24 July 2008

WYD, epilogue

Just a few thoughts before leaving the subject of World Youth Day....

First, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our hosts, the friars of the Australian Province. Unless you have taken part in one, it is hard to imagine how much work needs to be done before, during and after a World Youth Day. They had to arrange lodging for all the friars in our group (and help a few other groups, as well), arrange transportation to and from the events, arrange speakers, musicians and lunches for the catechesis sessions, collect friars from the airport and drop them off again at the end of WYD. Over and above the preparations for WYD, they had to arrange the Reuniting for Renewal program that took place directly before it. In addition, they provided various tours in and around Sydney before and after WYD for those who arrived early or departed later. I got tired just thinking about everything they needed to do. The Australian Province did a superb job of organizing the week and, despite a few glitches and mishaps, everything ran smoothly. Through all of this, they were most gracious hosts, and I wish to take this opportunity to thank them publicly for all their hard work.

Secondly, it seems to me that since WYD is an international event the Order should be involved in it at the international level. I mentioned in a previous post that we should have vocation literature available in various languages, including contact information for vocation promoters in every country where we have a presence. Furthermore, just as there were gatherings for all the pilgrims from various countries or dioceses, I think it would be good to have a gathering of all the Capuchin friars in attendance. During the week, as I met friars from all over the world, I realized that no one really knew how many were attending WYD. Getting all of the friars together for a few hours would provide a clear sign of the international character of the Order, and could help to promote knowledge of and interest in the Order.

22 July 2008

WYD 2008, day 6

Sunday morning for the pilgrims began with an 8:00 morning prayer. At 9:00, the papal motorcade began its trip through Randwick. Mass began at 10:00. Besides the pilgrims who had camped out overnight, many other pilgrims arrived early Sunday morning to attend the Mass, as did many residents of Sydney. Organizers anticipated up to 500,000 people for the final Mass. The actual number was put at 300,000 by the police and at 400,000 by the WYD officials. In any case, there were a lot of people! Yours truly chose to observe the celebration from a somewhat more remote location—the living room of the friary.

All week long, pilgrims had been speculating about where the next WYD would be held. The prevailing rumor was that it would be in Spain. That rumor turned out to be true, as the Holy Father announced that WYD 2011 would be held in Madrid. It is an interesting choice given the current tensions between the bishops and the government of Spain. It became crystal clear to me during this week in Sydney that a World Youth Day needs the cooperation and support of the local government in order to succeed. Here in Sydney, for instance, streets were closed to traffic, extra bus and train services were added, bus routes were changed, public structures, such as the Opera House and the Exhibition Centre, were given over exclusively to WYD and the normal rhythms of the city were disrupted for the week. None of that could have happened without the support of the local government. So how will this work in Spain? If the government refuses to cooperate, it could score a moral victory against the Church, but it might also negatively affect the image of Spain in the eyes of the world. If, on the other hand, the government works together with the Church to make WYD a success, it could increase tourism to Spain, but at the risk of alienating some of the stauncher members of the Socialist Party. It will be interesting to see what happens.

WYD 2008, day 5

At 8:30 on Saturday morning, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass at the Sydney Cathedral with a select group of WYD participants in attendance. Some of the Capuchin friars had passes for the event, but was able to get inside the Cathedral; the others watched the celebration on a large video screen from the cathedral's front steps. The remainder of the Capuchin pilgrims went into the city around 11:30 to begin the walk to Randwick Racecourse, where the Holy Father would celebrate Mass on Sunday morning. Most of the friars opted to begin their walk from the Central Station, which was about 4 km (about 2.5 miles) from Randwick. A few brave souls, however, chose to make the 10 km (6.2 miles) walk to Randwick, starting from North Sydney and crossing the Harbor Bridge (seen in the background of the photograph).

Upon reaching Randwick, every pilgrim received a bag containing that evening's dinner plus tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. By 3:00 p.m., when those who opted for the long walk reached Randwick, the place looked like a refugee camp. Tents had been set up and sleeping bags rolled out on every square inch of ground for as the eye could see. The area allotted to the Capuchin pilgrims was not particularly near the altar, but it was near the adoration chapel.

The evening vigil service with the Pope did not start until 7:30 p.m. so the pilgrims spent the time eating, praying before the blessed sacrament, napping, and talking with the other pilgrims. Various musical performances, shown on large video screens set up around the area, also helped to fill the time. The vigil service consisted of song, testimony from several pilgrims, an address by the Holy Father, and Benediction. In his address, Pope Benedict spoke about Saint Augustine's understanding of the Holy Spirit. It was quite challenging intellectually, which shows, I suppose, that he wants WYD to be more than just a Catholic Woodstock.

