(CNS) -- More than 1,300 young adults from across the country gathered at the St.
John Paul II National Shrine in Washington July 22 for World Youth Day Unite,
an event designed to bring together young people to celebrate their faith in
years when the global World Youth Day does not take place.
Rodriguez, who traveled to the event with a group from the Diocese of Camden,
New Jersey, said he felt it was important to go to an event where he could be
surrounded by other young adults and see "it is OK to say you're Catholic and OK
to be proud to be Catholic."
Garcia, a recent college graduate from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, traveled
to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, last year and was excited to attend World
Youth Day Unite as a reunion.
World Youth Day, Garcia said he got to experience "the beauty of the church and
the universality of it" through being united with people of different cultures,
and "people I don't even know, yet we're united in Christ." He hoped the
daylong event would be a continuation of that experience.
event's theme was: "The Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his
Nelson J. Perez, soon to be installed as the bishop of Cleveland, and Bishop
Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, gave keynote addresses about
that people had come from 52 dioceses across the country and also from
different places along life's journey, Bishop Perez said, "we each come from
different places but the Lord finds you and I where we are."
common reason why everyone was there, he added, was because "somewhere back in
the day or recently, you and I had an encounter with Jesus Christ," which is
the center of the Christian faith.
the Christian faith also includes being kind, generous, caring and
compassionate, he noted that people who aren't Christian can also do these things,
and sometimes do them better. Rather, what distinguishes Christians, Bishop
Perez said, is the belief that "(Jesus) moved, He rose from the dead, and He
continues to move in us and through us and about us."
an example of this, Bishop Perez recalled a conversation he had that he felt
went very poorly, but three years later found out it was the closest the other
person had ever felt to God.
never, never underestimate the power of God's Spirit working in you and through
you and despite you ... most of the time unbeknownst to you and me," he said.
Perez also spoke about God's goodness and mercy, and how his love requires a
response of trust and gratitude, like that of Mary. Her trust, Bishop Perez
noted, was not because she had no worry or doubt. Rather, when the angel
Gabriel came to tell her she would give birth to Jesus, she was filled with
fear and doubt, he said.
his address, Sister Gilmary Kay, a Religious Sister of Mercy, who is the
Archdiocese of Washington's delegate for consecrated life, and Julia and
Francis Dezelski, a young married couple, joined Bishop Perez on the stage for
a panel in which they shared great things they said God has done in their
the pilgrims braved an impending thunderstorm to walk to the Basilica of the
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a prayer during the hour of
Mercy, led by the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, and for Mass, celebrated by
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington. He was joined by Bishop Perez, Bishop
Caggiano, Bishop Edward C. Malesic of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Auxiliary Bishop
Mark E. Brennan of Baltimore.
his homily, Cardinal Wuerl told the young adults that they were called to be
the "good seed" planted in the world.
are to be that leaven in the world; that mustard seed that can grow and bloom
into so much more," he said.
purpose of the World Youth Day Unite gathering, he added, was to "focus on the
specific witness that World Youth Day brings to the world" and to invite their
generation "into the ongoing mission of the church."
the Gospel, Cardinal Wuerl noted, the good seed finds itself surrounded by
"many weeds that don't find inspiration from the Gospel," which he likened to
modern day secularism and individualism, which says faith is something that
needs to be kept to yourself. The real threat of such secularism, he said, is
"that we begin to believe it is true."
"all of us are called to offer explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord
who desires, despite our imperfections, that we simply be close to Him," the
cardinal said, adding that the power to do so comes from anointing in the Holy
Spirit at Baptism.
Mass, the young adults gathered for a pilgrimage unity walk, led by Bishop
Brennan, under the patronage of Mary, Undoer of Knots. The pilgrims each
received a ribbon on which they could write a burden of theirs and tie it
around their wrists for the walk. When they arrived at the St. John Paul II
National Shrine, they were asked to untie them and place them in a basket. Then,
they enjoyed dinner and a concert by Tony Melendez.
the evening, Bishop Caggiano gave his keynote address and led the young adults
in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by the music of Audrey
encouraged everyone to reflect on the phrase "God is love," saying, "Life will
give you a thousand reasons to doubt God's love," but in order to be missionary
disciples, they must "say yes to the fact that Jesus is extending his hand to
us in friendship."
this, he posed a question to the young adults: "Are you and I ready to dare to
believe that what you are looking at in the mirror is worth everything to
reflecting on the ways they have experienced God's love, Bishop Caggiano said
the next step is to "go out into the world and let other people know they are