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Pope in Poland: Meeting with Authorities


On Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Pope Francis arrived in Poland for the celebration of World Youth Day Krakow 2016. He was greeted at the “St John Paul II” International Airport in Balice-Kraków. Following his arrival, he met with Authorities at Wawel Castle in Krakow. Below, find the full text of his address:

Mr President,
Honourable Authorities,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
University Rectors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer a respectful greeting to His Excellency the President, and I thank him for his gracious welcome and kind words. I am pleased to greet the distinguished members of Government and Parliament, the University Rectors, the regional and municipal Authorities, as well as members of the Diplomatic Corps and the other authorities present. This is my first visit to central-eastern Europe and I am happy to begin with Poland, the homeland of the unforgettable Saint John Paul II, originator and promoter of the World Youth Days. Pope John Paul liked to speak of a Europe that breathes with two lungs. The ideal of a new European humanism is inspired by the creative and coordinated breathing of these two lungs, together with the shared civilization that has its deepest roots in Christianity.

Memory is the hallmark of the Polish people. I was always impressed by Pope John Paul’s vivid sense of history. Whenever he spoke about a people, he started from its history, in order to bring out its wealth of humanity and spirituality. A consciousness of one’s own identity, free of any pretensions to superiority, is indispensable for establishing a national community on the foundation of its human, social, political, economic and religious heritage, and thus inspiring social life and culture in a spirit of constant fidelity to tradition and, at the same time, openness to renewal and the future. In this sense, you recently celebrated the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland. That was indeed a powerful moment of national unity, which reaffirmed that harmony, even amid a diversity of opinions, is the sure path to achieving the common good of the entire Polish people.

Similarly, fruitful cooperation in the international sphere and mutual esteem grow through awareness of, and respect for, one’s own identity and that of others. Dialogue cannot exist unless each party starts out from its own identity. In the daily life of each individual and society, though, there are two kinds of memory: good and bad, positive and negative. Good memory is what the Bible shows us in the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary, who praises the Lord and his saving works. Negative memory, on the other hand, keeps the mind and heart obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others. Looking at your recent history, I thank God that you have been able to let good memory have the upper hand, for example, by celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the forgiveness mutually offered and accepted between the Polish and German episcopates, following the Second World War. That initiative, which initially involved the ecclesial communities, also sparked an irreversible social, political, cultural and religious process that changed the history of relationships between the two peoples. Here too we can think of the Joint Declaration between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church of Moscow: an act that inaugurated a process of rapprochement and fraternity not only between the two Churches, but also between the two peoples.

The noble Polish nation has thus shown how one can nurture good memory while leaving the bad behind. This requires a solid hope and trust in the One who guides the destinies of peoples, opens closed doors, turns problems into opportunities and creates new scenarios from situations that appeared hopeless. This is evident from Poland’s own historical experience. After the storms and dark times, your people, having regained its dignity, could say, like the Jews returning from Babylon, “We were like those who dream… our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy” (Ps 126:1-2). An awareness of the progress made and joy at goals achieved, become in turn a source of strength and serenity for facing present challenges. These call for the courage of truth and constant ethical commitment, to ensure that decisions and actions, as well as human relationships, will always be respectful of the dignity of the person. In this, every sphere of action is involved, including the economy, environmental concerns and the handling of the complex phenomenon of migration.

This last area calls for great wisdom and compassion, in order to overcome fear and to achieve the greater good. There is a need to seek out the reasons for emigration from Poland and to facilitate the return of all those wishing to repatriate. Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety. At the same time, new forms of exchange and cooperation need to be developed on the international level in order to resolve the conflicts and wars that force so many people to leave their homes and their native lands. This means doing everything possible to alleviate the suffering while tirelessly working with wisdom and constancy for justice and peace, bearing witness in practice to human and Christian values.

