Catholics Prepare for Spiritual Journey Joliet Diocese Members Plan Paris Pilgrimage

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara J. Martin Daily Herald Correspondent

For Laurie Vestal, the appeal of going to the August World Youth Day rally in Paris, France, isn't the chance to see the Eiffel Tower or to sample French cuisine. She's looking forward to the chance to share her faith with 2 million of the faithful.

"It's an amazing thing to be with that many people and to know that the Church is so large," said Vestal, director of youth ministry for St. Michael Catholic Church in Wheaton.

Vestal is among 95 representatives of the Joliet Catholic Diocese who will travel to Paris Aug. 13-25 to take part in the youth rally that will culminate with a prayer service and Mass said by Pope John Paul II.

The rally, a celebration of world youth, takes place every other year. In August 1993, youths from across the world gathered in Denver, Colo. Vestal and a contingent from St. Michael attended that event.

"We now live in an age of technology where the world is growing smaller all the time," she said.

The youth rally underscores that the Catholic Church truly is the universal church, she said, and the event brings teens from various cultures to a common meeting ground.

"Young people love to socialize," Vestal said. "They love to meet with other young people."

But this trip isn't just about socializing, said Mark Vician, director of youth ministry at St. John the Baptist Church in Winfield.

"We're really trying to emphasize that this is a spiritual pilgrimage," Vician said. "Yes, we're going to have some sightseeing and fun times, but the main thrust of this is spiritual."

The Joliet Diocese group will start its travels with a three-day ecumenical retreat with the Taize monastic community in Lyon, France. Organizers expect 3,000 to 6,000 people to attend the retreat. …