Palm Sunday, April 5th, 2009
“We have put our trust in the living God”
(1 Tim. 4, 10)
This year, for the first time in the history of Armenia, the World Youth Day celebrations were held in the village of Arevik. It was a real feast
day in the village where the entire community enthusiastically prepared for this great occasion.
On Friday, April 3rd, more than 400 youth from eight Catholic villages from the North of Armenia, Gyumri as well as from two Armenian villages in the South of Georgia converged onto Arevik to take part in these special celebrations which were prepared by a small organizing committee.
The proposed theme for this year’s WYD by the Holy Father was “WE HAVE PUT OUR TRUST IN THE LIVING GOD” (1 Tim 4, 10). In order to make the Youth aware of this message, a competition was organized inviting them to enter it, by presenting this theme using a medium of their choice, be it poetry, prose, or a visual art form.
There were more than 20 entries. The Judges were selected from the various villages that were to judge the three most outstanding entries. Special prizes were reserved for these entries, but all who participated received a book on “Preparation for Marriage” and a beautiful set of Rosary Beads. It was the first of its kind and was considered to be a success.
Beginning of Celebration
Friday, April 3rd
The main celebrations began with a short prayer, followed by the local Mayor, Mr. David Toumikyan, officially welcoming the youth. Fr. Anton Totonjian, the parish priest of Arevik, then introduced the Papal theme and the purpose of the WYD 2009. A talk given by Chiara Lubich on WYD held in Spain in 1989, which was a testimony of her life, especially of her youth, was translated into Armenian, and then screened by Fr. Anton who considered it to be f great value for the youth of the day.
The Blessed Sacrament exposed, an hour of adoration followed immediately after the screening.
Dinner and Bonfire
After the solemnities, it was time to move to the less formal part of the celebrations, and all were looking forward to it. Moving to the school building, the Principal of the school had graciously put the school area at the disposal of the organizers. Dinner has been prepared there previously, and now it was served for all those present. The Student youth group served the dinner. Their stomachs full, their souls glowing from the celebrations, they lit a huge bonfire to expel the growing chill of the evening air from their bodies. Around the fire, some danced, others talked and shared their experiences, bonding and getting into the spirit of it all, till 11:00 pm when the embers started cooling and the eyes started drooping. The buses dutifully returned all to their respective homes, except those from Georgia, who had the good fortune to be billeted by some warm hearted local families.
Saturday, April 4th
The next day, Saturday April 4th, the youth regrouped at 10:00 am. The next part of the celebrations again began with some prayers, after
which Fr. Anton, parish priest of Arevik, and Fr. Sedrak, Parish priest of Toutzkh, (Georgia) each gave a talk on the theme of the day. On the conclusion of these talks the winners of the competition were announced and prizes given out.
This was followed by Holy Mass concelebrated by Fr. Anton Totonjian, Fr. Sedrak Khitaryan and Fr. Anton Der-Antonyan, assistant pastor of Heshtia, Georgia.
Luncheon, which was organized and prepared by the parents and those responsible for the Armenian Catholic Students Youth Group, and served by the students themselves , was a most pleasant experience, even though the premises were not ideal, owing to the fact that the church has no facilities. We pray and hope that this will change in the future, together with its fortunes, and a presbytery will one day be rebuilt for the use of the clergy. At present, however, the grounds have been allotted to two families and to reclaim this for the church will be a costly affair.
In spite of all that, thanks be to God, the Youth were looked after on that day and the predicted rain held off.
Father Serop Tchamourlian
After lunch, Fr. Serop Tchamourlian, a Mekhetarist priest, who was the key note speaker, presented us with the context and the meaning of the theme of the day, which was taken from the letter of St Paul to Timothy, “We have put our trust in the living God”.
The Play: “The Ten Virgins”
In order to bring the Bible to life for the current day youth, several themes from the Bible have been chosen and a playwright, Mr. Arthur Edar, has been commissioned to write plays about them. He has already written plays about “The Conversion of Zakkeus”, “The Ten Virgins” (invited to the wedding), and still waiting to see the light of day are the themes of “The visit of the Magi”, “Searching for the Cross”, “The Call of Samuel” and “David’s Sin”.
A group of university students from Arevik chose to perform the play of “The Ten Virgins” which was so well received by the audience that the Youth from Georgia invited the “actors” to go and present it in their own villages.
At the conclusion of the formal part of the celebrations, life testimonies were given by the clergy and the youth were invited to do the same.
It was a difficult task for many, but some were filled enough with the Spirit to come forward and give their own testimony to their faith. It is expected, and we pray, that the Spirit will be active in the lives of these youth so they can be moved to give such testimonies more readily in the future.
There are no Catholic Youth Groups in our parishes. With this experience, it became apparent to many that there was a great need to form such groups, and many registered their names and expressed an interest in being active in creating such groups in their own respective parishes.
To conclude the celebrations, tea and coffee were served and the Youth, filled with the fruits of the Spirit, and enriched by their human encounters, renewed by connecting to the Divine, were then bused back to their own villages in order to pass on what they received at this special gathering.