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Deacon-structing Diocesan Youth Days

Deacon Pedro

Monday, November 15, 2021

Canadian youth at WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. Copyright Bill Wittman
Recently, I heard from a youth minister who is planning to host a Diocesan Youth Day event at his parish this coming November 20. He told me that when they invited their bishop to participate, the bishop responded, “I thought that was on Palm Sunday!”
If you are asking yourself, “What is Diocesan Youth Day?” or if you thought that it is on Palm Sunday, then this blog post is for you.
I’m sure you have all heard of World Youth Day. It is a massive-scale youth event with the pope that takes place in some host city, somewhere in the world, every three years. Perhaps some of you have attended one. If you’re in Canada, surely you’ve heard of World Youth Day 2002, when St. John Paul II came. If you’re in the U.S., perhaps you’ve heard of Denver 1993.
If you have never heard of World Youth Day, I have a whole series, “Deacon-structing WYDs” that you can read. Today, I want to speak about the “not-so-massive-local-diocesan-event-for-youth-that-does-not-involve-the-pope”: Diocesan Youth Day.
When St. John Paul II invited young people to meet him in St. Peter’s Square on the eve of Palm Sunday on the Year of Redemption 1984, it was intended as a local event. The following year was the United Nations Year of Youth, and so, again, the pope hosted a local event. That year he established what he called “World Youth Day” to be celebrated on Palm Sunday in dioceses around the world.
That means that WYD started as a local event to take place in every diocese around the world on Palm Sunday. Most dioceses celebrated this World Youth Day on the eve of Palm Sunday, but the connection to Palm Sunday, leading us into Holy Week was always the Cross. Remember that the WYD symbol is the Cross – also the symbol of our Christian faith.
When World Youth Day went global, with the first international gathering in 1987 in Buenos Aires, the idea was that it would still be celebrated at a local level every year. This is why, if you look online for the themes of World Youth Days, you will see that there is a theme for every year, starting in 1986. World Youth Day is not just an international event that takes place every two to three years; it is a yearly local event that is celebrated internationally every two to three years.
Which is why we started making the distinction between World Youth Day and Diocesan Youth Day, or the longer, “Diocesan Celebration of World Youth Day”.
Isabel Correa, Director of the Office of Catholic Youth of the Archdiocese of Montreal, told me recently that in her diocese, every year, there was a youth event on the eve of Palm Sunday. I’m sure it’s the same in many dioceses around the world.
That is until 2020. That year, because of the pandemic, Palm Sunday celebrations could not take place in Rome, and so Pope Francis moved it to Christ the King. On this occasion, the Panamanian delegation, representing the country that hosted the last international WYD in Panama, passed the WYD Cross and Icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani to the Portuguese delegation, to begin the pilgrimage of the WYD Cross and Icon in preparation for the next international WYD, which will be in Lisbon, Portugal, August 1-6, 2023.  That day also, Pope Francis officially changed the date of the Diocesan Celebration of WYD from Palm Sunday to Christ the King. Which is why my friend’s bishop was confused.
I asked Isabel Correa what the connection with Christ the King was. She answered that in Montreal, for several years now, they’ve been hosting a youth gathering on the eve of Christ the King. When her archbishop asked her to start this event, Isabel thought it made perfect sense because, growing up in a Salesian Parish, Christ the King was always an important feast when all their catechists were commissioned and sent “on mission”.
Isabel also told me that it was on the feast of Christ the King in 1984 that St. John Paul II invited young people to return to Rome for Palm Sunday on the Year of Youth in 1985. On that day, Pope John Paul II said:
“On this feast day [...] the Church proclaims the Kingdom of Christ, already present, but still growing in all its mystery towards its full manifestation. You, young people, are indispensable bearers of the dynamics of the Kingdom of God, the hope of the Church and the world”.
The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the Vatican department responsible for WYDs, explains it well in their Pastoral Guidelines for the Celebration of World Youth Day in the Particular Churches.
Christ the King is a day that reminds us of the primacy of Christ. The feast was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to be celebrated on the final Sunday of October (later moved by Paul VI to the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year) to remind us that Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation. It reminds us that He should be first in our lives; He should be at the centre of everything. When announcing the change, Pope Francis said, “The centre of the celebration remains the Mystery of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of Man, as St. John Paul II the initiator and patron of WYD, always emphasized.” Pope Francis also added on that occasion, “Dear young people, cry out with your life that Christ lives and reigns.” Ultimately that is what WYD does: it provides a place where young people can encounter Christ, place him at the centre and then go and tell others about Him.
I encourage you to find out if something is happening in your diocese this year on November 20th or 21st. If not, perhaps you can do something in your own parish. It doesn’t need to be something great and elaborate: an evening of Adoration may be sufficient. Just make sure that young people are central to the event. If you are in Montreal, you may want to check out what they are doing: WYD Montreal. It’s a week-long series of events, hosted by various parishes around the archdiocese.
If you are not able to participate in any Diocesan Youth Day events this year, be sure to, at least read the Holy Father’s message.
The theme for this year is taken from Acts 26:16: “Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen.”
Isabel Correa concluded our conversation by saying: “Read the message and share it with someone else. If that is all you can do, that would be wonderful." Go be witnesses of what you have seen.

pedroEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@slmedia.org


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