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 CNS Story:

WYD-PITTSBURGH Jul-9-2008 (610 words) With photo. xxxn

Pittsburgh young people 'on fire' for World Youth Day in Australia

By John Franko
Catholic News Service

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh could not hide his enthusiasm as he stood before the congregation.

"Is Sydney, Australia, ready for us?" he asked.

The young people roared when he told them that, with more than 600 traveling to World Youth Day in Sydney July 15-20, the Pittsburgh delegation was the largest in the world outside the host archdiocese.

They cheered even louder when he told them how happy he was to be going with them.

"If you thought I'd miss the chance to be with you, forget it," he said at a send-off Mass at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh June 30. "We're going to celebrate together."

According to a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, 15,000 young people from the United States planned to attend World Youth Day, forming the largest pilgrim group outside Australia.

Fifty U.S. bishops, including Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, who is USCCB president, planned to join them.

The event's Australian organizers expected approximately 100,000 young people from their own country and 125,000 international visitors to make the pilgrimage to Sydney.

In Pittsburgh, the sight of so many fellow pilgrims at the send-off Mass inspired the young people.

"I'm just in awe and I'm amazed," said Laura Haggerty, 14, of SS. Peter and Paul in Beaver. "I just feel blessed that I can go."

Mackenzie Masterson, 15, also of SS. Peter and Paul, said it was great to see so many people "on fire."

"There are so many people here, and when we get down there, there are going to be so many more," she told the Pittsburgh Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. "It's going to be a great experience, and I think I'm going to come back a different person."

Bishop Zubik reflected on the first reading of the Mass by telling the young people that nothing can keep them from loving the Lord and nothing can keep the Lord from loving them.

He said that, next to celebrating the Eucharist, the most important thing about World Youth Day would be gathering with Pope Benedict XVI.

The bishop told them that he was inspired by their enthusiasm, and that together they can inspire others in the faith.

Bishop Zubik spoke of the order of sisters founded by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity. The chapel of their motherhouse in Rome is barren, except for an altar and a sign that reads "I thirst."

He noted that it speaks of Jesus' desire to thirst for people who do his work and are willing to sacrifice for others.

By going to World Youth Day, he said, the young people were responding to the Lord's invitation to satisfy his thirst and would get a real idea of what it means to be pilgrims in the faith.

"If you and I can join our hands and open our hearts in our pilgrimage to Australia, responding to Jesus' words "I thirst," then I dare say that it will simply be a snapshot of the ultimate pilgrimage that we make on the way to God's kingdom in heaven," he said.

Mary Ann Schweitzer, youth minister at SS. Peter and Paul, said there was great hope in the sight of so many young people who are strong in their faith, who are alive and living it every day.

She also pointed out that Bishop Zubik's presence would enhance their World Youth Day experience.

"I feel like a kid myself when I see him," she said. "He just lights up the whole room."


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