In the light of its thousand-year history, I invite the Polish nation to look with hope to the future and the issues before it. Such an approach will favour a climate of respect between all elements of society and constructive debate on differing positions. It will also create the best conditions for civil, economic and even demographic growth, fostering the hope of providing a good life for coming generations. The young should not simply have to deal with problems, but rather be able to enjoy the beauty of creation, the benefits we can provide and the hope we can offer. Social policies in support of the family, the primary and fundamental cell of society, assisting underprivileged and poor families, and helping responsibly to welcome life, will thus prove even more effective. Life must always be welcomed and protected. These two things go together – welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the State, the Church and society to accompany and concretely help all those who find themselves in serious difficulty, so that a child will never be seen as a burden but as a gift, and those who are most vulnerable and poor will not be abandoned.

Mr President,

As throughout its long history, Poland can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, so that, in the light of the foundational Christian principles that forged Poland’s history and identity, the nation may, in changed historical conditions, move forward in fidelity to its finest traditions and with trust and hope, even in times of difficulty.

In expressing once again my gratitude, I offer heartfelt good wishes to you and all present, for a serene and fruitful service of the common good.

May Our Lady of Czestochowa bless and protect Poland!

Blessed Jerzy Popieulszko: Man of the Eucharist and Martyr of Nonviolence


En route to Krakow to celebrate the 31st World Youth Day this week, thousands of young pilgrims and their leaders have spent time in Warsaw these past days and have visited the grave and museum of the young Polish parish priest, Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984) who was proclaimed a martyr in 2010 in Warsaw. I share with you Fr. Jerzy’s very moving story.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko:
Sacrament of Nonviolence at the heart of Martyred Polish Priest’s Life

The Eucharist sums up all the teaching, passion and death of Jesus. The Eucharist, is truly the sacrament of nonviolence. The way of Jesus to conquer evil and violence must be the Christian way: the way of nonviolence, of love and forgiveness. The nonviolent way of Jesus is historically at the heart of his teaching, and at the same time at the heart of his passion and death.

This Eucharistic reality was lived out in the life of a young Polish priest, Fr Jerzy Popieluszko (1947-1984) who was beatified as a martyr on the feast of Corpus Christi, June 6, 2010, in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square. Jerzy Popieluszko was born on September 14, 1947 in the village of Okopy in Eastern Poland. He was from a strong Roman Catholic family. After secondary school, Jerzy entered the seminary in Warsaw, rather than the local seminary in Bialystok. His training was interrupted by two years of military service, during which he was beaten several times for living his Christian faith.

Jerzy1After ordination, the young priest, who never really enjoyed good health, held several appointments before his final appointment to the parish of St. Stanislas Kostka in Warsaw. He worked part-time in the parish, which enabled him to work as well with medical personnel. As a result of his close work with health care personnel, he was asked to organize the medical teams during two of Pope John Paul II’s nine visits to Poland in 1979 and Warsaw in 1983.

August 1980 saw the beginning of the Solidarity trade union in Poland. Workers from the Warsaw steel plant, who were on strike in support of the shipyards on the Baltic Sea, requested a priest to say Mass for them. The lot fell to Fr Jerzy. He stayed with the workers night and day. Solidarity represented for him a vision that he had first learnt from St Maximilian Kolbe: that of spiritual freedom amidst physical enslavement. It was this vision of the truth about the vocation of every man and woman, which Fr Jerzy promoted amongst the workers by his presence.

On December 13, 1981, the communist authorities imposed martial law, arresting many Solidarity activists and launching a program of harassment and retaliation against others. Many who had been on strike lost their jobs, and so their ability to support their families; others were beaten up on the streets and left for dead. Fr. Popieluszko became an important focus in a welfare program to support families affected by martial law.

He regularly attended the trials of Solidarity activists, sitting prominently in court with their families so that the prisoners could see that they were not forgotten. It was in the courtroom that he had the idea for a monthly Mass for the Country, to be celebrated for all the imprisoned and their families. It was not a political demonstration — Fr. Popieluszko specifically asked his congregation not to display banners or chant slogans. His Masses for the Fatherland became well known not only in Warsaw but throughout Poland, often attracting 15,000 to 20,000 people. Fr. Jerzy insisted that change should be brought about peacefully; the sign of peace was one of the most poignant moments of each Mass for the Country.

