238 - february 2001

 

Oblatesbehind the Scenes
Remembering the Jubilee

Pope John Paul II very solemnly closedthe Holy Door of St. Peter’s basilica on January 6thand locked it. Thus came to a close the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.The next morning the hustle and bustle of Rome continued as usualbutthere seemed to be a difference. There was a certain inexplicable stillnessin the air around the Vatican. Small groups of pilgrims approached thebasilica – a quite common scene in ordinary times – whilethe square was being cleared of the plastic chairs and wooden barriersthat had been a permanent fixture there all year. Gone also from thecity were the thousands of Jubilee Volunteers with their blue smocksand baseball caps. City and Vatican officials were preparing their statisticsbalance sheetsand evaluation reports. The army of unnoticed peoplewho worked behind the scenes could look back with satisfaction on whatis being described not only as a spiritual successbut also as an entrepreneurialsuccess. – The Vatican Jubilee Committee actually turned a profit.– Several Oblates can also look back proudly at their contributionto the Holy Year in Rome.

OMI InformationNo. 393 (Sept. 2000) has already reported on the Oblate youth pilgrimageof 900 young people from around the world that took part in the WorldYouth Day activities. This issue of OMI Documentation looks behindthe scenes at the role some Oblates played in making the WYD event asuccess. It also presents the experiences of some young people in thegroups led by Oblates. Finally there is a paper by Fr. Edward Carolanwho served as one of the Jubilee volunteers. He gives us a look at thevolunteers’ important role in the Holy Year activities.

Several Oblates were activelybut discreetly involved behind the scenes in the organization and productionof many phases of the World Youth Day 2000 events. To the competenceand professionalism of Fr Alfred FERETTIwas assigned the arduous taskof conceivingplanning and overseeing the production of the three mainevents of the World Youth Day celebration: the opening ceremonythepilgrimage to the tomb of Peterand the vigil and concluding mass onthe university grounds at Tor Vergata on the outskirts of Rome. It willbe remembered that Fr Alfredo was international youth and liturgy coordinatorat Lourdes for many years. He is currently director of the John PaulII Youth Center in Loreto.

The opening ceremony

The solemn but festivecolorful and lively opening ceremony on St. Peter’s Square wastestimony to Fr Feretti’s creativity. After greeting a crowd ofseveral hundred thousand Italian youth gathered on the square in frontof St. John Lateran basilicathe Pope moved by motorcade across thecity to St. Peter’s. This was covered by T.V. news helicoptersand broadcast on mammoth screens in both squares. The elevated areabefore the façade of St. Peter’s basilicaknown as thesagrado was the stage for the opening ceremony. Four young peopleplaced lighted lamps in front of the statues of the Apostles Peter andPaul that adorn the corners of the elevated area. Flowers and incensewere then brought to pay tribute to MarySalus Populi Romanithe Romans’ most loved icon of the Blessed Virgin and the ChildJesus. This was followed by a greeting to the Pope by a boy from theRepublic of Guinea and a girl from Korea. The boy reminded the Pope“We grew up with you: most of us are as old as your pontificate!”

The Holy Father welcomedeach and all by calling out the name of each nation present - 159 countries.As he did so the youths from that continent responded with hurrahs andwaved colored cardswhile representatives of the continent named ranround the square and up to the sagrado with flags and bannersof the color assigned to their continent: green for Africared forAmericayellow for Asiablue for Europe and orange for Oceania.

A significant moment ofthe evening was the reading of the prologue of St. John’s Gospel– the theme of this WYD was “the Word was made flesh and dweltamong us.” Inside a symbolic tent-like dwelling made of sail clothshanging from a giant metal cross that stood to one side of the sagradoa young man proclaimed the Gospel in Spanish while representatives fromeach continent stood around the crossthus symbolizing the unity ofall in Christ. Fr Feretti recalls the tireless help of Alfonso MOTTOLADaniele POLI and Sandro MAUROthree Italian scholasticsin instructingand guiding the various groups that had a role to perform in the ceremony.

