Toronto, Canada - On March 10th and 11th the IVE held its 11th Annual IVE Canada Youth Weekend in Toronto.*
The theme of the weekend was "Proud to be Catholic Youth of the Third Millennium." Over 270 teenagers and young adults, ages 13-35, from Toronto and cities across Ontario, including from three different IVE youth groups, came to Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Secondary School for a wonderful weekend together.
Father Daniel Mentesana and St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish organized the event. The weekend also had the honour to host the presence of two Cardinals of the Catholic Church. His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., spoke to the youth on both days of the retreat, and one of the Church's newest Cardinals, His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto offered the event's plenary talk on Sunday.
The Youth Weekend involved several months of preparation. January through March were dedicated to inviting youth, organizing, planning meetings, and gathering of resources, all of which would have been impossible without the generous help of numerous laypeople who gave freely of their prayers, time, talents and financial support. The parish staff sent letters to more than two hundred parishes in Toronto, while volunteers called and visited numerous churches to invite youth. The elderly of the parish were especially supportive, both in prayer and in making a donation via the Golden Age Seniors Program for the event. Still other parishioners offered housing and logistical help, while many nearby stores provided donations for the day. The joy and generosity of these Catholic lay people was a beautiful witness to the entire religious family!
The event itself had a variety of activities for the youth, including sports, snacks, talks, skits, catechism competitions, talent shows and, most importantly, the Sacraments and Eucharistic Adoration. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick celebrated Holy Mass both days, giving the youth wise and encouraging advice on openness to a religious vocation and telling a few of his own memories of time spent with Blessed Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal also heard Confessions each day, with almost all of the youth having the opportunity to receive the sacrament from the many priests present. Cardinal Collins' plenary talk on Sunday focused on the Sacred Scripture and explained the practice of lectio divina (prayer with scripture) for the youth, who enjoyed his engaging style and numerous jokes. Immediately after his talk, the youth sang the 2002 Toronto World Youth Day song for the Cardinals. To provide some intellectual and apostolic formation, each day the youth could choose to attend one of four workshops, with themes such as human sexuality, dating, matrimony, addictions, foreign missions and vocations.
There was a great spirit of joy and unity among the young people, although they came from numerous cities and backgrounds. The retreatants were organized into four teams (St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael) and competed for team awards over the course of the weekend. The youth could play one of four sports each day as well, including basketball, volleyball, soccer and Ultimate Frisbee all of which were very popular, and which factored greatly in points for the team awards, along with the talent show, catechism, good spirit and more.
There were many fun moments during the weekend. At one point, most of the 200+ youth ran with hands linked around the auditorium to the tune of "LaBamba," while IVE Father Andres Ayala garnered a standing ovation from the audience for singing a famous Italian opera piece--with a few humorous touches added-- for Cardinal Collins. Then, of course, there was the legendary "Snakebite" skit presented by Fathers Diego Ruiz and Andres Ayala, along with the IVE seminarians. Indeed, all the priests and sisters working here in Canada were very grateful for the five seminarians and two sisters who came all the way from Washington, D.C. and provided an invaluable help.
We give thanks to God, especially through the intercession of St. Joseph and Blessed Pope John Paul II for the many blessings of this 11th Annual IVE Canada Youth Weekend. We remember that Toronto was the last World Youth Day of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great and recall what an example and inspiration he will always be for work with youth! The grace of God working in people such as Cardinal McCarrick, Cardinal Collins, numerous laypeople and our dear youth of Canada give great hope to us and to all the Church, both now and for the future. Please give thanks with us for the graces of this event and pray for the IVE and all the Church working in this country, that we may care well for the seeds that God has planted.
*Chronicle by Sr. Auresville
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