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Youth called to be men and women of the dawn as MWYD closes

There might be some very tired Catholics in Durban this morning, but they’ve been spiritually energised after attending four days of Mini World Youth Day (MWYD). An all night-vigil concluded the event which ended with mass in the early hours of Sunday morning, presided over by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Peter Wells.

Drawing inspiration from the colour purple worn in advent, the archbishop explained that it was a colour of expectation. “In fact, I like to think it is the color of dawn; that moment right before the sun peaks across the horizon. It is the color of that wonderful moment when the darkness of night starts to pass, and we await with expectation the rising of the sun. In Advent we are celebrating the dawn. The time when we as a Church community await the rising of our ‘sun’, Christ our light who is coming again.”

The event, which saw some 4,000 participants descend on Durban, brought together Catholics from around Southern Africa including Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Swaziland. And while not the first of its kind in the country, it was by far the biggest gathering of young Catholics at this kind of event. Its popularity prompted great enthusiasm for the country to host World Youth Day, which last year attracted 2.5million Catholics to Poland. Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban said it would be his dream to have the international event on local shores.

In an interview with Spotlight Africa, Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS, Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), said the highlight for her had been the level of participation from the young people. “Seeing the youth during the catechetical sessions listening and really engaging with their faith was an opportunity to see what they really want to know about their own faith.”

Makoro said it was clear how important it was for Church leadership to provide these kinds of platforms for the youth, and the impact leadership can have on assisting the youth in coping in their daily lives. She said there was great hope and excitement for the future that similar events would take place.

The papal nuncio said the Church saw the young people as “people of the dawn”.

“In a sense we expect in you the same thing we expect when we see the dark of night give way to the brighter hues of day. We see the hope for tomorrow, the promise of new light, a new innocence, and the possibility of beginning anew.”

During his message, the archbishop spoke about some of the fears the youth might be facing, admitting that it was difficult to address all the fears in a single homily. Referring to the Gospel of Mark, Wells explained that Jesus begins many things, but finishes few. “He doesn’t finish them because he is leaving it to us to carry on his ministry. He leaves it to me, the bishops and priests here, the religious sisters and brothers and he, especially, leaves it to you. In some ways what we have in Mark’s Gospel is not a story about what Jesus did, but instead, it is a job description for us of what we should be doing.”

He said by returning to the gospel, “we are again within the colour purple. We are back to the contrast between light and darkness, despair and joy, love and hate, fear and hope.” He called on the pilgrims to leave MWYD as vessels of the Good News.

“Will you leave as men and women who are complacent with a world filled with corruption, war, trafficking of your brothers and sisters, hunger, poverty and greed, or will you leave as bothers and sisters who will no longer blindly accept these things as ‘normal’ but who will, as Pope Francis has asked you to do, stir things up, pushing all of us to rethink, redo and renew?  Will you be people of the past or people of the beginning, ready to recreate a tired world together with our Lord?  In other words are you ready to take up where He left off? Will you be men and women of the dusk or brothers and sisters of the dawn?”

Wells assured the crowd that the youth were the beginning and the Good News; the youth are people of the dawn, he reiterated.

For many, these closing remarks were connected to the cardinal’s opening message, where he quoted from the late Bishop Barry wood, reminding the youth to live purposefully because “God has not finished with me yet”.

And as the youth departed from the Durban Exhibition Centre in dance and song, and with great excitement in the air for similar future events organised by the bishops, one got the feeling that this was the dawn of bigger things to come.

Image by by _cthando_

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.

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Claire Mathieson
Writer, editor and knowledge management specialist, Claire has worked in both traditional and Catholic media spaces. She balances her time between providing strategic communications and knowledge management in the world of climate change and sustainable development and as an associate editor on spotlight.africa.

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