World Youth Day

International World Youth Day was conceived by Pope John Paul II after two invitations to young Catholics around the world went out, to join him in Rome, in 1984 and 1985.  Seeing the interest, the young members of the Church had for these gatherings; and the magnetic presence of the Pontiff, he instituted the annual gathering as World Youth Day, in December 1985.   Pope John Paul II decreed to the hierarchy that year: “The whole Church, including the Successor of Peter, must be more committed to youth and young adults”; listening to their anxieties and concerns, appreciating their openness and expectations.  Since that declaration, World Youth Day has been celebrated in every Palm Sunday liturgy in Rome; and in many dioceses around the world that particular Sunday or the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year.  On the Feast of Christ the King, special significance is given to the world’s youth.  In the United States, the US Conference f Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has set aside the Thirtieth Sunday of the year as National Youth Sunday.

          Every three years an international gathering of young people is held in one place with the Holy Father.  The scope of the week-long World Youth Day event is a phenomenal!  The purpose of World Youth Day is threefold: (1) the Catholic Church shows that youth should be celebrated; and putting our trust in the young is not misplaced; (2) the young should make a pilgrimage out of Faith to the international WYD site; and this in a way commemorates the age-old desire of the Faithful to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land when civilization emerged from the dark ages into the renaissance period.

          The young are the future of the Church, and active participants in the Church’s mission to help   bring Christ’s message to the peoples of the world.  Word Youth Day brings people together from every corner of the earth.  At the   international event, young people are inspired by the Holy Father and called on to join with him in a great mission of Faith.  Pope John Paul II told the young pilgrims he was among at World Youth Day, in Denver, in the summer of 1993: “. . . do not be afraid, go out and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, defend life, and become saints.”  This was the blueprint for what Knights of Columbus have known since the 1990s as “The New Evangelization”; and World Youth Day was the event where it was first revealed!

          Making a religious pilgrimage of Faith was a real component of the journey of knighthood in the middle ages.  Knights would travel to Jerusalem in the Holy Land, the birthplace of an early saint of the Church, or a site of martyrdom such as Rome, to test and strengthen their fidelity to the One True Faith.  This in a way commemorates the desire of many of the Faithful to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land when civilization emerged from the dark ages, and into the renaissance.  The pilgrimage aspect of physically traveling to a World Youth Day event is an outward sign of the journey of Christian Faith young people can expect to travel their entire lives.

          As young pilgrims convene at an international World Youth Day event, they sense the interconnectedness of the Catholic community of believers which is the universal Church.  All are brought together by a unifying belief in the True Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  Regardless of the magic of the modern age, with its technology, cell phones, the Internet, vast amounts of streaming data; nothing transforms the young quite as profoundly as encountering other Catholic young people, Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, and the presence of the Holy Father.  This encounter, though only one week in length, has lifetime consequences for the good!  The young pilgrims to each World Youth Day event take away the understanding that they are not alone in their mission to bring the Good News of Jesus to the world, their countries of origin, and communities where they live out their daily lives.

          World Youth Day events: with their vast numbers of pilgrims who attend from all over the world; the religious music concerts; the conversion testimonies of speakers; panels composed of priests, bishops, and prominent members of the laity, discussing subjects of concern to the young;  prayer services and adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; arranged tours of shrines and places of inestimable grief such as the death camp of Auschwitz during WYD 2016, in Poland; these all leave indelible marks on pilgrims’ memories.  Upon reflection, it would seem that life is not very fair to some.  Christians must carry on!  With the Church as their guide; and benefit of the sacraments; World Youth Day pilgrims can come away with a sense of their place in the world as true sons and daughters of the Church.  They are aware of whom it is they are called to help, as they live out their journey in this life as disciples of Jesus Christ.

            The World Youth Day international event is directed at young Catholics between the ages of 16 and 35 years.  The USCCB encourages young Catholics in their twenties especially, to attend the international event at least once!  Accommodations in the host country and city can range from hotel rooms, to more simple quarters in parishes, schools, dormitories, gymnasiums and tents.

            The spiritual breadth of World Youth Day is inspiring!  The papal visit, the many hundreds of priests who journey with the young pilgrims from individual dioceses; the hundreds of bishops and cardinals; and thousands of youth directors from parishes throughout the world; all want the WYD experience to be safe, to be memorable, and to be transformative for each young pilgrim!   Special emphasis is placed on reception of the Sacraments of Penance, and Holy Eucharist.  The availability of so many priests to hear confessions in one or more venues of WYD and administer the graces of the Sacrament, is inspiring; and reinforces the Church’s teaching that Almighty God is merciful and forgives!  The Opening and Closing Masses which are broadcast to millions of homes in the United States and Canada, on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), and Salt & Light Television, are awe inspiring.

