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 CNS Story:

WYD-PREPARE Mar-8-2011 (790 words) With photo. xxxn

Youths raising money, making plans for World Youth Day 2011 in Spain


Cristine del Campo works on the Facebook site of World Youth Day at the headquarters of the international youth gathering in Madrid, Spain, last November. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By John Gleason
Catholic News Service

DENVER (CNS) -- Hundreds of thousands -- even millions -- of young people from across the globe celebrating the Catholic faith: That's what pops into one's mind when you hear "World Youth Day."

Across the United States, youths and young adults are making preparations to attend this year's international gathering Aug. 16-21 in Madrid, and part of the planning is raising money to afford the trip.

In the Denver Archdiocese, Jennifer Judge and other members of her youth group at the Church of the Risen Christ have spent nearly two years getting ready, with a large portion of that time spent raising funds, from setting up a baby-sitting service to helping put together a parish directory to selling pumpkins and wreaths - "anything that would help with the cost," she said.

"In addition to making money, it was a great way to meet people in the parish," said Jennifer, a sophomore in the girls' division at Regis Jesuit High School.

"The cost for our trip is $4,000 per person and everyone has been doing whatever they could to raise the money," the 15-year-old told the Denver Catholic Register, the archdiocesan newspaper.

So far, more than 16,500 youths and young adults from across the United States, representing 380 different groups, have already registered for the World Youth Day. Early bird registration runs through March 31. Registration information is available at www.madrid11.com/en.

At least 60 U.S. bishops will accompany the youths on their pilgrimage to the Spanish capital. Among them will be New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who is president of the U.S. bishops, as Cardinals Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, Francis E. George of Chicago and Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.

World Youth Day was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1985, with the first one held in 1986 in Rome. The international gatherings are generally held every two or three years.

This will be the second time Spain has hosted the event; in 1989 it was in Santiago de Compostela.

The itinerary includes Mass, catecheses, music festivals and an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. The theme is "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith."

Christopher Stefanick, director of the Denver Archdiocese's Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office, said World Youth Day is a momentous experience for young people.

"There is simply no better way to see the universality of the church and the power of Jesus Christ to unite mankind than at a World Youth Day," he said.

Denver hosted the 1993 World Youth Day and this year is sending one of the largest contingents, as is Detroit, Philadelphia and New York. Sizable groups also will be attending from California, Arizona and the Washington area.

Stefanick said he will never forget his experience of meeting people at previous World Youth Days and how despite their differences, all were united in the Catholic faith. At one, he recalled that during one of the events, "in a quarter-mile walk, I stopped and danced to a drum with people from the Congo, and chatted with people from France and Lebanon. All so different -- yet all united in the same fundamental outlook on life that springs from the paschal mystery. They're all my family."

Unlike vacations, which are an escape from life, Stefanick said World Youth Days are pilgrimages aimed at helping pilgrims to live life more intensely and intentionally.

Jennifer Judge and her group will first fly to Italy where they will spend a week visiting sacred sites before continuing on to Spain.

"I know this will be an awesome experience for me and my friends," she said. "But the overall reason I'm going is to find God and grow as a person."

Rose Mary McLeod and her husband, Don, will lead the largest group from the Denver archdiocese to Spain: 145 people.

The McLeods have been responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way in Colorado for the past two decades and have been leading World Youth Day pilgrimages since 1991.

"In our years leading, we've taken about 1,000 people in all," Rose Mary McLeod said. "This year we have people from about 20 parishes. Many of them signed up a year ago and have been working to raise money in their parishes, serving coffee and doughnuts after Mass, holding bake sales and car washes. We've had such great support from all the pastors; they really want their young people to attend."

The Neocatechumenal Way's trip, which costs $2,800 per person, will include a three-day stop in Ireland where the youths will have the chance to evangelize in the streets of Galway, Killarney and Cork. Then it's on to Paris for a brief stopover before taking an overnight train to Madrid.

END


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