The Catholic Commentator 

Hundreds of youth from around the Diocese of Baton Rouge learned about humility from the Blessed Mother, then walked with her to the foot of the cross during Diocesan World Youth Day on Oct. 29 at St. Jean Vianney Church in Baton Rouge. 

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Hundreds of youth gathered at St. Jean Vianney Church in Baton Rouge for Diocesan World Youth Day, themed “Humble and Human,” on Oct. 29. People gathered to help raise the WYD 12-foot cross up at the St. Jean Vianney football field before eucharistic adoration. Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 


This year’s pilgrimage, themed “Humble and Human,” was based on Luke 1:48: “He who is mighty has done great things for me,” also known as part of Mary’s “Magnificat.” 

The event began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert W. Muench, who told the youth they were continuing a tradition started by St. John Paul II with the institution of International World Youth Day in 1985. 

“The church has been to different places around the world to honor you (youth) and to let you know you have a place here and now, not in some distant future,” said the bishop. “You are important to God, you are important to the future of the church.” 

Bishop Muench noted when the religious authorities asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of the law is in order to “trip him up,” he used it as a teaching moment. He told them the greatest commandments are to “Love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind,” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.” 

The bishop said if the youth strive to do this, they will be following the law of love. 

Asking the youth how many of them play sports, he said athletes understand that “if you don’t give up, you get better.” 


WYD speaker Kathleen Lee, right, demonstrates with the help of a volunteer some dance steps for youth to do as part of an icebreaker to help them meet new people. 


He said the same principles apply to living out the faith. 

“God wants you to participate, individually and collectively,” the bishop said. 

After Mass, the pilgrims heard from speaker Kathleen Lee, who looked at “What does humility mean?” 

The word humble comes from the Latin word “humiltas” which can be translated as “grounded” or “from the earth,” Lee noted. 

Mary expresses humility as she shows people how to love the Lord, said Lee. 

Mary, just like other people, was created by God, according to Lee. 

“But she was queen and she used very few words and all of them pointed to God,” said Lee. 

She noted that Mary was around the same age as the youth there when she accepted the responsibility of carrying the Savior of the World. Given the outward circumstances, she could have faced death. Yet, without hesitation, she said “Yes” when God invited her to carry his only son. 

Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, detecting Mary’s humbleness and holiness, greeted her in their visitation by saying, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” 

Mary responded to the greeting by proclaiming her “Magnificat,” in which she talked about the Lord’s mercy and strength. 


Pilgrims clasped hands during a WYD icebreaker session. 


“Mary’s Magnificat is her rejoicing at what God has done for her,” said Lee. 

Stating, “We are the ‘selfie’ generation,” Lee said people long to “stand out” and to be “somebody.” She encouraged the youth to emulate Mary’s humility to be a standout in the kingdom of God. 

After Lee’s talk, pilgrims processed with the 12-foot long WYD cross to the St. Jean Vianney football field, stopping to pray the Stations of the Cross along the way. 

The band Refuge played the song “Meet Me at the Cross” as the pilgrims entered the football field. There the youth heard a conversion story from Olivia Hurst, a member of the Diocesan Youth Board and senior at Zachary High School. 

Hurst said she was devastated when a childhood friend moved away. 

“When she left, I lost the one person who connected me with Christ,” said Hurst. 

From there, she started hanging out with people who weren’t helping her to develop her relationship with Christ. 

“Before I realized it, I had fallen,” said Hurst. 

She said she attended a Franciscan Experience retreat, sponsored by Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, to figure out “What I am going to do with the rest of my life.” 

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Youth proceeded with the WYD to the St. Jean Vianney football field, praying the stations of the cross on the way. 


“I went on the retreat with a bunch of strangers, but by the end I had a family,” said Hurst. 

And most importantly, her relationship with Christ was rekindled. 

Hurst encouraged the pilgrims to bare their souls to Christ and to love him and let him love them. 

“I know some of you have fallen and don’t know how to pick yourselves up,” said Hurst. “I can tell you from experience it’s possible to get back up.” 

Youth knelt, bowed with head to prayer and laid prostrate as WYD concluded with eucharistic adoration and benediction. Many took advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation offered by priests of the diocese. 

The WYD pilgrims said the messages of the day impacted them. 

“I learned to be humble and not above everyone else,” said Craig Jones of St. Isidore Church in Baker. 

Angelina Quigley of St. Margaret Church in Albany said, “There were a lot of things I didn’t know about humility.” For her this means not being boastful, talking about oneself so much or thinking of oneself more highly than others. 

Seth Swanner of St. Joseph Church in Ponchatoula said he will put the lessons he learned to use by being nice to his peers at school. 

“I want to feel good and make other people happy,” said Swanner.


Many Youth reported having sore shoulders as they took turns carrying the large WYD cross to the St. Jean Vianney football field. 


“Hey, hey … oh” was an icebreaker game where the youth pretended to shout greetings to a person they thought was someone they knew, then turn aside in embarrassment when discovering the person is a stranger. 

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Bishop Robert W. Muench sprinkled humor into his words of support and encouragement to youth at the WYD Mass.

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Joe Bass, project coordinator for the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, talked to the youth about listening for the voice of God concerning the direction for lives as they participated in World Youth Day on Oct. 29.