Medjugorje is all about young people in these days – we have the 25th International Youth Festival that is being held with theme: “Behold, your Mother”. On Friday morning, the young people visited Apparition Hill where the Morning Prayer was held led byFr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest of Medjugorje parish. The official beginning of the Festival was on Thursaday, July 31 at the White Dome. Fr. Dragan Bolcic led the prayer of Rosary and the opening Holy Mass was celebrated by the Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Dr. Fr. Miljenko Steko, with 335 priests concelebrating. At the beginning of the celebration, young people from Medjugorje parish spoke to all and welcomed them to their parish and then, the introduction of every country followed. The host, parish priest, Fr. Miljenko Steko, welcomed all of the youth and said: “Welcome to the Queen of Peace, to Mother in her school, to the Mother that loves you and leads you to her Son Jesus, for She knows the best way to Him.” (photos)
Fr. Ante Vučković, a member of the Franciscan Province of the Most Sacred Redeemer from Split is conducting the catechesis for the youth at the Youth Festival 2014 in Medjugorje. He said that the Queen of Peace always brings him back anew to Medjugorje, his brothers Franciscans, programmes that he gladly responds and he said to the youth: “We should learn how to love the world as Jesus loved him. Instead of the lessons on what to do, far shorter and simpler way is to get to know what Jesus did, how he behaved, to come into his vicinity and to learn from him. As we come closer to God, as we get to know God, we discover much more about ourselves, we discover the world as it is and what kind of attitude we have towards the world. It seems to me that the Youth Festival is a good opportunity to get to know Jesus, that is the shortest, the fastest and probably the simplest way for understanding ourselves, the others, relationships and the world. I would like to invite all to come here to Medjugorje.”
Many young people came to Medjugorje to participate in the 25th International Youth Festival from 60 different countries and we had chance to speak to Ivona from Virovitica who is here for the third time. She told us: “I am always returning for the Youth Festival because the Mother invites me again, I need peace and joy that I cannot find anywhere else but in Medjugorje. The confessions here are the most special experience. We, youth from so many different countries are all here with one goal – to praise the Lord. At the same time we have testimonies that help us and that is why I am coming to Medjgorje.” Donald from Zagreb told us that he is returning here because he receives peace that cannot be described in words: “I am participating in the Youth Festival for the last couple of years. One can really feel Gospa’s presence and we have here a genuine spiritual renewal. I hope to change more, to become a better person.” During the Youth Festival all people are invited to write down their intentions, prayers and spiritual thoughts on the cloth that is located opposite the Adoration Chapel.
Parishioners of Medjugorje are always included in the organisation of the Youth Festival, but young ones participate in the particular way. That is the case this year when young volunteers are recognisable by their red t-shirts with the sign: The 25th Youth Festival Medjugorje 2014. Zdravka Sego, member of the Franciscan Youth Medjugorje said that around 150 volunteers are serving to the youth for these six days: “We are in the charge of peace and order around the church, one group is in the charge of cleaning and we are gladly helping Franciscan priests who organise this Festival.” Zdravka’s friend Zlata Jovanovic is volunteering for the first time at the Youth Festival. She said that it is her great joy to be able to contribute to this event. Let us add by saying that the Franciscan Youth exists since 1995 in Medjugorje and with music, prayer and many other activities they have successfully given their contribution the fruitful atmosphere of this world famous parish.
Number of Holy Communions: 166 700
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 5349 (172 per day)
Two young friends, Mato Topic and Matej from Cepin, town close to Osijek in Croatia, came by bicycle to Medjugorje on July 30 to be here for the 25th International Youth Festival. In eight days time they travelled more than 800 kilometres. Mato said that the idea for this was born in him when he heard from his friends that they took this same trip to Medjugorje by bicycle two years ago: “I thought of going alone, but Matej suggested that we should come together. We began our trip on July 22. There were hard moments, but thanks to God, we were able to come. I was here also last year for the Youth Festival. I was mostly impressed by the spirit of prayer, so many young people at one place and love for the Lord that unites us all, regardless of where we came from”, said 19 years old Mato who was coming to Medjugorje before.
Preparations are being done for the 25th International Youth Festival that gathers youth from all over the world and was initiated in 1990 by late Fr. Slavko Barbaric. Back then only one hundred young people gathered with two players with one guitar and a few singers and everything was held in the green tent. Every year, the number of participants was increasing and at the moment is far the largest event that takes place in Medjugorje. The Festival is event of prayer, song, lectures and testimonies that the International Youth Festival and Orchestra is accompanying. Their conductor for the last five years is Professor Damir Bunoza. The members of the choir have been intensively rehearsing and professor Bunoza placed the emphasis on the organisation of the Festival:
The 25th International Youth Prayer Festival
Medjugorje, July 31 – August 6, 2014
Thursday, 31. 7. 2014.
