgrims, which includes priests, seminarians, young adults, students, young professionals, couples, parents and staff, will depart from Orlando for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid and will return August 23 — never to be the same.
“The spiritual journey has already begun,” explained Michelle Fischer, diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry. “The pilgrims have shared times of reflection and on July 30 gathered for a full-day retreat of spiritual preparation based on the WYD theme, ‘Planted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.’”
Prayer and the celebration of Mass with their Bishop and priests will highlight stops along the way, beginning at the “Porziuncola”, a church cherished by St Francis and his earliest companions, that is now lodged in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi. While in Rome, Bishop Noonan will celebrate Mass at the altar of San Giuseppe in the Vatican and upon arrival in Madrid on August 15, a bi-lingual Mass will be celebrated in honor of the Feast of the Assumption.
WYD events span August 16 – 21. Highlights include Opening Mass in Madrid’s Cibeles Square presided over by the Archbishop of Madrid. The square will host the welcoming of Pope Benedict XVI on August 18 and on the 19th pilgrims will experience the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) with famous statues brought in especially for the event. On August 20th pilgrims will gather at the aerodrome with the Holy Father for vigil and Eucharistic adoration in preparation for the Final Mass the next morning. Pope Benedict will preside with thousands of bishops and priests concelebrating and he will bless and send forth this generation of disciples into the world.
“We want to provide the best possible setting for God’s spirit to work among us, said Buckley. “This is our desire as the Church of Orlando — to be renewed ourselves and bring about this new Pentecost in the church. WYD is a great opportunity for young people to deepen their faith and see many other people like them in love with God.”
Gayle Zambito has been the director of youth and young adult ministry at Holy Family Parish in Orlando for the past 12 years and leads their Young Adult core team. She will participate with two daughters — Marissa and Emily while her husband and two sons cheer them onward from home.
“My expectation is that I’ll have a mountaintop experience that will infuse the ministry I work in as well as my own spiritual life. And I’m up to wherever the Spirit is leading me,” she said.
And you at home are no longer left out of the WYD experience. A simple visit to the diocesan website: https://www.orlandodiocese.org/en/world-youth-day allows the creation of a personal avatar which can be sent on a virtual journey with the largest gathering of young people in the world. All can experience the pilgrimage, the inspiration and transformation of Church and community.
“I’m looking forward to marveling at the history of our Church and being surrounded by the young adults who are the next generation to take our Church into future centuries,” said Alexis Gonzalez, 18, from Church of the Resurrection Parish in Lakeland. She will return from WYD to enter Florida State University as a college freshman. “I hope this WYD will progress my faith to be stronger and deeper just as I am stepping into young adulthood.”