July 9, 2017

Youth gather for local World Youth Day celebration

Story and photos by Kathleen Harrington

Youth gathered for a diocesan World Youth Day, held at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow, Saturday, July 8. Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski (center) celebrated Mass at 4 p.m. for the young pilgrims and their chaperones.

LUDLOW — The sun was shining on the youth of the Diocese of Springfield on Saturday, July 8, as Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Ludlow hosted the area’s first World Youth Day.

Several months in the planning, the theme for the day was “The Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.” The idea for a local gathering of youth was born out of the afterglow of World Youth Day in Poland last summer. Efforts were made to draw volunteers and participants from parishes throughout western Massachusetts.

“We were trying to bring a sense of the community together. The solidarity of young people, that there are other young people who are as interested in their faith as you might be,” said Gina Czerwinski, diocesan director of catechetics and youth formation.

The next international World Youth Day is scheduled for January 2019 in Panama. In the meantime, the next two years provide an opportunity for dioceses and parishes across the country to host their own World Youth Day events stateside. To introduce the youth of the diocese to the World Youth Day experience, a group made up of the pilgrims from last summer’s trip to Poland planned the day’s activities. The agenda included music, prayer, games, and Mass celebrated by Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski. Since rain was in the forecast, organizers kept the schedule flexible and many activities were held inside the parish center.

“We chose Our Lady of Fatima Church because of the 100th anniversary,” said Father Piotr Calik, of the apparitions in Fatima, Portugal in 1917, when the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children. Father Calik, the newly appointed administrator of All Saints Parish in Ware, attended World Youth Day last summer and was one of the organizers of the local event.

Revive Ministry, a group of young singers and musicians from Rhode Island, set the tone for the day with an energetic welcome. Attendance for this first local event fell below expectations, according to Czerwinski. But those who came were joined in the activities by the volunteers from the Poland trip, members of Revive Ministry, and Soul Motive, a music ministry group from St. Mary Parish in Westfield.

After a pizza lunch, the youth broke into several groups. In one room, the challenge was to make a rosary bracelet. Others headed outside for a game of volleyball on the church lawn. Elsewhere on the grounds, priests were available for the sacrament of reconciliation. Among them was newly ordained Father Barrent Pease, who also traveled to Poland last summer for World Youth Day. Inside the shrine to Our Lady of Fatima, there was time to pray during eucharistic Adoration.

“Who did Jesus give the keys of the kingdom to?” asked Melissa Hurst as a Catholic trivia game got underway. Hurst led four teams through a lively test of knowledge. With Hurst playing music on her cellphone, members of Revive Ministry competed to identify songs about Mary. Among the prizes for the winning team were new Bibles.

Mid-afternoon found most of the participants in the chapel for praise and worship music led by Revive Ministry. “Let Mercy rain down on you,” the youth were told. “Open your hearts and minds to the presence of God” was the message as the music began. By the end of the concert, people were on their feet and clapping and singing along with the band.

The day ended with Mass and the music of Soul Motive. In his homily, Bishop Rozanski recalled the experience of World Youth Day in Poland with the group of 70 pilgrims from the Springfield Diocese. They were among a crowd of 3 million Catholics at the Pope’s Mass in Krakow.

“It’s important to share faith with others in the presence of others,” said Bishop Rozanski. “And it’s important to be a witness of our faith to the world.”

Watch for a video version of this story on an upcoming episode of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s weekly TV news magazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. on WWLP-22News.