Catholic Free Press

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  • Aug
  • 26

Parish holds World Youth Day

Posted By August 26, 2011 | 12:55 pm | Lead Story #3, Local
Photo by Tanya Connor Carrying the cross, Brian Ortiz leads marchers forth from St. Joan of Arc Church Friday during World Youth Day there.
Photo by Tanya Connor Carrying the cross, Brian Ortiz leads marchers forth from St. Joan of Arc Church Friday during World Youth Day there.

By Tanya Connor

MADRID IN WORCESTER – St. Joan of Arc Parish held its own World Youth Day last weekend.
“Originally we thought going to Spain was something we could have done, but the cost was prohibitive,” Father José A. Rodríguez, the pastor, told The Catholic Free Press Monday. “We didn’t want to just let it go without doing anything.”
So he, Deacon Hugo Cano, a seminarian intern there, and Luz Díaz, youth minister, planned a Friday-through-Monday program with elements like the actual World Youth Day in Spain. They had 35 participants age 13-18, a great response for a first-time event, said assistant secretary Priscilla Barros.
Friday night youth wrote their names and something that reflected who they are on T-shirts with the World Youth Day logo, and introduced themselves, Father Rodríguez said.
After adoration, they marched down Lincoln Street in the dark, wearing their T-shirts and carrying a cross also bearing one, as well as lights and a large globe. They stopped periodically to listen to Scripture, reflections and questions, and, while walking, popular music that lent itself to deeper meanings.
“I just enjoyed the fact that we had a campfire out here, and seeing the diversity,” Brian Ortiz, 18, said of another Friday night activity. “We have everything from Hispanics to Africans to Asians…Irish, Italians… And being able to see they all shared the experience.” Around the campfire they talked about what they would do if they could do anything in the world, like changing poverty and racism, he said.
“The activity of the magic wand…” Kimberly Collazo, 17, said of the campfire discussion. “It was really interesting, because people say the youth is lost; they don’t really care about anything. We proved we really care about the world and its problems and we really want to do something about it.” When they are older they will probably remember this and try to solve problems and teach their children about this, she said.
Father Rodríguez said the youth also watched movies “to calm them down”  Friday night and got about three hours sleep.
Kwabena Ayim, 15, spoke of their Saturday morning march to nearby Autumn Village nursing home and rehabilitation center, where they distributed flowers and played bingo with residents.
“Like one of them said to Deacon Hugo, not often do they see young faces,” Father Rodríguez said.
“I think the kids had a great time,” said adult leader John Rodriguez. “They prayed and they played.” He said he thought visiting the nursing home was the best experience for them. When they left, residents were still smelling the flowers, some saying, “This is for my wife,” he said.
Father Rodríguez said that after visiting the nursing home, the youth went home to get some real sleep, and returned to one of the parish’s weekend Masses, where he acknowledged the college-bound, and altar servers.
Monday the youth returned to the church to board a bus for Six Flags New England amusement park in Agawam. After all, their pastor reasoned, they would have visited fun places if they’d gone to Spain.
“I thought it was a really good celebration, because we kind of like came together and prayed for everybody,” including people suffering from diseases or natural disasters, Ben Montague, 14, said of the St. Joan of Arc World Youth Day.
“It really went well,” said adult leader Louis A. Mensah. “I think it was captivating for the children. I was quite impressed when there was this topic: ‘What would they do to change the world?’ They did have fun as well. There was an element of godliness as well. Everyone was polite, listening to others. They were excellent. I think we need to keep doing something like this.” That will help them be good leaders in the future, he said.
“God blessed us,” Father Rodríguez said. “I feel like a very blessed father. I’m very proud of my kids.”