World Youth Day Feels Right at Home in Orange County

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Augustine Ibeanusi still wears a roped bracelet around his right wrist, a keepsake from his last World Youth Day retreat at Marycrest in 2013.

“It means a lot,’’ said the 20-year-old from the Bronx. “It’s a rosary, and I made it. Ever since I made it, I haven’t taken it off. I wear it to school, church and while I play soccer. I only take it off when I cook.’’

Ibeanusi was among the estimated 50 teens and young adults participating in the “World Youth Day—Not a World away’’ at Marycrest in Monroe on July 29-31.

“Personally, I think it’s a way to connect to Christ spiritually and physically,” Ibeanusi said. “So far, it’s been a great experience and a life-changer. It helps me understand more about God and Jesus and the relationship between the both of them. It helps me have more faith in my religion and not question every single bad thing that happens in my life. I have to work through them with the help of God.”

Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate sisters have hosted a World Youth Day-style event at their motherhouse at Marycrest to coincide with the much larger one since 2000. (The sisters did not hold an event in 2002, when World Youth Day was held in Toronto.)

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were there to assist the sisters at this year’s weekend retreat. A large tent was set up at Marycrest with a stage for the local speakers/musicians and a large screen to watch Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. Marycrest also had a Stations of the Cross, pilgrimage walk with prayer for the spiritual works of mercy and a candlelight rosary procession.

“We try to add as many of the elements they have at the main event,’’ said Sister Josita, P.V.M.I., co-organizer of the Marycrest event with Sister Maria Catherine, P.V.M.I.

“We love seeing the people who come to us. It’s an opportunity for our sisters to provide something for young people they may not get anyplace else.”

Staten Island’s Anna Paolicelli, a senior at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, was attending her first World Youth Day retreat at Marycrest and referred back to a talk about confession earlier in the day by Father John Paul Ouellette, C.F.R., which really captivated her.

“(The talk is) always about the formula for confession and what confession does for you,” said Ms. Paolicelli, who hopes to study for her master’s at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. “The priest who’s giving the talk on confession will say, ‘You know to be honest with you; your sins aren’t all that interesting. We don’t remember them. Get rid of that fear, go confess your sins, receive the graces and that’s it.

“Father John Paul did none of that. He told real life stories that used your imagination to draw a conclusion. It helps you grow, see the sins you struggle with and gives you the strength because every time you go to confession you receive graces.”

St. Pope John Paul II established World Youth Day in 1985. In 1993, 500,000 teens and young adults attended World Youth Day in Denver, the only World Youth Day to be held in the United States. This year’s event in Krakow drew more than a million people. World Youth Day, which became a weeklong event in 1989, is scheduled for Panama City in 2019.

Anne Therese Walters, 17, plans to travel from her home in Mountain Top, Pa., to participate in her third World Youth Day-type event at Marycrest in 2019.

“It’s really expensive to go (to another country for World Youth Day), and there are other things like time off from work you can’t sacrifice. To go on this weekend retreat is a blessing,” she said.

“After my first visit to Marycrest, my relationship with God got a lot closer so that it was the start of falling in love with my faith again. Coming back is a chance to strengthen it even more.”

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