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World Youth Day's Local Impact

Posted : Jul-29-2016

​​​"When Jesus touches a young person's heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things."

These words of Pope Francis at the welcome ceremony of World Youth Day in Krakow on July 28, 2016 are evident locally. The Archdiocese of Toronto has always had a strong tradition of supporting young pilgrims participating in World Youth Day and the fruits of those events have enriched our parish communities for years. We asked some of our friends to share the impact of World Youth Day on their lives. As you can see, it is a transformative experience:

"When I got back home from WYD Madrid, all the same problems were waiting for me. But I was different. I had Jesus on my side. He slowly rooted out the sins and darkness in my life, holding my hand the whole way. And then He began to use me to shine His Light for others too!" –​ Krystal Pereira, Mississauga

"The words of St. John Paul the Great at WYD 2002 in Toronto were a great source of encouragement to me in beginning my vocational discernment: 'And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross!'" – Sr. John Mary, SV, Superior, Sisters of Life Toronto

"14 years ago, we joined thousands of Catholics during WYD in Toronto to witness the Church fully alive and thriving. This month we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary along with our two children Stanley and Clara, to whom we are happy to pass on our faith and the teaching of Christ, to be the salt of the earth and light of the world." – Matylda & Robert Comella, Mississauga

"As a young teenager, attending WYD Toronto (2002) was my first experience of the global Church. I was amazed that young people from all over the world were excited about their faith. Their joy encouraged me to seek Catholic community and a personal relationship with Jesus. When I returned to WYD in 2005 in Germany, I was convicted to continue my journey of faith as I began university when I heard Pope Benedict's words in the closing Mass: 'Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything.'" – Marlena Loughheed, Communications Coordinator, Archdiocese of Toronto

​"In 2002, the opportunity to host pilgrims in our home ​allowed for an opportunity of incredible lead up, experience and follow up. WYD is much more then just the week, it is a life experience that will change you forever. It was an opportunity to grow in a community of believers who helped to bring the best in all those around, including those who were not direct participants.​"​ –​ Steve De Quintal, Teacher, St. Mary's Catholic Secondary School, Toronto

​"My first World Youth Day was Denver (1993). For me, being Catholic was synonymous with going to a Mass once a week in a church in a suburb of Houston. Being Catholic wasn't bad, it just wasn't terribly imaginative or inspiring. However, that first WYD Mass in Mile High Stadium with 90,000 other people from all over the world changed all of that. You could hear the many different languages being spoken until the Alleluia just before the Gospel. Then our voices untied, because Alleluia is one of those words we all seem to know. Heaven felt so close. It was in that moment that I knew I had to be a part of that, though I had no idea what that meant. It was the beginning of a great journey that lead to priestly ministry." – Fr. Chris Valka, C.S.B, Pastor, St. Basil's Parish, Toronto

"I have been blessed to attend four World Youth Days and they have been among the most challenging, rewarding and inspiring experiences of my life. Nations of the world join together in prayer, the bishops and Holy Father invite us to consider how God is calling us to serve and one quickly learns the difference between a trip and a pilgrimage. I've always returned with a spiritual suitcase packed with reflections and memories that remain to this day." – Neil MacCarthy, Director, Public Relations & Communications, Archdiocese of Toronto

"Before making a last-minute decision to attend World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, I doubted the Catholic Church cared much about young people. That changed as I encountered hundreds of thousands of others like me, and as the Pope challenged us to give our lives to Christ. I left Toronto with restored faith in the Church and have been working full-time for Her in various ministries ever since." – Kris Dmytrenko, Communications Coordinator, Archdiocese of Toronto

"WYD 2002 in Toronto showed us the civilization of love we are called to form, in Christ. The summons that Saint John Paul II made 14 years ago at Exhibition Place still resonates in my heart: 'You are called to be the people of the Beatitudes.' It shaped who I strive to be as a Christian, a husband and a father." – Sébastien Lacroix, Coordinator of the World Youth Day Cross pilgrimage, 2001-2002