An abrupt change of course

Downtown Toronto is bustling enough that you seldom encounter familiar faces. You can imagine, then, how surprised I was to bump into Sarah, a 22-year old university student who I hadn’t seen in years. It was particularly coincidental to find her on the eve of my flight to Australia, as she’s the best example I know of how WYD can change your life.

Sarah’s experience at WYD 2005 discouraged her from following a vocation—or what she then thought was her vocation—to become a minister in the United Church (a mainstream Protestant denomination).

Going back to 2005, Sarah needed a reference to attend the Cologne event with a lay movement I then worked for. I recommended her without hesitation, as I knew her to be an ecumenically-minded Protestant who demonstrated a deep respect for the Catholic faith.  Though she could not receive the Eucharist, she agreed to participate in all the Catholic devotions with the group.

Though I credit her openness, I really don’t know how WYD changed her curiosity into a desire for conversion. But upon returning, she immediately joined a parish RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Then after eight months of intense questioning and reflection, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation. I was deeply honored to stand behind her as her sponsor and witness her tearfully receiving First Communion.

Sarah amicably parted ways with the United Church, but she never lost her desire to serve the People of God. She revealed to me that she’s now pursuing a theology degree as she discerns her new role in the Catholic Church.

As Sarah and I parted ways last night, I imagined all the other individuals who, now busily packing their bags, are unaware of how Sydney will change everything.

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