Pro-life groups plan events before and during World Youth Day

World Youth Day is fast approaching and promises to be one of the largest events in the history of Canada. The opportunity to attend an event of this magnitude is an awesome prospect. Toronto will see upwards of 500,000 people sweep onto its streets and crowd its exhibitions sites for this 17th celebration of World Youth Day.

In 1993, a small group of youth from Toronto had organized the first official diocesan pilgrimage to Denver for World Youth Day. One of the organizers, Troy Scotchburn was one of the youth to assemble some 500 pilgrims in 17 buses for the journey. His tales of long bus rides, sleeping on school gym floors, walking for miles in the dust and heat may strike some as arduous.

However, the camaraderie, the friendships, the sense of pride in the Catholic heritage, and especially the bonds that were forged through out those days in Denver are truly remarkable. People from all walks of life, Christian or non, were brought together in a mammoth effort to assist pilgrims in their every necessity. Garden hoses were left running so that the youth could drink and refresh themselves. Food was put out on doorsteps. People spent hours voluntarily driving weary pilgrims back to their homes after the final Mass. Apart from the community effort, the sheer thrill of being among so many people of faith was like a taste of heaven, according to Scotchburn. The connection that he felt with the Pope, though he was miles away, was a feeling that he will never forget.

In response to this year’s World Youth Day, the first of the New Millennium, young people within the Canadian pro-life movement have energetically begun the planning of World Youth for Life Day.

This two-day event will feature renowned speakers such as Iain Benson, one of Canada’s top constitutional lawyers and director of the Centre for Cultural Renewal, and Mark De Young, a director of World Youth Alliance, a highly effective organization of youth that lobby at the United Nations. Camille De Blasi, the executive director of the Centre for Life Principles is also coming from Washington. She is one of the movement’s brightest stars. A young attractive woman, she has changed people’s lives with her incredible message of understanding the true meaning of personhood and happiness. Dr. Dolores Bernadette Grier is the vice-chancellor to the Archdiocese of New York. She is the first woman, the first African-American, and the first layperson to have achieved so high a position within the archdiocese. A staunch defender of the faith, she is a joy to witness as she speaks about her own conversion to Catholicism and her work of defending the unborn. Bud MacFarlane, founder of the Mary Foundation and author of the immensely popular book Pierced by a Sword will also be coming to speak to the youth, as will the renowned pro-life activist Rabbi Yehuda Levin. Apart from this incredible line-up of speakers, a group of talented musicians and dancers will also be present to add to the celebrations.

The two-day event is comprised of a Leader’s Convention planned for July 21. This will be an opportunity for youth who feel inspired to work in the pro-life movement to meet each other and the present leaders, for a day of discussion and planning. World Youth for Life Day is scheduled for July 22, on one of Toronto’s beautiful islands, Olympic Island. The event promises to be a huge kick-off to World Youth Day with an expected attendance of between 7,000 and 15,000 people.

The primary intention of WYFLD organizers is to have a major pro-life presence at World Youth Day and then to pass the torch on to pro-life groups at the next World Youth Day in Germany. Pro-life work is at the very heart of the Church. The Holy Father calls it the most important work on Earth.

Recently in Ischia, an island near Naples in Italy, the Pope mentioned WYD 2002 and its central theme. “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world.” Give “taste and beauty to life” was the Holy Father’s message. “God is not man’s competitor, but his real friend, his most loyal ally.” Part of the incredible success of past World Youth Days has been to effectively give young people this very experience; the powerful sense that our Creator is not an angry judge but a loving Father, in love with humanity, and desiring to unite all of us into His family. “Make them understand with your life that the light that comes from above does not destroy what is human; on the contrary, it exalts it, like the sun that highlights shapes and colors with its brilliance.” The hope is that youth will enthusiastically embrace this incredible opportunity to celebrate life with the Holy Father, and go on to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Canada will not go unchanged by this event!

For more information about World Youth for Life go to www.worldyouthforlife.com or call 416-483-7869. Note, you do not have to be registered for World Youth Day to attend these events.