Vigil and Mass atTor Vergata

These same three scholasticsalso helped to shepherd similar “performing” groups duringthe vigil and concluding Mass at Tor Vergata where it is estimated thatmore than 2 million people were present. They were assisted by threescholastics from the International ScholasticateNestor ETCHEPARE (Uruguay)Alberto HUAMAN (Peru) and Abidon MTCHOTSA (Zambia). The latter threewere responsible for coordinating the group of 300 youth from countriesthat were in situations of war or conflict. They had been invited andsponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and given a prominentplace on the stage near the Holy Father. Some of these youths took partin the moving procession at the opening of the vigil while the Litanyof the Saints was being chanted. Representatives gave an account oftheir life experience.

Pilgrimage to thetomb of Peter

A noveltybut meaningfulmoment of WYD 2000 was the pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter. For threedays a torrent of young pilgrimsmore than 200000 each daymovedin respectful silence from Piazza Cavour along Castel Sant’Angelothen down the Via della Conciliazioneacross St. Peter’s Squareand through the Holy Door into the basilica to pray before the tombof the Apostle Peter. Loudspeakers along the route and in the basilicabroadcast soft musicmeditation textsprayers and acclamations onthe theme of the Beatitudes. The young pilgrims could follow in theprayer book that was part of the pilgrim pack. Fr Gennaro CICCHESE helpedin preparing the texts. The music was composed and executed by Fr FrancescoVOLPINTESTA. For the technical aspects of recording and reproductionhe was aided by Frs Angelo CAPUANO and Pasquale CASTRILLI. All membersof the Italian Provincethey were backed up by Sabatino MIGLIACCIOGiancarlo IOLLOAntonio D’AMORE and Cosimo MARINOscholasticsfrom Vermicino who helped with the management and animation of thesethree days.

The Solidarity Project
Abidon Z. MtchotsaO.M.I. (Zambia)

Last summer I was one of three scholasticsfrom the International Scholasticate who took part in the World YouthDay. We were not simply pilgrimsbut involved in the organisation.We were involved in the Italian Bishops Conference’s‘SolidarityProject’. This was part of the Italian Church’s Jubilee gesturetowards the many youths living in conditions of extreme poverty. Thegesture was extended to those living in countries at waror in situationsof religious and political conflict. The Bishops’ Conference sponsored300 youths whohardly able to afford the bare necessities of lifecould not imagine themselves attending such an event.

The Minor Seminary atSan Massimo in Verona served as the main base and point of gathering.All the continents of the world were well represented. Among the countriespresent were: IndiaSri LankaCroatiaYugoslaviaSierra LeoneDemocraticRepublic of CongoRwandaBurundiUgandaColumbiaMexicoIraqBangladeshKosovoAlbaniaLibyaPeru. To facilitate a smooth flowof events and for communication purposesthe group was divided intosix groups according to a common international language. Each groupwas assigned to a luxury coach with one or two seminarians acting asguides. My groupwhich included young people from Sri LankaIndiaCroatiaMontenegro and the Philippineswas an English speaking group.

As a preliminary preparationand part of the pilgrimage to the WYD in Rome we went on a pilgrimageto different dioceses of Italy. We were guests of the Italian Catholicsand their respective bishops. During our visits to the various dioceseswe had a series of prayers with the youths of the diocese and also publicyouth rallieswhere personal faith experiences were shared. We alsovisited and prayed at famous shrines and tombs. Our group went to thedioceses of BolognaAltamuraBariOur Lady’s shrine in LoretoBlessed Padre Piò’s tomb in San Giovanni RotondoSaintAnthony’s shrine in Padouaand Saint Mark’s basilica in Venice.

The climax of our monthlong pilgrimage was the vigil concert and closing Eucharistic celebrationof the WYD with the Holy Father at Tor Vergata. Our group was also involvedin the liturgical preparations for this celebration. We were privilegedto have a place on the stage with the Holy Father. In his talk the Popeunderlined the fact which distinguishes us as Christians from otherreligions“... the certainty that the man Jesus of Nazareth isthe Son of Godthe word made flesh... the invisible one is alive andpresent in the person of Jesus.” He called upon the youths to drawstrength from Jesus; not to be afraid to be saints of the new millennium;to be contemplativeto love prayerto be coherent with their faithand generous in the service of their brothers and sisters; to be activemembers of the Church and builders of peace. The Holy Father furtherreminded us of the difficulties which we are likely to face on thisjourneybut encouraged us to confide in the Word become fleshtheincarnate oneJESUS.

