Alaskans getting a jump on World Youth Day 2013

Would-be pilgrims urged to prep early

Christ the Redeemer statue is seen atop Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro Feb. 7. World Youth Day will be held in Rio July 23-28, 2013. — CNS photo
CatholicAnchor.org

Alaska preparations have already begun for the next international World Youth Day, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2013.

Themed “Go and make disciples of all nations” this will be the first WYD in South America since the first international gathering in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987.

Bob McMorrow, youth director at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Anchorage, will lead Alaskans of the upcoming pilgrimage. This will be McMorrow’s ninth WYD. He is especially excited about this one because of the rich Catholic culture in South America.

“I think this will be very large,” McMorrow said, speculating that proximity will bring many South American Catholics to Brazil. “This is an incredible Catholic experience that I have never seen duplicated anywhere else,” he said of the WYD gatherings.

Roughly 50 Alaskans have registered to make the pilgrimage to Brazil next year and McMorrow encourages anyone interested in attending to fill out a registration form and start preparing now.

While the target age range is 16 to 35, McMorrow says many people make it a family pilgrimage. He has had youth much younger than 16 attend with their parents and even a few grandparents have tagged along over the years.

Fundraising for the pilgrimage occurs at the parish level. Some parishes raise funds for all travel and expenses; others fundraise less and expect pilgrims to come up with the remaining cost.

A total of 157 Alaskans made the pilgrimage to Madrid last year with many signing up about a year in advance. As McMorrow pointed out, the sooner pilgrims sign up the sooner fundraising can begin.

Besides financial preparations, there are also educational and spiritual preparations. Educationally, McMorrow suggests reading the WYD guidebook he and his wife, Karen McMorrow, wrote “A Pilgrims Guide to World Youth Day,” available via Amazon, both in print and as a Kindle eBook. He also stresses the importance of checking out what the pope has to say to youth on the Vatican website.

Classic Catholic spiritual practices are vital to a fruitful pilgrimage, McMorrow said. He stressed the importance of prayer as well as reading the Scriptures and the writings of the saints.

“I’ve found the more people prepare for a pilgrimage, the more they will get out of it,” McMorrow observed.

Pope John Paul II started the WYD events so that “the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people.”

The pilgrimage is a chance to celebrate the Catholic faith with roughly a million young people. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate Mass and hear from the pope, while learning from bishops from all over the world.

On a March trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013 preparations, a top Vatican official said the conversion of young people is essential for evangelizing formerly Christian societies.

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told Catholic News Agency that he hopes the Rio World Youth Day will be “one more important step” in the church’s mission to bring young people closer to Christ.

He noted that over the last 25 years, World Youth Day has “proved to be an instrument of evangelization of extraordinary power. I’m sure that Rio will give a strong confirmation of this fact.”

The cardinal was in Brazil to meet with World Youth Day organizers.

“We are going back to Rome with a great certainty: World Youth Day in Rio will be an incredibly important event for the young people from the whole world,” he said.

On the effect that the global event will have on young people, he said that every World Youth Day is “a laboratory of faith of global proportions during which this important dialogue – the sharing or exchange of different ways of living the faith today – takes place.”

McMorrow is planning a possible scouting trip to Rio de Janeiro this spring. As WYD comes closer specifics on the day-to-day activities of the pilgrimage will be made available. Registration packets are available for Alaska pilgrims at most parishes, or by emailingrmcmorrow2@aol.com.