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It seems like only a few weeks ago that His Holiness, John Paul II announced to the world in 2000 at the 15th World Youth Day, in Rome, that the 17th World Youth Day would be held in Toronto in 2002. I was not able to go to Rome, however having watched it on TV, I decided right then that if it was God's will, I would be in Toronto in 2002.
Sitting here a month after World Youth Day 2002, I thank God for allowing me to share in the event. Seeing us, at times 800,000 strong, showed me that "We are one body, one body in Christ, and we do not stand alone", as the 1993 Denver World Youth Day hymn goes. It gave me hope. The Church is alive and there are definitely youth who are still interested in our Church and all that it stands for.
Truly we must be proud and thankful to God for Pope John Paul II. His Holiness never once, despite his ailments, said he would not be in Toronto. He came and he preached to us. He was strong and he was clear. He seemed energized by his love for us. His love for God is what brought him to Toronto and it was that love which gave him the energy to preach to us and guide us in how we are to live our lives for God.
The presence of Jesus was evident every day of The World Youth Day event. He stood among us and he helped us. He helped us deal with the lack of sleep, he helped us deal with the lack of comfort, he helped us deal with the heat, and most of all he helped us spiritually.
One of the most amazing things for me was standing at the Papal mass, one of 800,000! We all prayed a common prayer, the "Our Father", in our individual languages. We may have been separated by language, but we were united in Faith. Who could doubt that Jesus was with us? After all in Matthew 18:20, Jesus says "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.".
The Prelude to World Youth Day in Toronto was the "Days in the Diocese". How wonderful to have so many pilgrims from other parts of the world sharing our faith, and in some cases, sharing our homes. We learned from them and they learned from us. At the Immaculate Conception parish in Delta we held a "Welcome to the World" event, which was a great opportunity for all the pilgrims from our Church to meet all the pilgrims from the Philippines, who were being hosted by our Church. The sharing, the fellowship, and the socializing were amazing and it gave us a lot to look forward to in Toronto. My only regret is having left early for Toronto, so that I missed the Archbishop's sendoff at the Plaza of Nations. From what I understand it was a great success, with all the pilgrims from our Diocese getting ready for Toronto by spending time with the people from all over the world who were hosted in our Diocese.
I don't think I will ever forget my very first World Youth Day, which hopefully will not my last! If all goes well I hope to be in Cologne in 2005 to be reunited with the friends I made in 2002. This experience has filled me with love for God and hope for the Future. As His Holiness instructed us during his homily at the Papal Mass for World Youth Day 2002, "DO NOT LET HOPE DIE!".
by Sujay L. Nazareth