Midwest youth gather in Chicago to celebrate World Youth Day

Allison Follbaum | Special to The Michigan Catholic

Pilgrims from Detroit pose for a photo with Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago during the World Youth Day Midwest event.

Detroit — While millions of young Catholics gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the 13th World Youth Day, 800 gathered in Chicago to celebrate a bit closer to home.

At World Youth Day Chicago: A Midwest Celebration, youth gathered from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, partaking in their own version of the WYD pilgrimage on July 27. The contingent of students and chaperones from Detroit numbered more than 150; the largest group outside of the Chicago participants.

Laura Piccone-Hanchon, youth ministry coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit, asked the WYD Chicago team whether youth from the Detroit archdiocese could participate at the event, and they agreed.

They left in buses from Detroit in the morning, arriving at St. Kieran Catholic Church in Chicago Heights to take part in a 2.7-mile walking pilgrimage.

“We had kids from all over the state, including Lansing, Saginaw, Rockford and Detroit,” Piccone-Hanchon said. “Some of the urban kids from Detroit were youth animators during the event.”

Youth animators, she explained, were participating in the activity on stage, introducing keynote speakers and transitioning between talks.

Darrien Bryson was one of the animators during the weekend. He said he enjoyed being at World Youth Day Chicago and made lots of new friends. “I especially enjoyed the leadership and rosary workshops,” he said.

Noelle Garcia, a Catholic recording artist, and Pat Rinker, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Lansing, were the keynote speakers for the event. Besides the two longer talks, teens were separated into groups for catechetical breakout sessions, rotating through a series of smaller talks.

Young people agreed the Chicago event was a good compromise for those unable to attend World Youth day in Rio de Janeiro. Cynthia Obia, one of the Detroit participants, drew from her experiences at World Youth Day Madrid in 2011 to appreciate the Midwest event.

“I didn’t expect how much more personal the experience would be.” Obia said. “Instead of being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Catholics from every nation, I was joined by 150-200 teens from the Midwest that had a similar faith experience to mine.  Sharing this journey with them helped me to see Christ in others: disciples of Christ.”

Bryan Renteria, a 15-year-old from St. Cunegunda Parish, Detroit, grew in appreciation for the blessings God has bestowed on him. “There are a lot more people who struggle more than I do, and when I realized this, I felt selfish,” he said.