The programmehoweverdid not end at Tor Vergata. Our pilgrimage continued to the centralpart of Italy. My group went to the diocese of Fano. Here we were witnessesto the events of the WYD. During our visits we conducted a series ofpublic youth rallies where we recounted our experiences of the WYD andpassed on the message from the Holy Father.

My experience with theseyouths impressed upon me our the sense of our Oblate mission: to beprophets to the most abandoned with their many faces. Indeed this wasa group whose lives are filled with uncertaintiesbecause of situationsin their respective countriessituations of warsuicide bombersreligiousand political conflictsand orchestrated religious attacks on Christians.These are the poor I was privileged to be with the whole month of August.

Where are you from?

Daniel SzwarcO.M.I.(Poland)
[Daniel Szwarcan Oblate scholastic from Poland at the InternationalScholasticateaccompanied the group of youth from Turkmenistan on theirWYD pilgrimage.]

“Where are you from? Whyis your flag the only one here?” asked two boys after the Massat Circo Massimo.

– “We are from Turkmenistan”I answered.

“Where is that?”they askas everyone asks after having heard the name of the country.

It is truewe were theonly ones from the country called Turkmenistan. A distant and unknowncountrysituated in the center of Asia on the Caspian sea. A big enoughcountrybut with few inhabitantsbecause 80% of Turkmenistan is desert.

They were 46. You couldsay “from every tribelanguagepeople and nation.” Afteralmost 80 years of communismas in every former Soviet republicsoin Turkmenistan there is a great mixture of populations. In the capitalalone there are about 80: TurkmenRussiansTartarsUkrainiansPolishand so many others. In our group there were not only ethnic differences.There were the baptized who could receive the sacramentsthe baptizedwho were preparing to receive the sacramentsand the catechumens.

They departed the capitalAshgabat on August 1st. First by airplane to Kievthen by bus theypassed through the UkrainePolandthe Czech Republicand Austriaand arrived in Italy. On August 10 we came to Pescara to prepare withthe other Oblate groups for the meeting with the Pope. All of them wantedso much to come to Romefor the World Youth Dayto see the Pope. Tomake this possible they had to do so many thingsmake so many applicationsget permissionsand visas. And they succeeded because really they wantedit so much. One woman had to have surgery two weeks before the departure.After receiving the anesthesiashe shouted“I want to go to Rome!May I be able go to Rome!” She came. Also anothersix month’spregnantcame. “On your own responsibility” her physicianhad said. “The climate will do me goodits cooler” she answered.It’s true. The day they left Ashgabat it was 46·C in theshade.

They were 46. Young peopleand adults. Parents with their children. They came from another cultureanother environment. Islamtotalitarianismoildesert: these arethe characteristics of their country. “There are so many Christianshereso many churcheswhere we come fromnot even one.” TheOblates have Mass in their homes.

On August 15 togetherwith Yelenaa teacher of RussianI listened to the Pope's discourseon a small radio. “Life has become so difficult for us who do notknow turkmenespecially now after the language reform” she saysand smiles. I wonder why she smilesbecause there are few people whoknow how to smile when speaking of their problems. But little by littleI start to understand. Now they are in Romethe Pope is talking tothemand they are well aware of what is most important. In a whilethey will return to their countryto their daily routineto theirproblemsbut here and now they are in the holy city and they are livingthis moment. I am sure that the memory of these days will remain withthem foreveralso because they were fortunate to personally meet thePope during the general audience.

Another worldanotherlifebut the people are the samewith the same great needthe needof Jesus Christ. For this they have come to Rometo seek the presenceof God in the Peter of our timesto listen to his voice. What theyfound will always remain deep in their hearts!

