Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On the Road to Spirituality St. Ambrose Teens Board Bus to Papal Visit - and Self-Discovery

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

On the Road to Spirituality St. Ambrose Teens Board Bus to Papal Visit - and Self-Discovery

Article excerpt

They came Wednesday morning with Walkmans in their ears and fashion magazines under their arms, 19 tired but eager teen-age pilgrims to the Colorado promised land.

Drawn by a chance to see Pope John Paul II - not to mention the prospects of adventure and quality time away from parents - they arrived in T-shirts, shorts and Birkenstock sandals for World Youth Day '93.

They came here from St. Ambrose Church in St. Louis to join 170,000 young people from 70 countries for the five-day event. The event opened Wednesday night with a Mass in a downtown park. The pope arrives today for a four-day stay.

He started World Youth Day in 1987 as a way of reaching out to and teaching young people. The event has been held every other year since. This is its first time in the United States.

The St. Ambrose parishioners are among about 850 young people attending from the St. Louis Archdiocese. The Belleville Diocese sent 750.

World Youth Day defines youth broadly - from teens through 30s. At ages 14 and 15, the St. Ambrose teens are among the youngest participants.

The Rev. Victor Barnhart, assistant pastor of the church, says the most important part of the teens' journey will be learning about themselves.

"Their quest right now is developing a sense of identity," said Barnhart, who knows his charges well. "Participation in church is not a goal. This doesn't mean they don't have spirituality, but it's more a spirituality of relationships. In its own way, this is a spiritual journey. They will look back on it in years to come and continue to find meaning in it."

Before they took off, the teen-agers joined their families at a Mass at the church Tuesday afternoon.

Erica Armbruster, 15, served as an acolyte - the first girl to do so at St. Ambrose, she and others said.

Barnhart, who celebrated the Mass, prayed for a safe journey. He said he hoped it would bring "something more than a change of scenery."

"Maybe some of us do go with questions, and there are things we want to have answers to," he said. "We're on a journey from one place to another looking for something - a pilgrimage we call it."

After Mass, Barnhart changed into chaperone garb - blue shorts, a blue baseball cap, moccasins and a T-shirt that bore a picture of palm trees and proclaimed "Life's A Beach. …

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