Local Young Adults Make Pilgrimage to Krakow for World Youth Day

A group of 45 pilgrims from the Orlando area will be making the journey to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland July 22-August 2. PHOTO: GLENDA MEEKINS

ORLANDO / From July 21-August 2, a delegation of 45 pilgrims from the Diocese of Orlando will be traveling to Poland and will be joining over 2 million young adults in Krakow for the 32nd World Youth Day (WYD). WYD is a worldwide encounter with the Pope which is typically celebrated every three years in a different country. This year’s theme is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7) to tie into the Jubilee of Mercy. The international gathering is a weeklong spiritual journey where pilgrims from all over the world unite to share their faith. The week includes prayer, song, concerts, liturgy, catechesis, and an unforgettable vigil and closing Mass with the Holy Father.

Kimmy Zeiler, director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Orlando, will lead the pilgrimage that includes the following priests/parishes: Father Jose Muñoz, pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Parish, Orlando; Father Andrzej Jurkiewicz, parochial vicar of St. Joseph and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parishes, Orlando; Father Tim Daly, pastor of Basilica of St. Paul, Daytona Beach; Father Waldemar Maciag, parochial administrator, St. Lawrence Parish in Bushnell; parishioners from Blessed Trinity Parish in Ocala as well as seminarian and transitional deacon Edwin Cardona.

They will be visiting the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow to see the Divine Mercy image of Jesus that was revealed to St. Faustina. They will also pray at the monastery in Niepokalonow founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe and the monastery in Czestochowa that houses the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, Protectress of Poland. The itinerary also includes a visit to the somber site of Auschwitz, the German concentration camp where millions lost their lives, including Saints Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein.

WYD activities start on July 26 with keynote presentations and talks by bishops and other Catholic leaders including Sister of Life Bethany Madonna from the Diocese of Orlando.

The pilgrims will also take part in the “School of Mercy” to learn how to live lives of mercy during this Year of Mercy. Personal conversion stories, stories about the saints and a catechesis on Theology of the Body will also be included in the schedule.

Pilgrims Sebastian Gomez and Valeria Lebron from St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Orlando recently spoke about their pilgrimage on Faith Fit Radio. Below is an excerpt from their interview. To listen to the entire interview visit faithfitradio.org/podcasts.

QUESTION: Valeria, part of your pilgrimage will take you to places where great suffering occurred such as Auschwitz. How do you think this will affect you?

Valeria: We’re going to be in Auschwitz and we’re going to be praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I think it’s very beautiful because St. Faustina was given this prayer for the world. It’s such a blessing for me and for all these youth that are going to be there. We’ll be just exploding with mercy afterwards.

QUESTION: Sebastian, how can this journey be part of the healing and forgiveness that is associated with mercy?

Sebastian: I think that maybe people in that town, where these horrible things occurred in the past, still feel affected and guilty for what happened during World War II. But I feel that by us praying, it’s a way of consoling, which is one of the mercies, and just the whole message of forgiveness. That’s what the Church is about. It’s at the core of the Church and it’s the message we should be bringing to the world. I think it’s definitely a message that the world needs.

QUESTION: Valeria, how has this Year of Mercy impacted your faith?

Valeria: This year has definitely gotten me closer to God. When I heard about this trip, I was still a senior in high school. I felt a calling, a longing to be there. I started working, saving my extra money for me to go on the trip. It was a lot of work, a lot of stressful times. I thought I wasn’t going to make it. Then this year, I had the privilege of getting a job at a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant. I feel like, this is the most beautiful job. It’s a corporal work of mercy because I am actually serving these people who don’t have anybody. Their families forget them and I am just here to serve them and be a comfort for them.

QUESTION: Sebastian, how important is it for this generation’s youth to somehow capture the love of Jesus and work to build a relationship with Him?

Sebastian: Our generation has to make the difference. We have to be God’s example or messenger for others because some people are lost and they don’t know about Jesus. And they need Jesus. Faith is a gift and we can’t just keep it because that would be selfish.

Celebrate World Youth Day Stateside

All young adults who would like to experience the spirituality and culture of World Youth Day are invited to attend “WYD Stateside” at Holy Family Catholic Church, 5125 S Apopka Vineland Road, July 30th, 2:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Experience the polish culture with a polka dance lesson, a keynote from Father Benjamin Lehnertz on mercy and what that means for us in our daily life. Mass with Pope Francis will be livestreamed. Following Mass will be a polish dinner and a candlelight procession to adoration.

Also, you can follow local pilgrims on social media at #WYDorlando. Pilgrims will be posting about this faith-filled experience. To follow pilgrims around the country, check out #WYDUSA.

Other Ways to Follow World Youth Day

More than 40,000 Americans are registered to attend World Youth Day (WYD), July 26-31, in Krakow, Poland, which is the third largest U.S. delegation ever. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) has lined up a series of resources and a variety of digital platforms to engage youth and young adults at home and abroad. Through resources like the free mobile app “Pilgrimage,” followers will have access to content to help them unpack the meaning of the pilgrimage and put works of mercy into action. Digital content includes 360-degree video of World Youth Day events, daily readings and prayers. The app has been developed in collaboration with the American Bible Society and can be downloaded from Android and Apple app stores.

Also, in collaboration with the Catholic Apostolate Center, content such as interviews with bishops, schedule of events, exclusive videos for digital pilgrims, blogs and other resources will be available at www.wyd2016.us.