Fr. Lourdy DorismondO.M.I. (Haiti)
[Fr Dorismond tells us about the many difficulties the Haitian delegationhad to overcome on their World Youth Day pilgrimage.] he experienceof the Haitian delegation during this pilgrimage

Some young Haitians withtheir pastoral leaders had decided to go to Rome for the Great Jubileefor Youth convoked by Pope John Paul II. Two years of preparation werenot enough to spare us the troubles of a hard journeybut one thatwas successful because of the strength of our faith and the ardent determinationto honor the papal invitation.

Less than fifteen daysbefore the date of the big departure the difficulties began. And fromthat moment on the youth and their leaders had only challenges to faceand emergencies to overcome. The American Consulate by refusing to granttransit visas to more than 75 Haitians was the first to complicate thesituation. It was necessary to begin all over again to find a way foreverybody to leave. The morale of the delegation was being put to arough test. At the last minute it was necessary to find funds to paythe consulate fees for the Dominican Republic visasthe new place oftransit. The Church in Haiti is a poor Church incapable of facing theunforeseen. There was no choice but to make an appeal to the youth inHaiti for a solidarity collection to pay for the new visas. But thedifficulties of journey didn't stop there. We were a group of 250 youngpeoplea sufficient number to fill a plane but unfortunately we arrivedin Rome at different hours and on different daysa real predicament.

Here are some of the trialsof our journey. The first group that arrived in Paris didn't find theirlodging place. Needless to say that some of the youngsters could noteven pay the expenses of one day’s lodgingyet the stay in Francewas to be 6 days. The experience was demoralizing for all and triedthe Christian faith of some.

In Rome the experiencewas not the happiest either. One group had the privilege of taking theplane. Arriving from Paris by air they were welcomed by the ItalianCommittee which helped them get to Cassanothe diocese that was toreceive them. Others who could not get a ticket for the plane arrivedtwo days later by train. After some confusion this group finally headedfor Lamezia situated in the south of Italymore than six hours by trainfrom Rome. Finally the last group of twenty-one was taken in chargeby the Superior of the Oblate General House at 290 via Aurelia. We cansincerely say that our experience in the home of the Oblates was a veryhappy one. We were struck by the sense of welcome and sharing of theOblates and in particular of Fr Superior who came to get us at the airport.

Howeveron the positivesidefor every difficulty and trial our Heavenly Father always showedhis goodness by offering us an opportunity to overcome our problem.For the Haitian delegation the whole WYD experience was both tryingand enriching. We do not want to dwell on the difficulties that crossedour paththe refusals of which we were the victimsbut we especiallyremember the different ways in which God always came to our help..."

It must be said that theexperience of this small Haitian delegation at the WYD 2000will echoin the annals of the history of the Church in Haiti. We believe indeedthat our Church is universal; it is one in its diversity. We took partdespite all the difficultiesin this big gathering of the UniversalChurch. We answered “present” to the roll call of the countriesof the five continents during the opening ceremony in St. Peter’sSquare. We were present at the various catecheses. We also participatedin the pilgrimage through the streets of Rome. We went in pilgrimageto Tor Vergata more than ten kilometers from Rome where we kept vigilwith the Pope and the youth from around the world. We were there forthe Eucharistic celebration. In shortwe are proud of our Church andwe participated in our way in the WYD 2000we fully lived it in thegrace of the Most High. We return home with a light heart and the determinationto share what we received with our Haitian sisters and brothers whowere with us during this pilgrimage by their prayer.

From JohannesburgSouth Africato Rome

Nicole Anthony
[Nicole is the niece of Fr. Reginald Anthonyan Oblate fromthe Transvaal Provincewho is currently pursuing graduate studies inRome. She was with a diocesan group from Johannesburg.]

As I sat aboard the planeawaiting take-off on the 8 August 2000I remember wondering how onearth I was going to contain my excitement and stay seated throughoutthe 10-hour flight. I was high on anticipation for what Italy wouldhave in store for us and I was rearing with enthusiasm to begin thejourney. To calm myselfI tried to relax and visualize Italy's narrowcobbled roadswith ruins of great monuments on one-side and sidewalkcafes on the otherthe burnt-orange color of verandas and the smellof espresso. What better stage was there on which to set the eventsof World Youth Day 2000?

