SINGAPORE (UCAN) -- Archbishop Nicholas Chia of Singapore told about 400 World Youth Day (WYD) delegates at a special prayer and blessing ceremony that their commitment sends a strong message.
"The most important problem of youths today is that they have no time for God, and only have time for fun. That you are preparing to go for World Youth Day shows you have time for God!" he told the crowd of young Catholics assembled at the Catholic Archdiocesan Youth Centre on June 21 for a special commissioning ceremony.
Sydney, Australia, is hosting the official international WYD 2008 celebration, with official activities running July 15-20. These include an evening vigil and Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, catechesis, Stations of the Cross, forums and workshops.
Pope John Paul II instituted WYD as an annual observance in 1984, and international celebrations have been held every two or three years since then. This year's theme is: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).
Archbishop Chia, in his address, reminded participants that in order to make their pilgrimage to Sydney meaningful, they need to realize they are "precious" and "lovable" so they "can communicate this to others."
He reminded them they have a mission to "share Christ with others" at the WYD events, after which they will "come back with a mission to build up the Church here."
"Many wonderful things will happen, but it depends on how open you are, how predisposed you are to experiencing them," he said.
Rather than Mass, the commissioning ceremony took the form of a paraliturgy. It comprised a Gospel reading, a homily, intercessory prayers, and the blessing of souvenirs to be brought to Sydney.
A representative from the Australian High Commission in Singapore, Dieter Michel, was present. He introduced the pilgrims to several common Australian greetings and responses, recommended several tourist attractions, and advised them to bring warm clothing for the chilly winter season.
A total of 369 pilgrims from Singapore, aged between 16 and 35, from various parish, student and youth groups, will make their way to Sydney in 15 groups. Some will attend programs hosted by the Australian Catholic Church ahead of the WYD celebrations.
The Youth Centre contingent, which comprises 78 youths from various parishes, for example, will attend a pre-WYD program in Melbourne archdiocese before flying to Sydney.
Each group has also been making its own spiritual preparation. These have included retreats, days of recollection, and formation and prayer sessions.
Joseph Lee, 29, from the Church of St. Ignatius, shared with UCA News that he has attended weekly formation sessions, as well as a three-day retreat.
Lee is "looking forward to experience and deepen" his relationship with God and the Church during his first international WYD pilgrimage. He added that he hopes to experience "a revival" so as to be able "to serve whole-heartedly."
Vanessa Cheong, 19, has been meeting with her community from the Neocatechumenal Way twice a week in preparation for the trip. She said she is "very excited" and hopes the pilgrimage will help her "get closer to God and to be a witness for Christ."
Genevieve De Guzman, a Filipina working in Singapore, is part of the local Singles for Christ contingent. "I hope to be able to share my personal faith with other youths so that they can see Christ in me," she told UCA News.
De Guzman shared that she had looked after U.S. delegates during the World Youth Day celebration Pope John Paul II attended in Manila in 1995.