My pilgrimage began three years ago in Toronto when everyone was going to Sydney. I was discerning a call to the priesthood at Serra House, and I was invited by the Director of the Office of Catholic Youth to volunteer at the regional WYD celebration at the Martyrs Shrine in Midland. They needed volunteers, and most of the usual suspects were headed to Sydney. I had never participated in any youth related Catholic event, and at the time, I had an extreme distaste for Praise and Worship music. If he hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t have been interested. He thought that it would be a worthwhile experience if I went, and his advice was simply: Be open to the experience.
It rained most of the weekend, and because of the danger of lightning, every time it rained, we had to usher the pilgrims into the Church for shelter. Our schedule had to be adapted as we went along. During the first night, when the pilgrims gathered in the Church to avoid the storm, they started singing praise and worship songs to keep up the spirit of the weekend. I took notice of the amount of joy they had, and how eager they were to express it. As Catholics, we have a lot to be happy about, and a lot of reasons to give thanks. We have a lot to celebrate and we need events like this remind us of them. By the end of the weekend, once I had opened myself to the experience, I had an amazing time.
People are surprised when I tell them that the regional event was my first WYD experience, and that I didn’t even attend WYD in Toronto. I ended up hosting the regional event the next year, and now I am blessed to be able to be one of the leaders for the pilgrimage going to Madrid. I am not sure exactly what to prepare for in Madrid, but the most important thing I can do is be open to the experience.
Neiman D’Souza is a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Toronto. He is also an excited Pilgrim and Group Leader from Toronto for WYD 2011.