With some efforttheother 49 Johannesburg representatives and I survived both the flightand the stopover in Cairo. By the time we arrived in Napleswe werestarvingjet-lagged and exhausted. We were expecting to be greetedwith a simple snack and a place to sleep. Insteadwe were receivedwith the warmestmost energetic welcome imaginable. With genuine delightat our somewhat late arrivalour hosts bussed us offsinging and cheeringto the convent where we would all stay for the week. Despite the factthat it was 1 a.m.a warm 'supper' of pasta and roast rabbit awaitedus.

Our days spent in Napleswere the most relaxing and fun-filled of the entire trip. Our time wasspent sightseeing absorbing the beauty and heritage of our surroundings.Most importantlyNaples provided the opportunity to prepare for theactual youth celebrations that would be held in Rome from 15-19 August2000. We bonded with our own 'Johannesburgers' as well as with youthsfrom about fifteen different countries at social events (parties) thatwere organized in empty parking lots or basketball courts each evening.

My most memorable momentthere was dancing our homemade “Jesus”-Toyi-Toyi and singingShosholoza with hundreds of foreigners joining in after a mass at IlDuomo (Naples' cathedral). [The originalToyi-Toyi is an energetic dance used by workers and students duringprotests in the apartheid years. The Shosholoza is a popular South Africanminers’ song that became world famous when So. Africa won the rugbyWorld Cup in 1995.]

When we arrived in Romewe realized that the holiday was over. Rome was chaotic! It was swarmingwith over a million eager and energetic young people who had all cometo join in the youth day celebrations. Our itinerary included a catechesismass every daya pilgrimage walk to St. Peter's Basilica to go throughthe Porta Sanctasee St. Peter's tomb and the Cupola and to take partin the Stations of the Cross that was 14km long. Even though there wassome free timeminimal sightseeing was done because getting aroundthe city using public transport was a mission when you had to fighta hundred people just to squeeze through the doors of buses.

The climax of the pilgrimagewas the final mass and celebrations at Tor Vergata. 2.5 Million peoplearrived at Tor Vergata (a massive open field) the Saturday morning.Therewe would all wait for the Vigil that night and mass to be celebratedby Pope John Paul II the following morning.

What struck me most aboutthis event was the fact that we were in the presence of the foremostfigure of the Catholic Churchand yet the staunch and static formalitythat some associate with Catholicism had vanished. Young and young-at-heartpeople sangdancedsun-tannedand enjoyed the events with full enthusiasmand vitality. 2.5 million people from every languageculture and nationalityimaginable were united in one belief and one faith in one God. Thereis no greater spiritual lesson than that!

Nowsadlythe tan hasfadedand nearly every Italian phrase I had learnt has disappearedfrom my mind. Butopportunities grabbedlessons learnedfriends madewill never be more than a vivid memory away. My experiences at GiornataMondiale della Gioventu 2000 has left an indelible mark on my life.After allyou cannot 'un-broaden' your horizons!

From Zambiato Pescara to Rome
Brian Chama and Frederick Chilufya Pikiti
Brian and Frederick are two prenovices from Zambia were guests at theGeneral House during the WYD and joined the Oblate youth pilgrimage fromPescara to Rome. They shared some of their impressions in a letter tothe editor.]

Frederick ChilufyaPikiti

“All over the worldthe Spirit is moving. All over the Church the Spirit is moving.”This is a song we often sing in the formation house and after my experiencein Rome during the World Youth Day 2000I have come to believe thatreally the spirit is moving swiftly in our Church…. I believe theHoly Spirit was directing all the activities that were organized inboth Pescara and Rome. While in PescaraI met a lot of young peopleof different languagescharacteristics and races. Despite all thesedifferences we enjoyed to the fullest all the activities that were organizedby the Oblates…. The young Oblates inspired me by the way theywere taking part in the activities. They were trying to help us actas human beingsthen as Christians and they encouraged us to becomethe saints of this century.

We also had Mass withArchbishop Zago who challenged us to learn from the example of MotherMary who shared the life of Jesus until his Ascension into heaven. Hetold us to experience the life of Christ in our own lives during thepilgrimage and afterwards.