When the Pope left around 9:30, the pilgrims prayed an "international rosary" and sang the Salve Regina. Fortunately, the rain that had been forecast for Saturday night never materialized. Some high, thin clouds partially obscured the full moon, but otherwise, the night was dry and relatively mild. The tired pilgrims eventually crawled into their sleeping bags for a good night's rest. [In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I returned to the friary after the vigil service, and slept in the warmth and comfort of my bedroom there. And no, I do not feel guilty at all about it!]

21 July 2008

WYD 2008, day 4

Friday was the final day of catechesis at World Youth Day. We were again blessed to have a Capuchin bishop speaking to us, this time in the person of Bishop Anthony Apuron, Bishop of Agana, Guam. The theme of his talk was: "Sent out into the world: the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of mission." Those who know Bishop Apuron will not be surprised to know that he began his talk with a song. The celebration of the Eucharist was again followed by lunch outside the church. During lunch, Bishop Apuron surprised the catechesis group by singing a Simon and Garfunkle song.

Lunch was eaten quickly so that once again all could dash off to their assigned positions for the Stations of the Cross. Some members of the Capuchin group were assigned to the Sydney Opera House, and the rest went to Barangaroo again.
Participation in the Via Crucis was hampered for us by the difficulty of seeing the video screens and of hearing the audio. At least by the time the group acting out the Way of the Cross reached Barangaroo, the audio problems had been solved. There were constant references throughout WYD to the fact that it was being celebrated on land that once belonged to the Aborigines. In addition, Aboriginal dance and music was worked into all the liturgies. Even the Via Crucis acknowledged the importance of the Aborigines in Australia's history and culture by having Simon the Cyrene played by an Aborigine.

After another picnic dinner in the scenic surrounding of Barangaroo, the brothers headed off in various directions to take in one or more of the evening's events. Many of us eventually wound up in the Exhibition Centre, where the vocations booths were located. The Centre was packed with young people, many of whom showed a genuine interest in religious life. [Note to the General Definitory: at the next World Youth Day, we should have a booklet listing the vocation directors of every Capuchin jurisdiction in the world to distribute to interested young men.]

WYD 2008, day 3

Thursday catechesis for the Capuchin group was again held at the Capuchin parish of Saint Fiacre, and was led by Bishop Joseph Oudeman, OFMCap, Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane. The Capuchin group, by the way, includes not only the English-speaking friars attending World Youth Day, but also groups of youth from Capuchin-run parishes in Australia and Guam as well as a few other groups that were assigned to it by the WYD organizers. The theme for the day's catechesis was: "The Holy Spirit: Soul of the Church". After his talk, a few of the participants commented on what they hoped to take away from the talk, and some asked the Bishop questions, all of which showed a high level of interest among the participants.

Catechesis was followed by the Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Oudeman. Then after a quick lunch provided by the parishioners, the participants set out for Barangaroo, where the Pope was scheduled to arrive by boat. Getting to Barangaroo, or to any of the other event sites in Sydney, was no small ordeal. Our group had to first catch a city bus into the city. After exiting the bus, we had to walk about 2 km (a little over a mile) to get to our assigned position at Barangaroo. Other groups of pilgrims converged from all directions so that for the last several hundred meters we were squeezed into one flowing mass of humanity. We had been assigned an area next to the path that the Popemobile would take upon leaving the area, and we arrived early enough to get positions along the barricades.

There was great excitement in the air when the Holy Father finally arrived around 3:00 p.m. The event was somewhat marred for us, however, because the loudspeakers nearest our section stopped working just before the Pope began the prayer service. As a result, we missed the entire first five minutes of his homily. The speakers then began working intermittently for the rest of the homily, which was maddening. What I could hear of his homily was very inspirational so I eventually went here to get the complete text online.

After the prayer service, the Holy Father boarded the Popemobile to leave the area, passing within about two meters of us on the way.

Dinner was served to all the pilgrims after the Pope's departure. The fare was not exactly gourmet, and the ambience left something to be desired—sitting on the asphalt as thousands of people kicked up dust and sand as they walked by. On the other hand, no one was expecting four star treatment, and the food was actually quite good considering the number of people they had to feed in such a short time.

Each evening during the week various concerts, exhibits and lectures were offered around the city. This particular evening, most of our group attended the two performances offered at Saint Stephen's Uniting Church. The first was the world premier of Brother John Russo's "Holy Rosary". Brother John, a member of the Capuchin Province of the Stigmata (New Jersey), took on the challenge of setting the rosary to music while he was a postulant several years ago, but never had the opportunity to have it performed. For the occasion of World Youth Day, he rearranged the music for string orchestra and chorus. While the rosary was sung, images of famous paintings illustrating each of the mysteries were projected on the screens positioned at the front of the church. Despite the fact that the performance was inadvertently omitted from the list of WYD events, there was a large audience on hand for it. The reaction to the performance was overwhelmingly positive. Afterwards, most of the audience remained for a performance of Oliver Messiaen's "Quartet for the end of time," which was beautifully performed. The composition itself, however, is an acquired taste that many of the audience have yet to acquire.