          A general calendar of events which World Youth Day will likely follow in Panama City, Panama, January 22-27, 2019 was excerpted from the USCCB website and is cited below.  “Days in the Dioceses” activities throughout Panama will precede the main WYD event.  Times and locations of specific WYD events will be finalized by the Vatican and dioceses throughout Panama, in summer and autumn of 2018.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 – World Youth Day Opening Mass

Wednesday-Friday, January 23-25, 2019 – Daily Masses celebrated by cardinals and bishops in different languages around Panama, Catechesis Sessions in different languages

Wednesday-Friday, January 23-25, 2019 – Youth Festival: concerts, exhibits, talks by prominent speakers, around Panama

Thursday, January 24, 2019 – Papal Welcome Ceremony (site TBD)

Friday, January 25, 2019 – Via Crucis: The Way of The Cross (site TBD)

Saturday, January 26, 2019  -Evening Candlelight Vigil with Pope Francis (site TBD)

Sunday, January 27, 2019 – Morning Papal Mass, followed by the Angelus (midday prayer, site TBD)

          The years (locations) in which international World Youth Day has been held are as follows:    2016 (Krakow, Poland), 2013 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 2011 (Madrid, Spain), 2008 (Sydney, Australia), 2005 (Cologne, Germany), 2002 (Toronto, Canada), 2000-the Millennium Jubilee Year (Rome, Italy), 1997 (Paris, France), 1995 (Manila, Philippines), 1993 (Denver, USA), 1991 (Czestochowa, Poland), 1989 (Santiago de Compostela, Spain), 1987 (Buenos Aires, Argentina), and 1985 (Rome, Italy).

Diocesan Send-Off Mass

          In the Diocese of San Bernardino, where I most of my experience was earned at these sorts of events, it is the custom of the local Ordinary to preside at a special Send-Off Mass, for World Youth Day pilgrims, their mothers and fathers, guardians, brothers, sisters, and a friend or two.  This event is usually scheduled mid-Saturday morning at the cathedral, in late June or early July, preceding the departure of pilgrims for the WYD host country.  Some pilgrims may divert for a visit to an intermediate destination for a day or two of sightseeing (such as Rome, Lourdes, or Fatima).  The date of the Send-Off Mass is scheduled by the diocesan Director of Ministry to Youth (or Young Adults) with the approval of the Bishop.  June can be an especially challenging month to schedule the liturgy and use of  a parish hall for a reception.  Sometimes there may be a number of anniversaries of priestly ordinations during this period and also clergy retirements.  Having the local bishop celebrate the Send-Off Mass is a considerable draw.  The Director of Ministry to Youth position may be funded year-round; or it may not be.  In the case that the office is staffed full-time, WYD preparatory meetings, and calendar dates and times, are usually set well in advance.  This reduces conflicts with other celebratory milestones no one wishes to miss as an international WYD event draws near!

          It is surprising to see how many pilgrims and young people, and their families, attend the international WYD Send-Off Mass.  In the Arrowhead-Desert Valley Chapter (ADVC), Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral held an estimated 1,200 persons for one event; other times this figure has ranged from 450 to 800 of the Faithful assisting in the liturgy.  Some pilgrims drive to the Send-Off Mass site on their own, some come with their families, and others vanpool in with other parish youth.  The journey can take some pilgrims two hours or more, depending on distance and traffic.  The pontiff convening an international World Youth Day also influences the excitement of pilgrims and their families; as do preparations for visiting a foreign land.

          Diocesan Directors of Ministry to Youth keep communications between their parishes’ youth groups and their leaders active.  So, when a call goes out from the seat of the diocese to parishes for a “headcount” of pilgrims making plans to attend a WYD Send-Off Mass, statistics returned by youth group leaders to the diocese’s pastoral center are reasonably sound.  Customarily, two requests for headcounts should be made: one 30 days out, and the other 10 days before the event.  The liturgies usually last about 1-hr, 25 minutes.

Reception Following the Send-Off Mass

          Not every diocese in the California jurisdiction may arrange a Send-Off Mass for its World Youth Day pilgrims, who are preparing to depart for a foreign country and a visit with the Holy Father.  If there is an opportunity to assist the local bishop here, this can be a new path of service.  It has been the province of the 3rd Degree chapters to assist the local ordinary with matters such as this.  If a council would be able to perform the service; that is fine; but the chapter should be assisting the council with funding for the event as much as it can; and manpower or equipment resources if requested.  The headcount mentioned above gives those involved with any reception hospitality, time to make decisions on the amount of provisions needed, how and where to hold perishable food and refreshments, and confidence in deciding on the number of people to have preparing / serving in some capacity.

