WYD Rio in 2 Years? A Couple of Things to Think About
Pope Benedict XVI announced yesterday that the next World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. It will be the second time that WYD has been held in South America, as Buenos Aires hosted the second WYD in 1987. As the demographic centre of Catholicism moves south, it is very exciting that the youth of the world will gather in Brazil in two years time.
But it is only two years away. At a practical level that means that Australian Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinators and other youth ministry leaders will need to start gearing up for Rio pretty soon after they get home from Madrid.
I am also reminded of a passage from a letter that Pope John Paul II wrote to Cardinal Pironio on the occasion of the WYD seminar held in Czestochowa, Poland in 1996. John Paul II wrote that
World Youth Day is the Church’s Day for youth and with youth. This idea is not an alternative to ordinary youth ministry, often carried out with great sacrifice and self-denial. Indeed it intends to actually consolidate this work by offering new encouragement for commitment, objectives which foster ever greater involvement and participation.
It seems to me that there is a very real risk that Australian preparations for WYD in Rio could swamp the ‘ordinary youth ministry’ that ought to be taking place, consuming our time, resources and energies that need to be devoted to the day-to-day mission of evangelising young people.
A second announcement at WYD in Madrid also has significant implications for youth ministry in Australia. At the Australian Gathering, the Senior Projects officer for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Malcolm Hart, announced that plans were underway for a National Youth Day for Australian Catholics. The first such gathering is proposed for 2013 also, and is intended to take place every two years after that.
I am excited about a National Youth Day. I think it gives young Australian Catholics an important opportunity to gather together to celebrate and deepen in our faith. Like WYD it will give young Australians the opportunity to discover that they are part of something bigger with many other young people in the Church. It will also be a great celebration and intensification of our unity. And as an Australian event it will be more accessible to far more Australians than an overseas World Youth Day will ever be. I think it has great potential for building and developing Catholic youth ministry here.
I think that there should always be plenty of young Australian Catholics at every international World Youth Day, and we should in no way abandon our commitment to WYD. But preparations for those WYDs cannot consume all of a diocese’s, parish’s or a community’s youth ministry resources if Catholic youth ministry is to fulfill its mission in this country. It is my very real hope that the Church in Australia at every level and young Australian Catholics will get behind a National Youth Day. But we do need to think very carefully about how and where we devote our time, energy and resources to make sure that WYDs and a National Youth Day are working in concert to support the grass-roots work of youth ministry in Australia.