Here is a short video of the Papal arrival. We could not see it very well from our vantage point.

16 July 2008

WYD 2008, day 2

Day 2 of WYD for the NAPCC Capuchins in attendance began with a 45-minute bus ride from the Capuchin Retreat Center in Plumpton, where they are staying, to St. Fiacre Church in Leichhardt. Here the Capuchins, along with other groups of WYD participants, attended catechesis and Eucharist led by Cardinal Sean O'Malley. The subject of the day's catechesis was, "Called to live in the Holy Spirit." Apparently, Cardinal O'Malley already has a following through his blog or other means, since the participants were clearly pleased when it was announced that he would be the morning's speaker.

After Mass, the participants were treated to an Australian barbecue for lunch. They then walked a short distance to the Italian Forum for an afternoon of song provided by various artists. Brother Dean Mathieson and his band performed once again. Gary Pinto, who co-wrote the official theme song for WYD 2008, performed with his band. The closing act was provided by "Pellisintetiche", led by Brother Lucio Saggioro, a Capuchin of the Venice Province. The humorous and energetic performance had the WYD participants on their feet dancing in no time.

World Youth Day 2008, day 1

I am attending World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, at the invitation of the Province of Australia. Recognizing the event as a unique opportunity for evangelizing youth and, at the same time, for increasing awareness about the Capuchin Order especially in English-speaking areas of the world, the Provincial Minister of Australia worked hard to get a good showing of young Capuchins from around the world. The provinces of North America responded particularly well, sending around twenty friars. In addition, there are Capuchins from Italy, Poland, Germany, Guam and probably others countries, as well. There are even two Capuchin postulants from East Timor in attendance. At the vocations exhibit set up at the Exhibition Center on Tuesday, the Capuchins were easily the largest group on hand.

The friars of the Australian Province have been working feverishly for the past six months arranging lodging for the friars, venues for various activities, speakers for catechesis and hundreds of other details. Bush hats off to them for their excellent (dare I say, uncharacteristic) organization!

Although the opening Mass of WYD was celebrated Tuesday afternoon, some events began already that morning. One of them was the abovementioned vocations exhibit. Various musicians entertained the crowds of young people at the exhibit, including the Australian Province's own Brother Dean Mathieson. At the vocation booth, the friars had several kinds of literature about the Capuchin Order, as well as label pins with the Province's website listed on it. The booth was well visited, both by prospective candidates and by people who wanted to let us know how much they appreciate the Capuchins friars working in their home countries. It was an uplifting and humbling experience to hear their appreciation.

Opening Mass at BarangarooThe opening Mass began at 4:30 in the afternoon, with Cardinal George Pell of the Sydney Archdiocese presiding. The venue of the Mass was an area along Darling Harbor officially known as Barangaroo, but known to the locals as "The Hungry Mile". Getting there and finding one's place was predictably chaotic, but spirits were high nonetheless. Before the liturgy, the pilgrims were greeting by Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who praised the role of religion, and Christianity in particular, in the history of society. The liturgy itself was very beautiful, incorporating music inspired by the cultures of the Aborigines, the Maori and some of the nearby islands. While the friars were somewhat scattered among the crowd, there was a visible reminder of their presence at WYD in the person of Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who was near the main celebrant during the Mass and frequently shown on the Jumbotron.

03 July 2008

Western America Province Chapter

The tenth ordinary chapter of the Western America Province was held on 15-20 June 2008, in the picturesque setting of San Lorenzo Retreat Center in the Santa Ynez valley of California. The preparation that the brothers had put into the Chapter was evident from the outset. Besides electing a new Provincial Council, delegates spent time refining the Guiding Principles and Action Steps that were developed in local chapters and regional assemblies during the previous two years. Thanks in part to the help of Sr. Regina Fox in preparation for the chapter, the work of the brothers proceeded smoothly and quickly.

Besides the triennial report of the outgoing Provincial Minister, Br Tony Marti, the brothers also heard a report from Br David Beaumont on the Province’s mission in northern Mexico and one from Jesus Vela on the efforts of the Vocation Office. The newly-elected Provincial Council consists of (left to right in photo above): Jesus Vela (Vicar), Peter Banks, Matthew Elshoff (Provincial Minister), Robert Barbato and Michael Mahoney.

Five resolutions were passed with large majorities at the Chapter:

  • to ratify the Guiding Principles;
  • to ratify the Action Steps;
  • to consent to the establishment of a new friary in northern Mexico;
  • to use the help of outside expertise to improve the results of the Vocation Office;
  • to authorize the creation of a Strategic Planning committee, composed of both friars and lay people, to help the Province focus on its mission and to determine the resources needed to accomplish that mission.