At Tor Vergata the crowdof young people was so amazing (more than 2 million) that I couldn’tbelieve that our Church was so big. I came to realize that the HolyFather is not just a mere person but a true successor of St. Peter.This is because no mere person could gather that enormous a crowd ofpeople. I have never seen such a crowd in my life. I would advise theyoung people who are leaving the Catholic Church to join other churchesthinking that the Church is going to collapsethat they are wastingtheir timebecause we are one big Church chosen by Christ himself.

… We stayed at theGeneral House where we met a lot of Oblates from different countriesand the hospitality was super. I would like to thank Fr. HuberttheSuperior who made us feel at home in the General House. I thank alsothe Oblates in Zambia who made our pilgrimage possible….

Brian Chama

It was amazing and wonderfulto be with our Holy Father Pope John Paul II on the night of 19thAugust 2000 and the next morning at Tor Vergata. We had a short butvery pleasant and educational experience with more than two millionyoung people.

Above all it was interestingto hear and understand homilies from our Holy Father stressing how possibleit is to be a saintto live giving good exampleto love and to forgive.We hope to share forever our experience with the people we will meetin our life journey.

[Both young men werestruck by the Holy Father’s invitation to become saintsand quotedhim verbatim.]

“Dear young peoplehave the sacredambition to become holy like He is holy! Young people of every continentdo not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium! May the Gospelbecome your most precious treasure. May most Holy Mary give you thestrength and wisdom to be able to speak to God and of God!”

Jubilee Volunteers

Fr. Edward CarolanO.M.I.

For those of us who livein Romethe lengthy preparations which were a feature of life in theChurch and especially in the city were years of inconvenience as wewatched public works move painfully ahead and read the journalists’pessimistic forecasts of what would or would not be ready in time. Itmust be said that the pessimism was largely unfounded. The public workswere for the most part completed: extensions and renovations of theMetro donethe Janiculum car park completedtunnels and pedestrianareas laid outbuildings cleaned or painted. The city looks good.

As for the ceremoniesthere was no major obstruction to traffic caused by the vast crowdswhich have filed into and out of St. Peter’s Squareas many fearedthere would be. This was due to the massivebut discreetpolice andcarabinieri presence which was obvious on the great occasions. Therewashoweveranother presence which was equally both discreet and obvious:the Volunteers for the Jubilee. Their blue apron uniforms and baseballcaps were to be seen every day in St. Peter’s Square and in allthe major Basilicasat the Catacombsat Rome’s airportin thecentral railway stationin the parking areas for pilgrim coaches onthe periphery of the cityin the feeding centers for the poor and indeedin any of the places where pilgrims were liable to be present in greaternumbers.

Who were these Volunteers?Many months before the Holy Yearthe central Committee for the Jubileedecided to recruit people from all over the various dioceses to do atour of duty helping the smooth running of the event in Rome. The recruitingcampaigncarried on throughout the worldresulted in sixty-thousandpeople of all ages from eighteen upwards offering to devote at leastfourteen days in the course of the year to this service. A preparationcourse was developed and adapted to the needs and circumstances of thevolunteers. They came from all over Europefrom the USAfrom Canadafrom Central and South Americafrom the Philippines. Although theyhad special travel rates wherever possiblethey did have to pay theirown fares to reach Rome. While herehoweverif they needed basic accommodationit was availableusually dormitory or sleeping bagand meals whilethey were on duty. The Italian public authorities were most accommodatingin this respectputting military facilities at the disposal of theJubilee Committee. Other institutions too did their part: religioushouses and parishes in particular.

More out of curiositythan out of any spirit of self sacrificeI offered my services as aJubilee Volunteer. That was in the autumn of 1999. I completed the applicationformhad my superior sign itenclosed two passport photos and mailedthe envelope to the central Jubilee office. In Decembera night schoolcrash course was offeredlasting one week. We were given a run downon the meaning of the Jubilee and its historyon this particular Jubilee2000on the approach to be used by Volunteers when meeting the needsof pilgrimswhether lost“pickpocketed”frustratedsickcurious or thirsty. We were to operate mainly alongside the forces oflaw and order but never to take over their duties. We were to be availableon the days assigned to us and at the places designated and ready todo whatever had to be done for the smooth operation of the Jubilee.That summed up the job deion of the Jubilee Volunteer.

