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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | October 2002

"World Youth Day 2002: A Pilgrim's View"


Finding Curriculum Connections
Understanding Basic Terms
Celebrations of Community
Common Elements of Community
Outcomes of Community Experience
Related Resources
Research Resources

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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

• Christian lifestyles—brotherhood; community
• American and world history—Berlin Wall; Civil Rights Movement

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article.  Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners. 


Body of Christ


Civilization of love





Gospel virtues

Deposit of faith

Salt and light

Celebrations of Community

Ordinary moments account for most of the hours of our lives.  The commonplace, however, can lull us if we aren't attentive to what's important.  On occasion, something extraordinary occurs to give us reason to celebrate, reason to remember what we are all about, reason to be who we are.

The 2002 celebration of World Youth Day in Toronto was one such extraordinary event.  A giant celebration of faith and community, World Youth Day drew an estimated half million attendees.  The event's purpose - to celebrate who we are as Christian believers.  Its rallying cry - "You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world."  (Matthew 5:13-14)

Participants praised the experience of community.  "We're family," they said.  "Catholic equals family."  The young people enjoyed the hospitality of families in the Toronto area. They glowed with their own national pride, yet thrilled to meet so many fellow Christians from all parts of the world.  They did just what Pope John Paul urged them to do: "Build the civilization of love." 

The experience of community at World Youth Day has parallels in other religious and secular community events that help define who we are:

·     The many memorials New Yorkers and others held to commemorate the dead and the heroes of 9/11.  The core ceremony in New York's Yankee Stadium brought together thousands impacted by the tragedy, thousands who grieved and prayed in community.

·      Little rivals the Olympics for celebration of community.  The international sports world sends competitors and observers from almost every country of the world, seeking, in the Olympics' own words, to unite the worlds of sport, art and culture.

·     The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was punctuated by significant community events such as the march to Selma , Alabama and the March on Washington .  These events helped to unite all those working for civil rights in our country.

·      On international and national levels the Boy Scouts gather periodically to hold grand Jamborees.  "Share our world, share our cultures" is the slogan for Thailand 2003.

·      American political parties convene every four years to endorse a party candidate for national office and develop a party platform.  

·      Teachers in the National Education Association gather annually to discuss new ideas and learn from one another.

·     World events can trigger community celebrations, such as the tearing down of the Berlin Wall after the fall of Communism.

We also gather on a local level to celebrate faith and community.  Events may have a religious purpose: weekly gathering in churches, mosques and synagogues for prayer and liturgy; parish parties and fundraisers; school retreats; memorials for someone lost to accident or illness.

Examples of non-religious gatherings would include: high school assemblies and pep rallies; family reunions and holiday parties; July 4th parades and fireworks shows; the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Common Elements of Community

What are the common elements of community events?  Talk about what community does to our spirits.  Touch on your own life experiences. Can you add to this list?

·     Celebration: World Youth Day brought together young people from 170 countries to celebrate Christian family, a family gathered around its father in the person of Pope John Paul II.

·      Mourning: memorial services help us grieve.

·     Prayer: community prayer can support and nourish us.

·      Competition: sports, debates, academic fairs unite us in spirit.

·     Learning: at World Youth Day, bishops taught the young people about the "deposit of faith" they share as members of the Church.

·     Decision to participate.  Europeans traveled for days to be present at the Berlin Wall, to share in tearing it down brick by brick.  Parishioners gathering for weekly liturgy choose to pray with their fellow believers.  Real community is a decision, a choice.

Outcomes of Community Experience

What are some typical outcomes of community experiences?  Again, can you add to this list from your own experiences?

·      Identity: community defines us, tells us who we are.  Recall the courageous Rosa Parks whose unwillingness to give up her seat in the front of a Montgomery bus to a white man sparked the city bus boycott, igniting the Civil Rights Movement.  Ms. Parks drew strength and character from her years as a member of her local church and activist groups.  She learned personal integrity in community.

·     Mission: youth at World Youth Day were reminded, "You are the future of the church.  And you are the church now."  You don't need to "grow up" before being part of the church.  You have your own gifts and strengths, your own joys and vision.

·     Renewed strength: encouraging youth to be witnesses to the faith, Pope John Paul told them, "Be not afraid."

·     Brotherhood: pen pals promised to keep in touch after they went back home from Toronto.

·     Peace: the gathering at World Youth Day worked to break barriers between strangers and nations. 

·     Sunday Eucharist

What conclusions can you draw for your own life?  Where are the opportunities for community?  What are the choices you can make now to find such experiences?

Perhaps the greatest result of community experience is the development of skills learned in a training-ground atmosphere.  You are strengthened to bring your values to the larger world.  Remember World Youth Day's rallying cry: "You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world."  (Matthew 5:13-14)  And remember what the bishops told the Toronto crowds.  Do the small things with love.  Stay connected to the church.  Pray.

Related Resources

St. Anthony Messenger has featured articles and Links on the papacy in past issues:

·        The Pope in Cuba

·        Simon Peter

·        The Pope in St. Louis

·        Pope John XXIII

Research Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference.  Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The New American Bible

Documents of Vatican II 

The Vatican

The New York Times

The Los Angeles Times

The Chicago Tribune

The Washington Post

The Miami Herald

The Associated Press

Time Magazine



ABC News

Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications

People magazine

The History Channel

The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization

Channel One – online resource for the school channel

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