          Knights of Columbus chapters and councils see the June-July period as a transition of officers, and presidents and grand knights.  Trying to appear coolheaded while deftly coordinating a reception for several hundred persons, some of whom are clergy or religious members, and a bishop or two can be daunting; but Knights can prevail here, even in unfamiliar surroundings!  It is a kind gesture for a retiring Grand Knight or Chapter President to take on the WYD Send-Off Mass Reception task; while his successor gets a footing in the council or chapter.

          Some Knights who have done this service work believe that having just $2.25 for each pilgrim and attendee anticipated at the Send-Off Mass Reception, would allow miracles to be performed!   Knights should dress smartly for the reception.  If you have aprons, caps, and name badges, wear them.  Use good sanitary technique when setting up food and refreshment stations in the parish hall (or patio) where the event will be held.  Food handler knights should wear serving gloves at all times; be neat and tidy about appearance and speech!   Remember, these young people, the boys and men in particular, could be future knights.  Young people are impressionable; and they will remember for a long time the courteousness, generosity, and genuine wishes for their safe journey and return.  If a chapter or council knows business sources it can approach for moderate or even small donations of provisions and paper goods, by all means start contacting them at least four months before the WYD Send-Off Mass Reception; the sooner the better.

          Items served at WYD Send-Off Mass Receptions have included 450 Hot Dogs, 30-lbs of Trail Mix, Quesadillas made from 40-lbs of Monterey Pepper-Jack Cheese, one-third of a pallet of boxes of Oreo Cookies®, upwards of 300ct of chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin cookies.  Individually wrapped Ice Cream confections are great; but you’ll have to have sufficient freezer space to hold them until they’re served.

          Single-ply, paper napkins and paper plates work fine for this short duration hospitality.  There’s no need for styrene foam takeout clamshell boxes.  Food items will all be picked up in less than 30 minutes; and residence time in the parish hall or the surroundings as a rule does not exceed forty-five minutes.  If you have one or more serving windows, these are advantageous because they keep kitchen staff separated from the torrent of pilgrims walking past the counter(s).  Hot dogs can be grilled on a propane BBQ or rolled on hot griddle; then taken off and held in a chafer, before each finds its way onto a bun and is handed to a recipient.  Whatever you do, don’t place a food or refreshment stations / tables against a wall or in a corner of the parish hall or patio; you will have crowding issues!  These stations should be in the middle of the parish hall and spaced well apart; the same goes for locating condiments (mustard, ketchup, chopped onions and relish).  The floor should be free of tables and chairs for large crowds so people can circulate.  If chairs are used, place them around the perimeter of the room.  Signs advising guests where restrooms are located will be appreciated; and the restrooms should be checked to see that they’re clean and have paper products.  If there is a First Aid Kit in the facility, know where it is located.  Make allowance to have a sufficient number of trash cans with plastic liners in them around the room or patio to make the clean up job easy.

          As for refreshments and a reception with 450 souls in the summer, do plan on at least 45 gallons of assorted iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch, and iced water dispensing buckets.  If the ambient temperature gets over 100ºF (we’ve seen 108ºF in July), people need a lot of fluids.  These are best dispensed directly into 16 fl-oz styrene cups already holding cube ice, by Knights, Squires, and Scouts, from faucets of beverage buckets.  The beverages should hold chilled drinks in them; and be backed-up by 5–gal bottles or Cambro® vessels as needed nearby for replenishment.  Ice can be scooped into 16oz styrene cups before filling them with beverages, and set out on the same table holding the Cambro® dispensing buckets.  It is more efficient to fill the foam cups rather than leave this operation to each visitor and a learning curve.  The cups of iced beverages can be placed on another parallel, adjacent table where people can pick them up.  Those few pilgrims who have to make their way back to the highway to get home sooner will appreciate your having iced bottles of drinking water, particularly the 16 fl-oz, recyclable PET bottles.  A sign should be put near the iced bottles advising revelers that the bottled water is intended exclusively for those returning to the highway to go home in short order.  There is no need for anyone to go thirsty even on the way home. (PET: Polyethylene terephthalate)

          Cookies are popular, and can be placed on plastic trays or platters where they can be picked up; no time for tongs here!  Trail Mix can be scooped from a bin using 2-oz rigid plastic soufflé cups, and placed on a table to be picked up as young people move by in the reception area.  For those who wish only to have fruit, you might consider prepackaged, apple slices; or chilled orange sections (you could use tongs for these in an iced down plastic bowl).

