Preparing for Madrid

Next month I’ll be away from my usual haunts, digital and otherwise. There will be little time for blogging or any other social media activity, for Iĺl be at the World Youth Days in Madrid, Spain, from 10 to 23 August, with a group of about 100 young people, youth workers and clergy from the Archdiocese of Utrecht. Yesterday This weekend, the organising team hosted a preparatory weekend for all attendees. I was only able to join them for the Saturday, but I did get the core of the information and preparation on offer.

There were several aspects to the weekend: practical, social and spiritual. Father Hans Pauw, one of the archdiocesan regional vicars, covered the first aspect, going over the program and events in both Zaragoza and Madrid; there were games and sports activities to get to know the other attendees; and youth worker Hao Tran spoke about topics such as ‘God is love’ and our image of God that plays a major role in our relationship with Him. The day ended with a time of Adoration, Confession and prayer.

Some photographic impressions:

Young people from all over the archdiocese (and beyond) arrive at the primary school where the weekend was held
The core team of the archdiocesan trip to Madrid makes its introductions
Fr. Pauw goes over the practicals
Lunch time in the school yard.
The story of the prodigal son in sketch form, to underline the mercy of God
Tug-of-war, the girls versus (most of) the boys
Diahann from the Faculty of Catholic Theology hands out key chains and information about studying theology
Bishop Theodorus Hoogenboom, auxiliary of the archdiocese, comes to say hi, encourage us, and link his last name (literally meaning 'high tree') to the motto of this edition of the WYD: "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith"
Bishop Hoogenboom kneels before the Blessed Sacrament
Sacred Heart of Jesus, guide and inspire us!

Palm Sunday 2011: Impressions from a Passion

Yesterday I celebrated Palm Sunday in the Archdiocese of Utrecht, at the Emmanuel church in Zutphen. That church was host to a preparatory program, called ‘Passion’, for the World Youth Days in Madrid, in August. God willing, I will be able to go there, thanks, in large part, to the youth worker of the archdiocese, who was willing to waive to age limit. The reason that we (for it is not just me) are not joining our own diocese for the trip to Madrid is not very interesting for this blog, but it boils down to us having faith that Utrecht’s program will be a success.

The day offered various events, starting with Mass with the local parish, and continuing with presentations, practical information and workshops. Below are some photos I took during the day.

The cavernous interior of the Emmanuel church, with local parishioners and young people taking part in the WYD program.
Local priests and Auxiliary Bishop Herman Woorts (second from right) concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Wim Eijk (right).
The archbishop gives the homily
"Hoc est enim corpus meum"
Attendance was very good
Fr. Patrick Kuipers delves into the theme for the World Youth Days 2011 and the pope's letter about it
One of the workshop was an introduction to Spanish
The archbishop hosted a workshop in which he drew a comparison between the religious landscape of the Colossae, recipient of a letter of St. Paul, and our modern society
Elements that those religious landscapes share: worship of spirits and of nature, scientists and astrologers, the Greek and Roman pantheons, mysterious New Age-like religions, people who claim to be visionaries, the Jewish religion and the worship of angels.
Youth worker Hao Tran speaks about the practicalities of our trip to Spain
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

A sad goodbye

I’ve known about it a few days, but only today have I been at liberty to write about it. Via their website, the Archdiocese of Utrecht announces the appointment of their new youth worker, Mr. Hao Tran.

I’ve known Hao for a couple of years in his capacity as youth worker for the Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden, where he has been key in the development of the youth platform which, among other things, sent significant delegations of young people to the World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney. In my experience, Hao is driven, inspirational and pastoral, knows what he wants and how to get things done. As such he is, I think, the ideal person to repeat in the archdiocese what he has done here: create a solid foundation for youth programs and events for people between 12 and 30.

But we will definitely miss his drive, his knowledge, his inspiration and his person here. But things change, people move on, and what is good for one diocese can certainly positively influence other parts of the Church province as well.

Hao Tran (left) gives catechesis to young altar servers, earlier this year

Looking back in gratitude

I spent my Palm Sunday weekend with the youth platform of my diocese, Groningen-Leeuwarden. For 25 years now, Palm Sunday is also World Youth Day, so the youth platform hosts a weekend of fun and games, but also catechesis, for young people between 16 and 30.

Notes left on a flipover, after youth worker Hao Tran spoke about the nature of God's love for His people

It was not only a chance to be away from the relentless media assault on the Church, but also an opportunity to meet people I hadn’t seen in too long. I was sorry that it only last one and a half days, to be honest.

Local hermit Brother Hugo visited
On Sunday afternoon, there was the opportunity to go canoeing

On Sunday afternoon, Bishop de Korte visited to celebrate Mass together with Fathers Arjen and Victor. I had the honour of serving at that Mass, and almost nothing went wrong… 😉

Before Mass, we processed to the church, carrying buxus branches in lieu of palm fronds.   

The church in Wehe Den Hoorn, the small village where we stayed, is small but rather nice. Aspects of the sanctuary, though , are mirrored to what I used to: the credence table is at the other side, which totally turns one’s orientation to the altar around.

The interior of the St. Boniface church
An impromptu welcome sign for Bishop de Korte

The weekend reminded me that the Church and the faith are so much bigger than what the media presents it as. It truly transcends it.

I am thankful for these past two days. Let’s remember the things to be thankful for in this Holy Week. It grounds us in and elevates us to Easter, less than a week away.