Monday, September 03, 2007

World Youth Day 2008 and Plainfield

I had hoped to finish this story with additional interviews for the Courier News, but time is running out and I decided to put it up on the blog. St. Mary’s Church is a focal point in the lives of thousands of new Latino residents in Plainfield as well as longtime parishioners, but is not often in the public eye. I was intrigued by what I learned about World Youth Day and the pilgrimage.

In July 2008, a group of young people from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church expects to join Pope Benedict XVI and their peers from all over the world in Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day.

The annual event began in 1984, as a reflection of the special interest of Pope John Paul II had in youth. Since then, gatherings of pilgrims have reached as high as 10 million participants in locations around the world. Click here for a history of the meetings.

To earn the pricey airfare and travel costs, the local group has held car washes and sells dinners after Mass. In addition, parents prepared food for a special Flamenco Night that was held recently.

Father Jorge Ortiz explained the significance of the pilgrimage in a recent interview.

“Our faith is telling us we are all children of God,” he said.

Through baptism, he said, the faithful achieve new life.

But youth are especially important in spreading the Gospel by telling their own life stories, he said.

“Young people are very clever. They are looking for the truth, they are looking for the meaning of life,” he said.

Regardless of anyone’s religious views, the thought of hundreds of thousands of young people coming together in faith is a compelling image.

Another aspect of the movement is a call to vocations, or service to the church.

“There is a need to reconstruct the church,” Father Jorge said, adding there is a need for “a new kind of clergy” that is not looking for money or status, but “to be a servant.”

Father Jorge said the movement to reconstruct the church began with Kiko Arguello.

Arguello, along with Carmen Hernandez and Father Mario Pezzi, began the Neocatechumenal Way in 1964, according to a Wikipedia article that details the movement. See it here.

Father Jorge said at each World Youth Day, Arguello leads a call for vocations, which has resulted in almost 2,000 young people answering the call to a religious life. He said half are doing missionary work in various locations including Estonia, Finland, Puerto Rico and Marseilles, France. The others are serving in parishes in the United States and other places.

Young men and women are enrolled at 57 seminaries around the world as a result of Arguello’s call to take up a religious life, he said.

The work, such as that at St. Mary’s, is supported by the community at large and special benefactors, such as one person who donated a house to the church.

“The owner is the diocese. Nothing belongs to us,” Father Jorge said.

There are five seminarians and two nuns from the parish, he said, whose families are also backing their studies.

The church expects to send from 60 to 100 young people to World Youth Day 2008. A priest will accompany each class. For 10 days before the Pope arrives, the students will spread out and preach the Gospel in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. Arrangements for the trip are now being finalized. Anyone who would like to donate toward the pilgrimage may send checks to St. Mary's R.C. Church, 516 W. Sixth St., Plainfield NJ 07060 with a notation for World Youth Day 2008.


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