Jerzy Popieluszko - St Thomas Aquinas Church - Newman Center - Toronto

Excerpts from Fr. Popieluszko’s homilies:

“The position of the Church will always be the same as the position of the people…and when the people are persecuted then the Church shares in their suffering.”

“Solidarity is a constant concern for our country, upholding its internal freedom even in conditions of enslavement. It means that we must overcome fear, upholding our dignity as children of God and courageously bearing witness to what we believe, what we hold in our hearts.”

Fr. Popieluszko was neither a social nor a political activist, but a Catholic priest faithful to the Gospel. He wasn’t a forceful speaker, but someone of deep conviction and integrity. His sanctity lay in fundamental righteousness that gave people hope even in horrendous situations. He knew that all totalitarian systems are based on terror and intimidation. The Communists saw him as an enemy because he freed people from fear of the system. He exposed the hypocrisy of the Communist regime and he taught believers how to confront totalitarianism. How often Jerzy made St. Paul’s words his own in his preaching: “Fight evil with good”.

His message was not just for Poland but for all time: when any government tries to impose untruths, when it distorts history, when it crushes attempts to live by ordinary moral values, then we must speak out. We must conquer hatred with love, lies with truth, anger and fear with courage and hope. This applied in Poland under Communism, but it applies anywhere, at any time. And this applies when such untruths are imposed on children in schools, or public figures are bullied into silence on the subject, or if the Church is so bullied.

Fr. Jerzy never suggested that “freedom” in the abstract is an absolute. What matters most is truth. We are not free to kill, maim, or steal. Any civilization or culture worthy of the name imposes all sorts of restraints on its citizens. But truth is absolute and does not need to be imposed, because it imposes itself. A government that tries to impose an untruth finds that it needs, with increasing pressure, to keep finding ways to prevent the truth from emerging, from pouring out through the cracks in the blocks it keeps trying to push into place.

On October 19, 1984, the young priest was kidnapped by security agents on his way back to Warsaw after a visit to a parish in the neighboring town of Bydgoszcz. He was savagely beaten until he lost consciousness, and his body was tied up in such a way that he would strangle himself by moving. His weighted body was then thrown into a deep reservoir. His killers carried out their task with unprecedented brutality, which shows their hatred of the faith that the priest embodied. Jerzy’s driver, who managed to escape, told what had happened to the press. On October 30, Popieluszko’s bound and gagged body was found in the freezing waters of a reservoir near Wloclawek. Fr Jerzy’s brutal murder was widely believed to have hastened the collapse of communist rule in Poland.

Fr. Jerzy’s funeral was a massive public demonstration with over 500,000 people in attendance. Some say the number was as high as one million people. Official delegations of Solidarity appeared from throughout the whole country for the first time since the imposition of martial law. He was buried in the front yard of his parish church of St. Stanislaw Kostka, and since that day, 20 million people have visited his tomb.

OL CzestochowaA legacy of courage and faith

Over the past 30 years, I have been privileged to pray several times at his grave in the Warsaw working suburb, and to witness the extraordinary effect that this young priest has had on so many young people. He promoted respect for human rights, for the rights of workers and the dignity of persons, all in the light of the Gospel. He practiced, for Poland and for the whole world, the virtues of courage, of fidelity to God, to the Cross of Christ and the Gospel, love of God and of the homeland. He represented patriotism in the Christian sense, as a cultural and social virtue. He was deeply devoted to the Eucharist. More than 80 streets and squares in Poland have been named after Fr Jerzy. Hundreds of statues and memorial plaques have been unveiled to him; some 18,000 schools, charities, youth groups and discussion clubs have been named after him.
This martyr’s life was broken and shared with the multitudes. The blood of his martyrdom has become the seed of faith for his homeland and for the Church. At a time when the priesthood and the Church have suffered much because of the past “sins of the fathers”, the life and death of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko remind us what the priesthood and the Church are all about. Jerzy’s death serves as testimony to the struggle for freedom, basic rights, and human dignity. In one of the earliest addresses after his election to the See of Rome, Pope John Paul II said: The truth we owe to man is, first and foremost, a truth about man. As witnesses of Jesus Christ we are heralds, spokesmen and servants of this truth… We cannot forget it or betray it.

Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko was a gentle priest who always spoke about forgiveness and love, never violence, never anger. He was the hero of an oppressed nation, and is today the authentic vision of priesthood for a new generation of Poles. He is also, and this is what challenged me, a hero to all of us in the West who thought that truth and freedom were easy things to cherish, and now need to draw on his courage and example. Fr. Jerzy provides a model for us, calling us to strive that what we say and do outwardly should always agree with our inward conscience.

Fr. Jerzy’s Litany to Our Lady of Czestochowa – May 1982

Mother of those who place their hope in Solidarity, pray for us.
Mother of those who are deceived, pray for us.
Mother of those who are betrayed, pray for us.
Mother of those who are arrested in the night, pray for us.
Mother of those who are imprisoned, pray for us.
Mother of those who suffer from the cold, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been frightened, pray for us.
Mother of those who were subjected to interrogations, pray for us.
Mother of those innocents who have been condemned, pray for us.
Mother of those who speak the truth, pray for us.
Mother of those who cannot be corrupted, pray for us.
Mother of those who resist, pray for us.
Mother of orphans, pray for us.
Mother of those who have been molested because they wore your image, pray for us.
Mother of those who are forced to sign declarations
contrary to their conscience, pray for us.
Mother of mothers who weep, pray for us.
Mother of fathers who have been so deeply saddened, pray for us.
Mother of suffering Poland, pray for us.
Mother of always faithful Poland, pray for us.

We beg you, O mother in whom resides the hope of millions of people, grant us to live in liberty and in truth, in fidelity to you and to your Son. Amen.

The attached photo is of the stained glass window of Fr. Jerzy Polpieluszko in the Chapel of the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto (Canada). Courtesy of Salt and Light Television archives.

Deacon-structing WYD: From Disciples to Apostles

Last week we saw how important Saints are, not just to WYD, but also to living our Faith.

In 2005 World Youth Day went back to Europe, to Cologne, Germany. This was Pope Benedict’s first World Youth Day. By now, WYDs are an establishment. For me Toronto was very much the WYD that brought it all together. The service component was the key ingredient, but something was missing.

In Toronto we also added something else. Traditionally the Saturday night Vigil was a celebration, a rally, an opportunity for the young people to be with the Holy Father. In Toronto we kept this idea, but made the core of the celebration Evening Prayer. I don’t know about you, but before this, I had never even heard of Evening Prayer. There is so much about our Faith that we don’t know. How many of us don’t know about these “prayers of the Church?” Why are these prayers not taught in Catholic Schools? But I digress…

In Cologne, they kept the Vigil as Evening Prayer, but added Adoration. Of course, this made sense because the theme for that WYD was “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2). But it also makes sense because that is the real reason why we gather: to adore. That’s why we go and do service: to adore. Worship is the reason why we respond to the call to being Saints.

wyd08pilgrimsIn the last three WYDs, Sydney 2008, Madrid 2011 and Rio 2013, all these components came together beautifully. We traveled as pilgrims, together with Mary and the Saints, under the Cross, in a spirit of reconciliation and service to meet with the Holy Father, the institutional Church, to learn about our Faith, to connect with and celebrate our Faith and to worship. These last three WYDs included adoration as part of the Vigil with the Holy Father. In Krakow it will be the same.

It is now 14 years after World Youth Day came to Toronto. It is 32 years since that very first WYD in Rome when Pope John Paul II entrusted the Cross to the youth of the world. And three years ago hundreds of thousands descended upon Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro to go and make disciples of all nations. So many young people who, over the years have been simply saying yes to being saints.