A permanent corps of aboutthirty young menwho were substituting this work for otherwise obligatorymilitary service in Italyran the various key points in the city wherethe Volunteers met or got in touch. Their job was to meet the groupsof Volunteers and accompany them to their places of workexplainingwhat had to be done and supervising the doing of it. On the eve of eachwork day the individual volunteer telephoned the central office to findout where he or she had been assigned the following day and whetherfor the morning or the eveningthe tour of duty normally lasting sixto eight hours.

On May 17I was assignedto St. Peter’s Square from two o’clock to eight in the evening.For the duration of the Jubilee Yearthe Square had become an immenseamphitheatredivided into six corrals and furnished with thirty-fivethousand plastic and steel chairs laid out in rows. Between the corralsthere were wide corridors through which the Pope was driven in his “popemobile”at the end of each ceremony or audience so that people could get a closerlook at him and he could respond to their greetings. Naturallytherows of chairs become disordered after each event. Our group of Volunteerson that Wednesday afternoonwas assigned to realign them under a blazingRoman sun. The following day would be the special Jubilee celebrationsfor priests.

On Thursday morning wereported for duty at 6.30. The crowds would soon begin to assemble butfor the time beingall was quiet. Security demands thatwhenever thePope is present for a ceremonyanyone entering the Square has to passthrough the metal detectorairport style. Twenty-four metal detectorgates and baggage scanners had been installed around St. Peter’sSquare. Each one had a policeman who sat at the screen of the luggagescannera carabiniere who stood inside the gate to check the personof anyone who caused the alarm bells to ring as he or she passed throughand two Jubilee Volunteers who tried to marshal the advancing crowdsas they approached the gate.

By eight o’clockthe rush had started. There wereof coursesix thousand priests fromall over the worldeach with his vestment bag since all were aboutto concelebrate with the Popemany with photographic equipment andsome with cellular phones. There were parish and diocesan pilgrim groupsfrom many parts of Italyhere for the day to pass through the HolyDoor of St. Peter’s and make their pilgrimage. For the presentat leasttheir holy door would be the metal detector gate. There werepilgrims from abroad as wellwho just happened to be in Rome for thisone of the great Jubilee Year events. It soon became obvious that certainproperties were the regular cause of the alarm ringing in the metaldetector gate: clusters of keysphotographic equipmentelaborate metalbracelets or wrist watches and cellular phones. The Volunteer discoveredthat a sign language had to be developed to indicate the possible presenceof these objects in the pilgrims’ pockets.

Suddenlyout of nowherea gaggle of twelve-year-old schoolboys appearedaccompanied by theirteachers. They werefor all the worldlike a flock of rabbits in theirgrey pullover uniformsall trying to get through the gate at once.The alarm was ringing continuously. The carabiniere was overwhelmed.He stopped the lot. Every boy had a cellular phone in his pocketjustso that mummy could keep in touch. Gradually the crowd thinned and therush became a trickle. It was at this point that Sister Sapientia appeareddressed in the full traditional habit of her religious familynot muchvisible but a circle of facial features. She had a large-size purseand was quite surprised that even she had to submit her luggage to themercies of the baggage scanner while she herself walked modestly throughthe gate. The policeman on the scanner screen became agitated. Thatpurse had to be examined. He went meticulously through its contentsand eventually came up with a sizeable scissors. This was the offendingobject. Scissorsof any dimensionsare on the forbidden list and Sisterhad to abandon them to be collected later as she left the ceremony.

As the ceremony nearedits conclusionMauriziothe current team leaderappeared on the sceneagainto marshal the Volunteers and take us up to the main doorwayof the basilica where the altarthe choirs and the prelates had been.Everything had to be cleared away so that the approach to the Holy Doorwould be free for the afternoon.

