'Youth Space' Unites Catholics and Anglicans

First Ever Ecumenical Gathering for Young People At Congress

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By Junno Arocho

DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The International Eucharistic Congress is one of the biggest events in the Catholic Church. There are conferences, addresses and exhibitions that are for all participants. For the first time in its history, the congress has an area dedicated to young people called the “Youth Space,” which brings youth from both Catholic and Anglican denominations in the spirit of ecumenism.

ZENIT had the opportunity to speak to Anna Keegan, youth officer for IEC 2012 and Greg Fromholz, youth director from the Anglican Church of Ireland, about this unique ministry within the congress.

ZENIT: It’s my understanding that this is the first time that there has been a «Youth Space» at an International Eucharistic Congress. What prompted the creation of this?

Keegan: Yes, it is the first time ever. Fr. Kevin Doran was over at the last International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec, Canada, and he saw all the young people that were so involved and when he came back he told a couple of people. I was there at the time helping out and volunteering, and he said that he would like a Youth Space, like a World Youth Day on a smaller scale. We have the hope that in future International Eucharistic Congresses this could take shape and grow.

ZENIT: Why is it important to have this «Youth Space» for the youth in Ireland?

Keegan: I think it’s important for young people to be invited to feel welcomed in the Church, this is also a site for them to ask questions that they are asking out in the street; here they can get their religious and spiritual answers and we can have a forum that brings a real joy to this space. And we’ve turned this space into a big church community where they can come in and feel welcomed. Just to make them know and feel that they are part of this community, and they can come in and make friends.

Fromholz: I agree. I think that as well, it’s an opportunity for anyone to question the bishops, to grill the bishops, we have had several bishops on site that can actually handle the tricky questions about every issue that young people are struggling with. Not only is it the first «Youth Space», it’s the first ecumenical space in so far as they bring together both traditions. I myself am Anglican from the Church of Ireland and to even coexist like that within one space, within one house with four walls, it’s not a hard issue that we wrestle with.

ZENIT: And you’ve had Catholic as well as Anglican bishops come and visit?

Fromholz: Archbishop [Michael] Jackson [Anglican Archbishop of Dublin], hopefully will be coming sometime this week. But for the most part I work close with him, although I am not a bishop, we have a good mix of Anglican communicators, Protestant communicators, among all the great Catholic communicators as well.

ZENIT: What has been the response, so far?

Fromholz: I think they walk in the room and immediately they realize this space was created for them. First you have the lights, a big stage, but then you throw in a DJ, you throw in a band that makes sense, you throw in all the communicators, and all the conversational and interactive elements, and they are like «This is home, this is what I’m talking about.» In a way, it’s bringing us back to how the Church began. Hanging out, living life, eating food, asking questions and going out to the streets to do their ministry. I think we’re trying to go back to that.

ZENIT: Cardinal Marc Ouellet, papal legate to IEC 2012, was here yesterday. Did he have any message for the youth?

Keegan: Yes, he welcomed all the youth. We could see the joy and how happy he was to be there and he was very happy that there was a youth space. And he just really wanted to come and he was so humble that he just sat there through the whole night and prayed with us.

ZENIT: How is this space being used to promote ecumenical dialogue among the youth?

Fromholz: We don’t have anything specific. When they [Anglicans and Catholics here] come together, it actually is a bit of a non-issue, it doesn’t really come up. And I think initially, when they come in there they think «Well, where do I sit?», but there will be communicators during the week that talk specifically about how we can come together, how we see the church as one body instead of separated on different sides.

Keegan: And I think that you see in this space that true friendships are being built here. We set it up in such a way to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them to be friends, to form a community together of faithful people that are Christians.

ZENIT: What do you hope the outcome will be with this space?

Keegan: I hope that young people and everybody that has come to the congress, not just young people, will just use what they have learned as a drive to do the mission. I think parishes are so important to the local community, and I hope this well help for these people to go back to their parishes, get in there, and get involved. This is our church and the church can do nothing without the people. We would like those who attend to say, «I want to help in this way» or «I want to volunteer for that,» and we hope this will inspire people to get involved in their local parish.

Fromholz: Yes, I would agree 100% with what Anna said, I also hope that every gift received by these teens can be the antibodies that spread through the limbs of the church. Christians are called by God to be part of the change in the church. I would love Ireland to do something like this for the youth every year. I would love this to be a springboard where looking at our gathering in Dublin, to see that we are doing this as one and say «So why can’t we do this here or anywhere.” I have a lot of hopes for it, but I’m hoping that this will be a start of something that will spread throughout Ireland.

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