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St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes parishioner headed to World Youth Day has ‘a lot of hope for youth development in our parish’

Gerald Brady is planning to attend World Youth Day in Portugal.

LEWES — Gerald Brady can’t wait to meet some of his fellow Catholics from all over the globe.

The 23-year-old teacher will be attending World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal from August 1-6. The young man was nominated by St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes and will be joined by Cormac O’Donovan, who was nominated by St. Edmond Parish in Rehoboth Beach.

That’s a powerful and youthful one-two punch for the two neighboring parishes and the two young men will be returning home a few weeks later to share their experiences with their parishioners.

Brady, a Salesianum High School and University of Delaware graduate, teaches American history and civics at Cape Henlopen High School.

The logo for World Youth Day 2023 depicts a cross, rosary and a profile of Mary in the colors of the Portuguese flag. It was presented at the Vatican Oct. 16, 2020. The Vatican announced Pope Francis will be in Portugal Aug. 2-6 and would go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima Aug. 5. (CNS photo/courtesy Fundação JMJ Lisboa 2023)

“I am super excited about it. It has really been a blessing this opportunity has come my way,” he said.

Brady is most looking forward to the global aspect of the gathering, which attracts millions of young people ages 16 to 35 every few years. He said most Catholics go to their own parish and may not have the opportunity to see the uniqueness and commonalities shared by Catholics of so many different cultures and lands.

“We have brothers and sisters in the faith who approach the faith in a different way than us,” he said.

An example, he said, are the Ukrainian Masses occasionally offered at St. Jude, a celebration deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, but with some differences in language, custom and prayer than most Americans are accustomed to.

“The thing I am looking forward to most is that world aspect,” he said. “It will be an eye-opening experience meeting Catholics from all over the world.”

O’Donovan could not be reached for an interview, but both young men were nominated by their pastors. Both received funding support from their parishes, and both are active in their faith communities.

Brady has visited both Ireland and Spain and he believes that a wider perspective can help broaden his horizons. “Travel will definitely benefit how I teach,” he said.

“I would be crazy not to do it,” Brady said. “It is almost impossible to repay how kind they (my parish) have been to me, but I want to give a talk about the experience and some of my takeaways. I look forward to giving it. I have a lot of hope for youth development in our parish.”

Teaching may be in the family DNA for Brady, who has three older sisters who are teachers.  “History has always been my favorite subject,” he said. “It’s (the chance to reach students) amazing. It’s really fulfilling. Having that impact is so fulfilling.”

World Youth Day (WYD) is the gathering of young people from all over the world with Pope Francis. It is also a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Church and an intense moment of evangelization for young people.

Pope Francis speaks to young people in a video message released by the Vatican June 22, 2023, 40 days before World Youth Day gets underway in Lisbon, Portugal. (CNS screengrab/Courtesy Holy See Press Office)

“We hope that many from the U.S. will participate, and we invite all youth and young adults – in fact, every person aged 16 to 35 in the United States – to join us. Whether you plan to travel to Lisbon, participate through digital media, or join your peers at one of many local celebrations taking place in dioceses across the country, we want you to be part of this moment in the life of the Church,” according to a press release from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop Edward J. Burns of Dallas in 2021.

“Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39) is the bible quote chosen by Pope Francis as the motto of World Youth Day. The biblical phrase opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth), a biblical episode following the Annunciation (the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and the theme of the last World Youth Day in Panama).

Pope John Paul II celebrated the first World Youth Day in 1986: “Dear young friends, today you are here in Rome, in St Peter’s Square, to begin the tradition of World Youth Day, to the celebration of which the whole Church is invited,” he said. “Youth Day means precisely this: to go out to encounter God, who has entered human history through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ. He has entered it in an irreversible way. And he wants first of all to meet you, the young people, and to say to each one of you: Follow me, I am the Way: Follow me, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Brady is optimistic about the future of youth within the church, but he believes more needs to be done to welcome young people and to increase their role. “I wouldn’t say we are at a crossroads, but we are certainly challenged by the modern world … The youth of our (Catholic) church are going to have to step up,” he said.

He hopes World Youth Day will encourage young people to be more involved in their faith. “We look through church history and the biggest changes have always come from a single person or a small group of people,” he said.

Sometimes, the changes that make the biggest difference are as simple as deciding “just to say yes,” he said.

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