On Saturdayduty calledto Rome’s airport. There it was a matter of being present as pilgrimsand others exited from customs. Many were intrigued by these blue apronedbaseball capped and otherwise nonde individuals standing at thegates. There were questions to be answered: how to get to the citywhere to get a regular taxiwhat was a Jubileewhat was the purposeof a Jubilee Volunteer.

Assignment for the 20thof May was different. This time the venue was the dining facility forthe poor set up by the Sant’Egidio community in the Trasteverearea. At 3.30 in the afternoon the Jubilee troops assembleddressedin their blue aprons and ready for instructions. In two large roomstables were laid and ready. Each Volunteer was allotted one or two tablesof four to six places each. By 4.30 the hungry had begun to gather.They know that on three evenings each week they are sure of a good meal:pasta or soupmeat and vegetablesfruit. They are the poor: the oldand beardedthe younger ones toothe ragged and the fairly well dressedmen and womenboys and girls. A few are native to the area but mostare foreignerscome from far off countries to the “land of promise”to look for a better lifeand so far unsuccessful in their search.Our instructions are to be firm but respectful. We are not there tohand out almsonly foodand to do so as if to a clientele in a restaurant.The big difference isthe waiter does not have to prepare a bill atthe end.

Harold is a an old timer.His immense salt-and-pepper beard give him an air of venerability andin spite of the May eveninghe is dressed in heavy tweed jacket andpullover. He tends to get noisy at times and bangs the table with hisopen hands. What he needs is attention and some of the permanent staffsit at table with him to keep him company. A younger customer with anunusual headdress wants to know if the sausages are pork. I assure himthat they are veal but he is not convinced and proclaims that if theyare pork I shall be responsible for his eternal damnation. One or othertries to find a way of getting a second helpingbut there is only oneroundexcept for bread which is plentiful. Some wrap a couple of slicesin paper and put it away for tomorrow. Most of the clientele remainonly long enough to eat their meal. They are gone and their places aretaken by another round of customers. By nine o’clock about onethousand two hundred meals have been served. Everybody is sweaty andtired and ready to go home and to bed.

Sunday’s assignmentwas to help sort out a small mountain of used clothing donated for thepoor. Summer wear or Winter wearmen’swomen’s or children’s:it was all sortedpacked and labeled according to categoryready forshipment to distribution centers in Romein Ethiopiain Rwanda orwherever.

Another day’s assignmentwas in the Basilica of St. Mary Major: controlling the flow of pilgrimsanswering questionsensuring some form of order as priests and theirpilgrims celebrated their Jubilee Mass. Thenon the eve of PentecostJohn Paul II presided the vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Againthe metal detectors had to be manned (or personed) and when the ceremonyended the blue-uniformed volunteers formed a line at the top of thebasilica stepstogether with the Vatican security personneland gentlybut firmly worked the crowd down towards the barriers and home for thenight. As a sliver of moon peered down from the Rome sky the chairslooked lonely and disheveled. Tomorrow another team of Jubilee Volunteerswould have to rearrange them.

Epilogue

Like the conquering generals of Rome’simperial armies in the days of oldthe Volunteers were given their Triumph.When the Jubilee was over and the last of the 26 million Holy Year pilgrimshad passed in and out of St. Peter’s and the Holy Door had been finallyclosed by Pope John Paul II on the Feast of the Epiphany 2001a representativegroup of seven thousand Volunteers assembled for Mass in St. Peter’sbasilica on the morning of Sunday January 7. The Mass was celebrated byCardinal Roger EtchegarayPresident of the Committee for the Great Jubilee.At midday all assembled in the square to be addressed and thanked by thePope. Thenin Rome’s brilliant sunshinethis blue uniformed armymarched through the streets of the city led by their standard bearersand singing what had become their theme song: “Our God reigns”.In Michelangelo’s Square on the top of Capitol Hill they were receivedand thanked by Mayor Rutelli and the City Council (Senatus PopulusqueRomanus). In a final gesture of solidarityblue aprons were exchangedand everybody descended to occupy a sizeable part of Rome’s paradeground (the Via dei Fori Imeriali) for a picnic. The Great Jubilee 2000was over! The fare well greetings : “See you in 2025!”

36th General Chapter 2016
36th General Chapter 2016
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Oblate Triennium
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