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Faith, fun and love the keys to WYD success, Archbishop Wilson tells students in Rome

January 30, 2009 3:17 pm

World Youth Day is successful because it is a profound faith experience within a community of prayer, but also because it allows young people to have fun and to enjoy being alive, ACBC President Archbishop Philip Wilson told a function in Rome this week.
Archbishop Wilson was guest speaker at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He is in Rome with ACBC General Secretary, Fr Brian Lucas for a series of meetings with Vatican offices.
He told the gathering of seminarians, post-graduate students and faculty that WYD in Sydney was “an extraordinary experience for all who took part” and he identified some key reasons behind the success of the Church’s World Youth Day events.
“There is a faith experience within a community of prayer,” he said. “There is fun and a positive experience of our common humanity. One of the results is that lots of people fall in love. They then form deeply Christian Catholic homes. These then take root in our local church.”
Archbishop Wilson said the spike in priestly vocations was not necessarily the way to measure success, although there had been a spike locally.
“The measure is a spike in the experience of faith in the lives of those who go. There is space for the Lord to act. It is an opportunity to come together and experience a common faith – to meet those who believe what I believe.
“The media give a message that if you believe you are isolated. WYD counters this by showing that there are people who believe. It is an opportunity to deepen the experience. Young people need an experience of fun and the joy of coming together in the ordinary aspects of life and to enjoy being alive.
Archbishop Wilson said the presence of the Pope at WYD events is also a key to its success.
Another fruit of WYD in Sydney was the impact in the dioceses across Australia.
“Communities were generous in their hospitality and because of their willingness to be open and generous they received a lot in return,” Archbishop Wilson said.
Archbishop Wilson told the priests and seminarians that the theology of youth ministry has to be expressed in the way in which the Church meets young people.
“If we are to engage with young people we have to enter into dialogue and not try to beat them into submission. There has to be a willingness to share – they are wanting to share the deepest reality in their lives. We have to understand the culture of young people so as to be able to dialogue. We have to understand their lives – you have to be a student of culture if you are to work as a priest.”
The North American College has about 200 students from USA dioceses as well as nine Australian students from Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Lismore.