A Palm Sunday gathering in Federal Plaza was notable both for its casual tone and its enthusiasm.
About 40 young adults stood in a circle under the flamingo sculpture, sang contemporary Christian music with acoustic-guitar accompaniment and added a twist to a traditional afternoon prayer, the Divine Mercy, by having individuals recite portions in Spanish, Tagalog and Polish. A priest's final words were cut short, as everyone ran for cover from a brief afternoon downpour.
"I knew it was gonna rain, but I thought it was very open, as it should be," said Armando Guillen, 23, a member of a young-adult group in his Back of the Yards neighborhood. "I think it's very Christian-like, very Catholic-like where it's universal; it's embracing everybody and we have one love and one faith in God."
This was the first time that the Young Adult Ministry Office of the Archdiocese of Chicago organized a local version of a Palm Sunday gathering of young people in Rome that was initiated years ago by Pope John Paul II, according to Director of Young Adult Ministry Darius Villalobos. Organizers chose a public place in order to reflect the public manner in which Jesus entered Jerusalem, he said.
"Jesus comes into the city of Jerusalem riding a donkey or colt, depending on what version you read. It causes a lot of curiosity in people in the city — who is that?" Villalobos said. "It's our way of accompanying Christ in the city, to pray and worship in public and (get people to) ask the same question: Who are these guys?"
Palm Sunday this year comes in the wake of Chicago Archbishop Francis George, 77, saying that a search for his replacement needs to get underway after a cancer diagnosis and a new round of chemotherapy.
Catholic young adults and their leaders who gathered publicly Sunday shared their hopes for qualities they'd like to see in the cardinal's successor. Jerome Camara of Portage Park said he was encouraged at the Sunday service to see other young adults who are also active in the church, and he hopes for a local leader who improves the church's image and engages its next generation.
"Maybe more engaged. I'm not saying Cardinal George wasn't engaged," Camara, 30, said, "but a voice to bring Catholics together and what we can do as a community, as Christians to fight against the negativity and help with the misconceptions (of the church)."
Villalobos said he hopes for someone who, like Pope Francis, emphasizes taking care of the poor.
"It's definitely one of the most attractive things about Pope Francis, and his message really resonates with young people," Villalobos said.
The challenge that Pablo Padilla faces as coordinator of the Young Adult Ministry office, he said, is creating comfortable spaces for young adults to come together and engage their faith in their own way.
"I think one of the things as young adults we would like to see in a successor is to have that openness that Cardinal George has had, listening," Padilla said. "We'd like to see a continuous conversation with a new cardinal and a new archbishop, a continuous conversation around how, together with the hierarchy of the church we can have more opportunities of spreading the good news of the gospel in different areas, wherever (young adults) are at."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun