Last week, I received a report on the Pentecost Collection, an annual diocesan collection inaugurated this year to help fund the education of our increasing number of seminarians. I was amazed when I learned the results: as of August 8th, the total amount received from our parishes was $247,730.70. That is the largest amount (apart from special appeals for disaster relief) of all our annual collections! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of this very important need. As the Lord is blessing us with an increase in priestly vocations, you are also responding to the Lord’s blessing by your generosity. How blessed I feel to be serving in a diocese where you, the faithful, support so strongly our seminarians and their formation for the priesthood! Your generosity manifests your faith in Christ and the priesthood He instituted to continue His saving mission in the Church.
World Youth Day
As you receive this issue of Today’s Catholic, I will already be in Europe with the young pilgrims of our diocese for World Youth Day. We are beginning our pilgrimage with a couple of days of prayer and reflection in Lourdes. On our pilgrimage, we will remember you, all the faithful of our diocese, in our prayers. At Lourdes, I will pray especially for the sick and the infirm of our diocese, offering Holy Mass at the Grotto of Our Lady.
I have only attended one other World Youth Day. When I was Bishop of Harrisburg, I led the young people of my former diocese to Sydney, Australia, for World Youth Day in 2008. It was a beautiful and unforgettable experience of faith. While still Bishop of Harrisburg, I set the itinerary and began the planning for participation in World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. When I was transferred here, one of my first actions as your new bishop was to ask our youth and young adult ministry offices to organize our participation in WYD 2011. They set upon this task right away. I am deeply grateful to Mary Glowaski, Cindy Black, and Megan Oberhausen for their hard work this past year and a half. We are 120 pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; almost 30,000 from the United States; and over 1 million from around the world.
After our days in Lourdes, we will travel to Loyola, to visit the site of the birth of Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and then spend an overnight in Burgos. We will celebrate Holy Mass in the beautiful Basilica in Burgos on the Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15th. Later that day, we will arrive in Madrid.
In Madrid, we will participate in a full week of World Youth Day activities: catechetical sessions, liturgies, concerts, etc. With bishops and young people from around the world, we will welcome our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, when he arrives in Madrid on Thursday, August 18th. On Friday, all the young people will participate in the Stations of the Cross with the Holy Father. On Saturday, after a Mass with all the pilgrims from the United States, the youth will walk to the site of the overnight vigil. On Saturday evening, the Pope will lead the vigil of prayer. The young people will sleep overnight on the ground at the site (I’m glad we bishops will be transported back to our hotel!). On Sunday morning, August 21st, the Holy Father will celebrate the closing Mass. They expect between 1 and 2 million people at this Mass. We return home on Monday, August 22nd.
I ask that you remember us in your prayers during this pilgrimage. The theme for World Youth Day 2011 comes from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians (2:7): Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith. This expresses the purpose of World Youth Days, begun by Blessed John Paul II: to help our young people to grow in Christ and to be strengthened in their Catholic faith. World Youth Day is really a great festival of faith, a gathering of Catholic youth from around the world to be planted and built up in the Lord.
Pope Benedict wrote the following to young people when he invited them to attend World Youth Day in Madrid: I await each of you with great joy. Jesus Christ wishes to make you firm in faith through the Church. The decision to believe in Jesus Christ and to follow him is not an easy one. It is hindered by our personal failures and by the many voices that point us towards easier paths. Do not be discouraged. Rather, look for the support of the Christian community, the support of the Church! … The Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God.
I pray that World Youth Day in Madrid will be a grace for our diocese. I invite you to participate spiritually through your prayers. You can watch some of the World Youth Day activities and liturgies on EWTN, on TV or via internet. You can also follow our diocesan group’s pilgrimage on our diocesan website and the daily blog where there will be posted photos of our group and commentary about our experiences (www.wydfwsb.blogspot.com).
May God bless you! May our Blessed Mother intercede for us that we may grow in faith and love! Blessed John Paul II, founder of World Youth Day, pray for us!
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