Five Xavier students are attending Pope Benedict XVI's World Youth Day in Madrid

| July 26, 2011

Five students from Xavier are traveling to Madrid to attend World Youth Day Aug. 12–22 with James Riordan, S.J., assistant director of Xavier’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice. They are the first Xavier students to participate in World Youth Day since its inception in 1985.

Young people from around the world gather to celebrate and learn about their Roman Catholic faith. World Youth Day is one of the primary means by which the Catholic Church proclaims the message of Christ to and expresses its concern for young people. The Pope chooses the theme, delivers a message on its significance, and calls youth from all over the world to participate.

Pope John Paul II began World Youth Day in 1985. Subsequent events have been held every two to three years since in locations worldwide including Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, Toronto, Cologne and Sydney in 2008. More than 340,000 are registered for the event in Madrid.

Xavier students selected to attend applied for the trip by submitting an essay in which they had to demonstrate a desire to enrich their Catholic faith and share their experiences with the Xavier community. They hope to implement programming ideas gained on the trip and on a personal level grow spiritually, culturally and socially.

The students going to Madrid are Anthony Cirillo of Fayetteville, N.Y., a freshman majoring in psychology with a minor in theology; Elizabeth Rahner of Cincinnati, a sophomore nursing major; Amanda Weickert of Cincinnati, a junior double-majoring in theology and history with a minor in philosophy; Abigail Hamilton of Chicago, a senior environmental studies major with a peace studies minor; and Tim Wiethop of St. Louis, a sophomore history major minoring in political science.

“We really want to be able to set a precedent for future Xavier trips to World Youth Day and start a tradition,” said Rahner. “We want our trip to touch as many people as possible.”

Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Francis Xavier, co-founders of the Jesuit order, had their origins in Spain, so the location of this year’s event in Madrid holds special significance for Xavier’s students.

“This is an incredible experience for the students and for me,” Riordan said. “It is an opportunity for Xavier to share in the richness of the Church universal. Our young people will attend representing the Catholic faith here at Xavier University and will experience the presence of the Holy Father. I hope they come back enlivened by their faith and eager to share it with our community.”

Before World Youth Day begins, the various dioceses of Spain are welcoming the students from Aug. 11-15 in a cultural exchange in the context of faith. Activities include prayer and visits to shrines, cultural activities, visits to local sites of interest and social service projects. World Youth Day begins Aug. 16, and the Pope arrives Aug. 18. At 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 20, Pope Benedict comes to the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome for the Eucharist and to address the gathering. The students attending the event then spend the night in the aerodrome.

For more information on WYD2011, please visit the website.