We are the Lord’s

It was the summer of 2005 and many young people from across our diocese were preparing to travel to Cologne, Germany for the 20th World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Our preparations included the logistics for our trip and, just as important, prayer and getting to know each other so we could more fully experience the theme of World Youth Day, “We have come to worship Him,” (Mt 2:2). One of the exciting moments during these preparations was when we were informed that Bishop George Coleman would meet us on this faith journey.

We arrived in Germany, settled in and participated in the opening Mass and youth rally as the Holy Father arrived to greet the hundreds of thousands of youth gathered from all over the world. It was an experience of a lifetime for us witnessing this massive gathering of humanity. Strangers became friends in the exchange of greetings and in a simple gift from our respective dioceses. But, in all the differences in people and cultures that we encountered, we recognized the bonds that united us all: we are Catholic; we have come to worship Christ and we all belong to Him.

One of the highlights of this World Youth Day was a visit to the Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral. Our group arrived at the cathedral to see thousands of our brothers and sisters waiting to go inside. It was literally wall-to-wall people. Some of our group got scattered. We held onto those we could as tightly as possible so as not to get too lost, always keeping an eye out for the others. We were so packed together that some of us even felt faint and were frightened at times.

However, as we made our way through this sea of humanity our shepherd comforted us in our midst. Yes, Bishop Coleman accompanied us for what seemed like an eternity just to get inside the cathedral. He was quiet. Yet, his presence among us spoke to us saying, “Do not be afraid. We will come together to pay Him homage for we belong to Him.” Finally, we made it in and experienced of one of Europe’s most beautiful cathedrals. From the Sanctuary to the stained glass to the golden reliquary containing the remains of the Three Magi, it was all an awesome sight to behold.

After the tour of the cathedral Bishop Coleman gathered us all and invited us to dine with him at a local restaurant. Our young people got to know Bishop Coleman through conversation and laughter and simply enjoying each other’s company. Our being together brought the reality of Sacred Scripture into our very lives — the shepherd among his sheep. And why not? We are the Lord’s. We do belong to Him.

The final day of our journey to Cologne brought us to the outdoor concluding Mass at Marienfeld near the village of Kerpen. By some estimates, about one million people, after camping outdoors all night, joined Pope Benedict XVI at this celebration of the Eucharist. Many of us were so far away from the altar that we could not see the pope in the vast field, so we watched the Mass on more than 15 large television screens. But, that didn’t matter. We were all together. Our Bishop Coleman was our eyes — he was with the Holy Father at the altar. We listened, we prayed, we sang and we received the Eucharist together. We came to worship Him!

The Holy Father spoke the following words during his homily at the World Youth Day concluding Mass. I have no doubt that Bishop Coleman re-echoes these same words to all of us today:

“Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it,” said Pope Benedict XVI. 

Thank you, Bishop Coleman, for all you have done for our diocese, especially the youth. May God bless you and grant you happiness, peace and good health.

Anchor columnist Ozzie Pacheco is Faith Formation director at Santo Christo Parish, Fall River.

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