18.00 - Rosary
19.00 - Solemn opening of the Festival, Holy Mass
21.00 - Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand (Jr 18, 6)
The International Youth Festival in Medjugorje is being held now for the last 25 years. Because of its 25th birthday, we are proudly presenting the new visual identity of the Festival. New logo is simple but its message is profound. Two hills, two symbols of Medjugorje – Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain are creating a heart. Within the heart is Medjugorje. Medjugorje is in the heart – in your heart. The heart is opened, just as Gospa desires the heart of every faithful to be opened for God and for our neighbours, as Her heart is opened for all. The heart is a symbol of Gospa’s school in Medjugorje.
Fr. Goran Azinović celebrated on Sunday, July 27 at 11 a.m. his first Holy Mass in the church of St. James in Medjugorje. He was ordained as a priest on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in Mostar Cathedral. Fr. Branko Radoš, who used to be a parish priest in Medjugorje and is now engaged in pastoral work in Croatian Missions in Luzern. He emphasised that Fr. Goran represents parishioners of this famous parish and of our whole Croatian nation before God:
The members of the liturgical choir Hosana from Ukraine were in Medjugorje. The choir was established 17 years ago at the initiative of the parish priest at that time, firstly as the choir who will sing at the Holy Mass. But, besides that task they are also performing at the various festivals of the traditional popular music and they also performed in Romania recently. Vocal - instrumental group ''Ave Maria'' is a part of their choir as well. The members of the choir said that in Medjugorje they can see God's love: „This is the only place where Gospa comes every day, every month. She is trying to educate us and lead us in direction of becoming better people“ – said these pilgrims from Ukraine and Fr. Jozefat, guardian of the monastery of St. Basilius. In his opinion Međugorje is a place of peace and love: „Our country desires such peace. We came to pray for peace in Ukraine, for peace of people there. That desire for peace is something that is in the heart of all people from Ukraine. We desire to give it all into Gospa's hands. Our Ukraine is a country of peace, hard-working people, country of love to God and to neighbour. We desire to thank all who have been praying for us and with us. May dear Lord and the Queen of Peace help us“.
In the beginning of July we had chance to interview pilgrims from Israel, from Nazareth adn two of them were our guests in the programme of radio station Mir Medjugorje – Mrs. Therese Daoud and Fr. Souhail Khoury. Fr. Souhail said that he came to Medjugorje twelve years ago for the first time, he is married because he is part of the Greek – Catholic Church: “I work in the region of Galilee and apart from the regular activities in my pastoral work, ever since my first trip to Medjugorje, we began to meet in the prayer communities called Mary’s family.
The Feast of St. James, the patron saint of Medjugorje parish was solemnly celebrated on Friday, July 25, 2014. Holy Masses in Croatian language were celebrated in the parish church at 7 and 8 a.m. and at 7 p.m., while the main Holy Mass was celebrated in the Garden, close to the church of St. James at 11 a.m. The procession began at 10.45 a.m. with the statue of St. James that male members of the Franciscan Youth carried along with the singing of litanies of All Saints. Fr. Mario Ostojic was the main celebrant and celebration was even more beautiful thanks to the singing of the choir of “The Queen of Peace”, conducted by Sr. Irena Azinovic and mandolin orchestra Surmanci, led by prof. Davor Markota. Fr. Marinko Sakota, parish priest of Medjugorje parish, greeted everyone at the end and invited them to stay for the traditional dances and music performed at the end of the Holy Mass.
The book “Life for others” about Fr. Jozo Vasilj was presented on Wednesday, July 23 in the Hall of John Paul II, as a part of preparation for the feast of St. James. The book was written by Fr. Ivan Dugandzic and Fr. Filip Sucic. Fr. Marinko Sakota, parish priest in Medjugorje, greeted and welcomed everyone and said that he was joyful to greet all present during the introduction of the book on life of Fr. Jozo: “Fr. Jozo is a jewel of our parish and of the whole world. He is alive again since we have brought memory of him into life”
General Vicar of the Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Fr. Ivan Sevo spoke on behalf of the Province and said that many people were coming to Fr. Jozo, but youth really loved him.
Fr. Goran Azinovic will celebrate on Sunday, July 27, at 11 a.m. his first Holy Mass in the church of St. James in Medjugorje. Fr. Goran, son of Srecko and Mirela, maiden Pehar, was born on September 28, 1988 in Konjic. Family Azinovic left Konjic during the war and came to live in Medjugorje in the parish of St. James, the apostle. He completed seminary in Visoko and completed Franciscan Classic Grammar School. He graduated at the Faculty of Theology in Zagreb and was ordained as deacon in Cerin. He spent his year as a deacon in Humac and was ordained as a priest on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in Cathedral in Mostar.