By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published July 17, 2008
Youth, young adults, priests and chaperones from North Georgia are among the 15,000 people who traveled from the United States to World Youth Day, the international event convened by Pope Benedict XVI in Sydney, Australia, July 15-20.
According to organizers, the U.S. contingent was the largest delegation representing any country outside of Australia. Also 50 U.S. bishops traveled there, including Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The American young people, most in their late teens and 20s, traveled in 1,140 groups that ranged in size and typically were organized by dioceses, parishes, religious associations and schools, though some families made the journey on their own.
Leonardo Jaramillo, from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and Annalee Moyer, from the Archdiocese of Washington, were selected to be U.S. members of a 200-person worldwide group known as the International Liturgy Group. Jaramillo has served as the director of Hispanic Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the archdiocese.
The members of the group will serve as a representative group for all World Youth Day pilgrims and take leading parts in all the major events of World Youth Day including the papal ceremonies and liturgies.
Among those from the Archdiocese of Atlanta in Sydney were groups from St. Michael Church, Gainesville, St. Benedict Church, Duluth, and St. Monica Church, Duluth, who traveled Down Under, bringing along more than a dozen kids to experience the event and get an up-close view of the pope.
The two Duluth parishes, accompanied by Father Jack Durkin, pastor of St. Monica, and Father Paul Flood, pastor of St. Benedict, traveled together and found some familiar faces as they boarded the same plane occupied by an Archdiocese of Atlanta YAM (Young Adult Ministry) group. A handful of young adults, along with their spiritual director, Father Bob Frederick, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Church, Dahlonega, and Dorothy Polchinski, YAM director in Atlanta, were traveling to Sydney as well. Also joining the Duluth group were Rita Anderson and Cheryl Gibson, staff members of St. Benedict, and Courtney Desmond, youth minister for St. Monica. The groups are expected home during the week of July 20.
“Today started bright and early with us meeting at the airport at 6 a.m. It was nice to see everyone and I was generally impressed that people looked awake more often than not,” wrote Kathy Powell of St. Jude the Apostle Church, Atlanta, July 12 on a blog she created for the YAM trip to Sydney. “Youth from St Monica’s and St Benedict’s in Atlanta were also on our flight, so it was nice and festive on the plane.”
The international celebration has occurred every two or three years since Pope John Paul II established it in 1985. In 1993, the celebration took place in Denver.
For the first time at World Youth Day the U.S. bishops will sponsor a Mass for all U.S. groups in Sydney. Cardinal George will preside and deliver the homily on Saturday morning, July 19, at an outdoor location.
Young people from the United States will also take prominent roles in other aspects of the World Youth Day events.
Armando Cervantes from the Diocese of Orange, California, will be among 12 young adults from all parts of the world who will have lunch with Pope Benedict XVI on Friday, July 18. Juan Martinez from the Diocese of Austin, Texas, will receive the sacrament of confirmation from Pope Benedict along with other young people at the closing Mass on Sunday, July 20.
Australian organizers expected approximately 100,000 youths from their own country and 125,000 international visitors to make the World Youth Day pilgrimage to Sydney.