Written By Jackie O’Donnell
The Pope’s visit to Canada for WYD 2002 has had such a significant effect on Canada; we saw revitalization in youth ministry, in parishes and in vocations to the priesthood. World Youth Day has also had a very significant effect on our movement, more than we could have ever imagined. Following WYD, at Rise Up 2002 in Edmonton, we received a letter from Pope John Paul II, addressed to us personally. In this letter he shared:
At the World Youth Day Prayer Vigil held in Downsview Park on Saturday, the evening of July 27, I called for a new generation of builders to respond to the aspiration of humanity for a civilization of love marked by freedom and peace. Indeed I entrusted this hope of mine specifically to you, my dear young people. As members of the Catholic Christian Outreach you are generously responding to that appeal through your courage to be disciples of Jesus, living the life of the Beatitudes on campuses throughout Canada. In this way, as you strive to be the salt of the earth and light of the world for others, you become shining beacons illuminating the way of the Lord, answering the question that stirs in the hearts of all young people: “to whom shall we go?” (Jn 6:68).
Yes, Jesus Christ is the sure foundation of your hope and joy. Immersed in him and his paschal mystery your own lives will grow in holiness, which is the authentic path of true witness to the light of his loving presence in our world. And so I confidently renew my appeal to you: listen to the voice of Jesus! Let His light shine in your lives, continue steadfastly on the path of holiness, share with everyone “the good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.” (Lk 2:10)
I remember being at Rise Up and receiving this letter, walking in the hallways of the hotel talking to other staff, so excited, honoured and amazed that JPII would write to us and entrust us personally with his mission, with the mission of the Church. Yet we also realized the magnitude of what was being asked of us. We, a small movement in only 3 cities, on 4 campuses, were being appealed to by the Holy Father ‘to share with everyone the good news of great joy’. The Pope was placing his trust in us. Taking JPII’s words to heart, we responded with great fervour. I remember many a conversation where we reflected on how we could live out and embrace the Holy Father’s words.
Over the years the Lord has blessed us. Since receiving the letter in 2002, we are now on an additional 6 campuses reaching from coast to coast and many doors are being opened for us. We have also seen many students come to know the Lord, we have seen religious vocations and each year students are being baptised into the faith. We are seeing our nation change. There is great hope!
JPII’s words are still urging us forward; we cannot forget or become complacent. We are called to be the ‘new generation of builders’: builders who are reaching out to the young and who are bringing people to the Lord. We need to find those young people, who in their heart of hearts, are crying out: ‘to whom shall we go?’ As we move towards Divine Mercy Sunday and the beatification of this great man, let us renew our commitment to respond to his letter. As missionaries of the JPII generation, let us live out both holiness and mission; let us ‘listen to the voice of Jesus! May His light shine in our lives. May we continue steadfastly on the path of holiness and share with everyone “the good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.”