          I cannot recall anyone asking for hot coffee in June or July at one of these events; but that could be different in the weeks leading up to a January 2019 international WYD Send-Off Mass event.  Maybe at that time we will serve pastries, hot coffee, hot chocolate and eggnog?  Be resourceful!  Be respectful of your host parish when using its equipment and furnishings; and always clean up afterwards.  Do not leave a mess for the parish staff to clean up!  This is another gesture that will be remembered.  Neatness and a word of thanks will usually go a long way with the pastor; and can pay dividends in the future.  Preparing a reception for 450 souls, I relied on eight Knights and four to six Squires or Boy Scouts, over the course of a morning.

          Knights of Columbus chapters and councils see the June-July period as a transition of officers and leadership executives.  Trying to appear coolheaded while deftly coordinating a reception for several hundred persons, members of the clergy and religious, and a bishop or two, on short notice, can be daunting to the uninitiated; but Knights can prevail here, even in unfamiliar surroundings!  It is kind for a retiring Grand Knight or Chapter President to take on the task.  For a reception accommodating 450 persons, we have relied on eight to ten Knights, and four to five Squires or Boy Scouts, over the course of a morning.

          Diocesan directors of Ministry to Youth keep communications between their parishes’ youth groups and their leaders active.  So, when a call goes out from the seat of a diocese to parishes calling for a “headcount” of pilgrims making plans to attend a Send-Off Mass, the statistics returned by youth group leaders to a diocese’s pastoral center are reasonably sound.  Customarily two requests for headcounts should be made: one 30 days out, and the other 10 days before the event.  Those numbers give those involved with hospitality, time to make decisions on the amount of provisions needed; how and where to hold the perishable food and refreshments; and deciding on the number of people to have serving in some capacity.  I have worked with estimates underestimating reception attendance; and had to wrangle provisions to extend servings!  A 2016 event was expected to have 175 persons at its reception; but Knights figured on 450 souls; in fact, 275 attended.  Knights have to develop instincts here, as I don’t know of any rule of thumb that correlates Send-Off Mass attendance with percent carryover attendance at the Reception; you just make your best guess!

Diocesan Virtual World Youth Day

          This activity is coordinated for young people staying behind in a local Catholic Diocese; and may be coordinated simultaneously by an Assistant Director of Ministry to Youth, while the counterpart (Director) is with pilgrims at the actual international WYD event.  The local Ordinary may concelebrate Opening and Closing Masses at the Diocese venue.  Virtual WYD participants use SKYPE instant voice and video messaging app to interview and communicate with the diocese’s own pilgrims, in real time at the international WYD site.  The audio video communications can be put up on a large screen for viewing.  The virtual event may be at one site; and probably will not have more than 400 young people, who pay nominal fees to attend.  If the distances pilgrims would have to travel to convene at a single site would be impacted significantly by diocese geography; two Virtual WYD sites may be an option; provided suitable facilities at two locations are available.  The events are secure, safe, and well-supervised by persons certified by a local diocese.  One 3-day Virtual WYD event in 2013 began Friday evening and continued into Sunday; with multiple chaperones and youth leaders.  Suitable facilities can include a school dormitory, or a gymnasium for sleeping.  Sleeping bags are brought by youth participants themselves.  Meal arrangements can be made with a local restaurateur(s).  Buffet style serving could be handled by Knights at the request of the local diocese.  Councils are good about being able to provide food warming / holding chafers prior to serving following delivery by restaurant or pick up person(s); and Knights can serve from chafers in a buffet line.  Knights may only need to be present for two hours per meal.

Annual World Youth Day

          This youth event may be held in July or August each year; and alternates with the international WYD event.  The youth activity is coordinated at a single site on one day.  Attendees are charged a nominal fee set by a local diocese.  This is an opportunity for a Knights of Columbus chapter or council(s) to assist with light food and refreshment preparation, and serving.  Food can be prepared by   a local restaurant contracted by the local diocese and delivered in insulated hot boxes; or prepared on site.  Knights of Columbus may assist if called upon, with food warming / holding using chafers.  Knights of Columbus may be asked to serve prepared food “buffet style.”

15th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

          As a special note, Pope Francis has called a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Church next year, in October 2018, on: “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”  This synod will focus on the pastoral care in the Church for the young.  According to the USCCB, the Pope’s aim is to see that the synod brings forth guidance that will “accompany the young on their existential journey to maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they discover their plan for life and realize it with joy, opening up to the encounter with God and with human beings, and actively participating in the edification of the Church and of society.”  This synod will influence World Youth Day 2019’s theme, talks, and forums.

As for Safe Environment protocols in your diocese; follow whatever norms you are directed to by the Diocese’s Director of Ministry to Youth, and the local Ordinary.

Tom Walsh
World Youth Day
California State Chairman