Pilgrimage to Toronto
Forty-six members and friends of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Corydon will leave Saturday night for a 10-day trip that could be a life-changing experience for some or, at least, the trip of a lifetime for others.
On Sunday, July 28, they will join about a million and a half others from around the world at an outdoor Mass with Pope John Paul II in Toronto. The occasion is World Youth Day.
Joe Fey, director of religious education at St. Joseph, said, “It’s gonna be an awesome experience.”
He should know. He’s had some experience: In 1993 he escorted a similar group of people from Edwardsville, Ill., to see the Pope when he was in Denver.
Although Pope John Paul is 82 and very frail, Fey said he is still very popular and large crowds have an obvious energizing effect on the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics. “You can see a noticeable change,” Fey said. After his appearance in Toronto, the tireless Holy Father will travel to Mexico and Guatemala.
The 46 people who have signed up for the 10-day bus trip include 23 youth age 16 to 18, 10 young adults, 18 to 35, 13 adult chaperones, plus one baby.
They have planned this pilgrimage for a year and a half, raising the $27,000 to cover the cost of the trip with car washes, fish fries, carnivals, golf scramble, raffles, pizza sales, and so on. The trip will cost each person $700.
The group will assemble Saturday for Mass at St. Joseph at 5 p.m., enjoy a pitch-in dinner at 6, load up the bus, and head out about 8 p.m.
There will be all kinds of activities for the young people in the Toronto area, including festivals, concerts, prayer experiences and even classes.
On the way, the group will stop at Niagara Falls. In Toronto, there will be many activities, including a tour of religious masterpieces from the Vatican at the Royal Ontario Museum.
On Saturday, July 27, the group will take part — really take part — in a pilgrimage, walking from two to six miles to an all-night camp site at a large open space outside of Toronto that can accommodate about 250,000 youth and young adults. The Pope will be there for an evening prayer vigil.
The next morning he will return for another unforgettable event: Mass with more than a million and a half people.
“Just to be there and pray with that many people, from all over the world — Africa, South American, Central America — it’s phenomenal just to see that many Christians in one place, and combined with those different backgrounds and experiences, it’s really something,” Fey said.
Taking part in such an awesome experience can strengthen one’s faith, said Fey, 39. That’s one reason why he likes to lead this kind of tour. “It’s good to see what happens to their faith,” he said. His main assistants are Susan Bowman and Jeremy Stewart.
However, Fey said he doubts if the people in his group will have any more luck at personally meeting the Pope than the other 1-1/2 million people there, but they would try to get “the best seats we can.”