CHICAGO — When more than 100,000 young people gather with Pope Francis in Panama this January for World Youth Day, on prominent display will be two symbols that visited the Archdiocese of Chicago Aug. 20.
The World Youth Day Cross and the Icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, entrusted to the youth and young adults of the world by St. John Paul II in 1984, were displayed in the sanctuary at Holy Name Cathedral from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. They were venerated by the faithful who attended the many services held around the visit.
It was the first time these symbols visited Chicago. Much like the Olympic torch, the symbols make a pilgrimage to various countries leading up to World Youth Day.
St. John Paul instituted the annual observance of World Youth Day after two successful international gatherings with young people in Rome in 1984 and 1985. It is a gathering of youth and young adults for prayer, worship and celebration of the Catholic faith.
It is currently held every few years in different countries. In between the international gathering World Youth Day is held on the national level in several countries. The pilgrimage experience is aimed at those aged 16 to 35.
Daisy Chavez, a parishioner at Most Blessed Trinity in Waukegan, took a vacation day from her job in the library at National Louis University to come and visit the World Youth Day Cross and Marian Icon at Holy Name Cathedral.
She found the icon especially meaningful, as her mother died two years ago.
“Now that I know what it is to be without a mother, Mary has really stepped into that role as mother of the Church,” said Chavez, 39, after the 12:10 p.m. Mass.
Chavez always wanted to go to World Youth Day but was never able to make it happen. She did travel to Peru with Chicago Auxiliary Bishop George J. Rassas on a mission trip and traveled to Philadelphia when Pope Francis visited during the World Meeting of Families in 2015.
“I know how hard mission trips and pilgrimages are,” she told the Chicago Catholic, archdiocesan newspaper. “But now I feel like God came here, since I wasn’t able to go there.”
Jennifer Delvaux, coordinator of evangelization in the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship, said she has been to five World Youth Days, starting with the one in Rome in 2000. It was there, she said, that she began to consider leaving law school and pursuing a life in ministry.
She also went to Toronto in 2002 as a pilgrim, and then led groups of young people traveling to the World Youth Days in Cologne, Germany, (2005); Sydney (2008); and Madrid (2011).
During his homily at the 12:10 p.m. Mass, Father Jamie Mueller, director of the Office of Young Adult Engagement, talked about being at World Youth Day in 2000 as a high school student. His group camped in a field outside Rome and next to a group from France, which was having trouble with its radios.
The American group shared its radios, the French group shared baguettes and juice, and the young Mueller was struck by how, even though they were from different countries and couldn’t understand one another, they were all part of the same Church, children of the same God.
The sense of the universality of the Church is one of the gifts of World Youth Day, noted Delvaux. “While we all have different lives and different experiences, we are all part of one body.”
Several services and events were held at Holy Name Cathedral while the symbols were there, including confessions, recitation of the Divine Mercy chaplet and 5:15 p.m. Mass with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Caggiano is the U.S. bishops’ liaison to World Youth Day and one of the four U.S. delegates to the World Synod of Bishops on Youth to be held in Rome in October.
During his homily, Caggiano said Catholics are one family connected eternally through God’s grace and reflected in the Holy Trinity.
“Although we come from different lands, speak different languages, are from different races and walks of life, we are more of a family than any natural family of single blood for it is grace that makes us one,” Caggiano said. “It is the bond of divine love, of Father, Son and Spirit who dwells in your heart and mine since baptism that allows us to be one in Christ.”
This gift must give us hope in a time of pain and suffering, he said, referencing recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse.
“For our Church is not one, but it is broken and in flames as your sinfulness and mine adds to that brokenness,” he said. “If that were not enough, we live in a world that is broken.”
Our world celebrates divisions that drive us further away from God’s dream for us to be united, he said.
“That unity that Jesus asks the Father to give to us has precious little to do with whether or not you and I are on the same page,” he said. “Rather it occurs and grows and deepens and comes to perfection when you and I have the courage to get on our knees and stop looking at each other and look to the Lord Jesus who is the master, and the savior and the redeemer of our soul.”
Following Mass, Caggiano led a prayer service sending the symbols off on the rest of the U.S. tour which included stops in Miami, Houston, Washington and Los Angeles.
Duriga is editor and Martin is staff writer at Chicago Catholic, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.