WASHINGTON (July 1, 2002) -- When World Youth Day (WYD) opens on July 23 in Toronto, the United States presence will be measured both in quantity and in quality.
More than 52,000 young people and 125 bishops will attend from the United States. Participants will come from every state and nearly every diocese. Never before, except when World Youth Day was held in Denver in 1993, has the U.S. sent more people to this international event convened by Pope John Paul II every two or three years since 1985.
U.S. presence will be felt in more than number. Elise Ainsworth, 24, of Joliet, Illinois, and Nicholas Huck, 20, of Reading, Pennsylvania, will be among a select group of young people from every continent who will take roles in all the large events and in the Papal Mass at World Youth Day. Elise and Nicholas, both students who are active in their parishes, are members of a Young Adult Advisory Board that works with the U.S. Bishops' Subcommittee on Youth and Young Adults. Most members of the group – some with their spouses – will attend World Youth Day.
Some board members already have assisted the bishops' WYD office in planning and preparation. For example, Ron Kills Warrior, 24, from Porcupine, South Dakota; Sophie Henrichs, 22, of San Antonio, Texas; and Brian Evers, 24, of Troy, New York; worked with young adults from Canada and with World Youth Day staff to design a prayer service, in three languages, on the theme "peace, justice and forgiveness." The service will be held on an outdoor stage in the heart of Toronto on Friday, July 26. Young people and bishops from both countries will lead this ritual that includes a witness talk given by Erica Basnicki, a Canadian youth whose father was among those killed in the World Trade Center attack on September 11.
Many members of the Young Adult Advisory Board will also assist during the event at the U.S. bishops' special headquarters set up in Toronto to assist pilgrims and to coordinate activities.
Several staff members from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will serve in the on-site headquarters and coordinate displays and prayer services. There will be displays about pro-life issues, vocations to the diocesan priesthood, and resources and books published by the Bishops' Conference. Nearly 40 seminarians from all across the U.S. have volunteered to assist and greet visitors to these displays. In addition to the seminarians, three bishops and four priests who are diocesan vocation directors will spend time talking with young people at the vocations exhibit.
On Wednesday, July 24, the U.S. team and seminarians will offer prayer services at two Toronto churches on the theme "Come, follow me."
Forty U.S. bishops, including USCCB President Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, have been asked by the Pontifical Council for the Laity to offer talks and celebrate Mass during catechetical sessions scheduled on each of three mornings during World Youth Day. These sessions will take place in parish churches throughout the greater Toronto area. In addition to the bishop-catechist, the team at each site will include a facilitator and one or more musicians. Responsibility for coordinating the sessions is typically assigned to national bishops' conferences and to international ecclesial movements. The U.S. Bishops' Conference has twenty sites to coordinate for three days each. Many musicians, musical groups, and religious educators have volunteered to work with the bishops offering catechesis at those sites.
The U.S. Bishops' website for World Youth Day is www.wydusa.org and the Canadian website is www.wyd2002.org. Together they contain all the latest program information.