The World Youth Day website lists many ways that young Catholics across the country raise money to attend. They sell free-trade coffee, hold car washes and raffles, host concerts and dinners, stage pigeon races, and sign up sponsors for miles traveled to the global event or pounds lost by the pastor. 

In the Diocese of Marquette, Mich., 55 young people from nearly 10 parishes have been creative, too, in raising funds for their pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, which takes place Aug. 16-21. 

“They held raffles, baked pies and collected soda cans and bottles to get deposit refunds,” said Greg Gostomski, diocesan director of youth ministry. “In my parish, St. Louis the King in Marquette, we simply had a receptacle bucket to collect for the pilgrims.” 

Uniting diocese’s youths 

World Youth Day was founded in 1985 by Pope John Paul II and attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at each gathering.  

In the Diocese of Marquette, a small group from St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Gwinn, Mich., led by Father Ron Timock, sold raffle tickets and cinnamon buns to help pay their way to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia.  

This is the first time for diocesanwide participation, and the pilgrims are experiencing more than the anticipation of foreign travel and being part of global unity. The planned pilgrimage is uniting young people from the rural and widespread diocese who, unlike Catholic youth in more populated areas and in big parishes, don’t have unlimited opportunities to interact with each other. 

The diocese takes up four counties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and spans two time zones and a six-hour drive from one end to the other. There are 65,000 Catholics in the 16,000-square-mile area. 

“We are a mission diocese, and we have 94 parishes and missions,” Gostomski said. “About 40 percent of our parishes have 100 or fewer families. I think that, often in a diocese like ours that’s isolated and small, it’s very easy for young people and adults to sort of feel on their own, as if they are the only ones of their age who are trying to live a life of faith. World Youth Day will give them an opportunity to gather with hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world and will certainly give us a sense of the universality of the Catholic Church.”  

Making sacrifices 

Gostomski will be attending WYD for the first time, and it’s also a first for Bishop Alexander K. Sample and Father Ben Hasse, chaplain of Northern Michigan University Catholic Campus Ministry in Marquette, which is affiliated with St. Michael Parish, where he’s associate pastor.  

The regional workforce focuses on mining, logging, shipping and production of raw materials that drive other industries, so the sluggish economy impacts many families. 

“There were probably a lot of sacrifices made to enable our young people to go,” Gostomski said. “The cost is $2,500 to $3,500, depending on accommodations. Everyone received some assistance from their parishes, and there were benefactors. Everyone is also paying some of their own money as well, and they’ve worked really hard to earn it.” 

Invigorating faith 

Father Hasse’s group sold baked goods and bratwurst sausages with the help of the Altar Society and Knights of Columbus. The pilgrims also baked fruit pies twice to sell after weekend Masses. 

“It was a lot of fun making them and also selling them,” said NMU senior Brittany Wise, 23, from Gladstone, Mich. “It gave us an opportunity to tell people about where we were going, and they were generous to our cause. They really care about the future of the Church.” 

NMU junior Mario Cutino, 21, from Macomb, Mich., was also part of the fundraisers. 

“World Youth Day is going to be a very spiritual experience that will invigorate my faith and verify everything that I believe in,” he said. “It’s one thing to be involved in campus ministry, but it’s another to see youth from all over the world coming together to practice our faith.”  

Father Hasse praised pilgrims and their families for making the commitment more than a year ago and for putting the effort into raising money.  

“There are 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide, a very theoretical number until you go to World Youth Day,” he said. “Then the history of the Church all of a sudden becomes tangible.”  

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.

Unforgettable (sidebar)

“Seeing all the different people who practice and live the message of Jesus Christ will be something I won’t ever forget, and seeing that it’s not all about you. It’s about the communion of saints.”