We should build on World Youth Day's energy, new coordinator says
By Jean Ko Din
Photo caption: WYD national coordinator Isabel Correa at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of Isabel Correa)
World Youth Day is not an isolated event, says Isabel Correa, but one opportunity among many for the Church to celebrate with young people.
Correa is Canada’s newly appointed WYD national coordinator, and like her predecessor Father Thomas Rosica, she intends to be an advocate of harnessing the energy of WYD and injecting it back into the life of local youth ministry.
World Youth Day has played a significant part in Correa’s own life. She attended her first in Denver in 1993. She was 18 years old and travelling with a parish from Montreal. The experience was “a very powerful force of change” in her life.
“I thought I was the only one in my parish, in my own little corner, that believed,” she said. “And then you experience World Youth Day and you realize that, ‘Wow, you’re not alone.’ That was the overwhelming feeling and what I still hear many young adults today exclaim.”
Correa, 42, said the experience introduced her to the universal Church and at the same time opened the doors to her own local church. When she returned home, she was inspired to become more involved in parish life.
Since then, Correa has attended seven more WYDs – Rome 2000, Toronto 2002, Cologne 2005, Sydney 2008, Madrid 2011, Rio de Janeiro 2013, and Krakow 2016. In 2004, she was appointed youth ministry director in the Archdiocese of Montreal and has organized its youth delegations to WYD.
“Right now I don’t go to World Youth Day for me personally. I go to make it easier for young people to be able to participate,” said Correa. “I work with a team of young adults and our mission from the very beginning is one of service.”
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed Correa as national coordinator last month after the resignation of Father Rosica, Salt + Light Media CEO and English-speaking attaché to Vatican’s Synod of Bishops. He had held the post since WYD Toronto in 2002, and as Correa learns to fill his shoes, she is eager to bring her own vision to the role.
”I’d love to put together best practices across the country,” said Correa. “Not just for World Youth Day or the pilgrimage itself, but all of the supportive activities and all these pastoral initiatives that are there to promote the development of their relationship with Christ for young adults.”
Her main role will be to act as liaison for the WYD organizing team and Canadian youth leaders, and facilitating events during the week of celebrations, including the Canadian youth gathering.
Canadian delegations to international WYD events can vary across the country. There are many delegations, like Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton, that coordinate hundreds of pilgrims on a diocesan level.
However, there are also dioceses, like Toronto and Charlottetown, where delegations are organized by individual parishes or groups.
Correa hopes her role will allow her to connect with youth leaders across the country and share ideas.
“We’re all very unique. It’s beautiful and it’s a big country,” she said. “There’s a lot of people on the ground who are doing amazing things and if there could be more links and more networking, I think we’d be working in less isolation.”
Correa, who continues to lead Montreal’s youth ministry office, said preparations for WYD must be integrated into the ministry life of the diocese.
She wants World Youth Day to be more than an event every few years for the young pilgrims who attend. “It’s an opportunity for the Church to celebrate, be with young people, and pray with young people and work with young people.”
As young Canadians gear up for WYD Panama in January 2019, Correa said the preparatory document for the 2018 Synod of Bishops needs to be part of the conversation. The 20-page text on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment” is a detailed reflection on how young people live in today’s society.