Being a saint is not hard. Being a saint doesn’t mean that you don’t make mistakes or that you don’t sin. It doesn’t mean you have to be a nun or a priest or you have to found a religious congregation. Being a saint simply means following Jesus, trying to get to heaven and helping others make it to heaven. Jesus already told us how to do that: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to those who are thirsty, visit the sick and those in prison. And pray. This is something that you and I can do very easily. And if we do, or try to live this way, we will realise that we are no longer just disciples who merely follow Jesus, but apostles whom Jesus sends.

This is what happens at WYD – one arrives as a disciple and having a personal encounter with Christ, we return home sent, as apostles – to share the experience with our families, our friends and all those whom we encounter on a daily basis.

But the good news is that we don’t have to go to a WYD to have a personal encounter with Christ. You didn’t need to go to Sydney in order to “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” and be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) . You didn’t need to go to Madrid in 2011 to be “rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf Col 2:7) and you don’t need to go to Krakow this summer in order to experience God’s Mercy and share that Mercy with others. This is something that all of us can do right here at home.

You may not be able to go to WYD, but are you willing to let Jesus call you to be an apostle?

Are you willing to live as a saint?

Do not be afraid!

Photos WYD08/Getty Images

Deacon-strucitng WYD: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

WYD 2016: A public enactment of much needed mercy


The recent displays of merciless violence in France and the United States have increased social and political tensions and struck fear into ordinary citizens. Despite the flood of energy and resources into public security measures, unpredictable attacks are becoming more common. Is this the world we now live in?

Against this backdrop World Youth Day Krakow is set to begin next week. It’s difficult to ignore at least the possibility of a security breach as more than a million people gather to celebrate with Pope Francis. But there is an even greater risk for the Church to ponder: the absence of such a global witness to unity and fraternity.

This World Youth Day is infused with the theme of mercy: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” from the Gospel of Matthew. Krakow is the city of mercy, the home of Saint Faustina, the “prophet of mercy”, and Saint John Paul II, the “apostle of mercy.” The city will welcome Pope Francis, now considered the “pope of mercy” for his closeness to those on the margins and his relentless insistence on the absolute and unconditional mercy of God toward all people.

In preparing for our coverage of World Youth Day Krakow, I spent some time reading about mercy in the Gospels and in the Church’s long tradition. And I found that mercy has a singular, foundational significance for Christianity. I realized that what Francis, John Paul and Faustina have said about mercy, each in their own way, is essentially the same thing. In John Paul’s words, mercy is, “the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer.”

That statement comes from his 1980 encyclical dedicated entirely to the topic of mercy, Dives in Misericordia. Devotees of now-Saint John Paul have pointed out that this encyclical resembles theologically Saint Faustina’s famous diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. In fact, it was John Paul who, as pope, promoted Faustina’s cause and devotion to the Divine Mercy, eventually canonizing Poland’s most beloved nun in 2000. Since then Divine Mercy has become the fastest growing devotion in the Catholic Church.


When Pope Francis burst onto the scene in 2013, we all wondered what the leitmotif of his pontificate would be. The immediate signs pointed to something new for the modern papacy, something revolutionary. Clearly he wanted to bring the poor and those on the peripheries back into the center of the Church’s life. He spoke about the “globalization of indifference” and the need for structural and spiritual reform in the Vatican’s bureaucracy. But more than three years later, if we were to ask what the central theme of Francis’ pontificate is, who could refute the argument for mercy, “the greatest of all the virtues,” as Francis calls it?

What is somewhat perplexing about this whole development is the paradox at the center of it. It has to do with this lingering question of continuity and discontinuity around Francis. How is it that we have a Pope who, on the one hand, is often labelled a deviant from the pontifical path of his predecessors—especially John Paul and Benedict—and on the other hand, is preaching precisely the same foundational message of mercy that was at the heart of John Paul’s life and pontificate?

It’s not as if mercy were some peripheral theme of John Paul’s and Francis’ ministries. On the contrary, mercy is at the core of both of them. There must be something missing in that analysis. And, as is often the case, a biblical precedence can shed some light on the matter.

Both John Paul (in Dives in Misericordia) and Francis (in Misericordiae Vultus) astutely pointed out that the concept of mercy is integral to the relationship between God and the Jewish people articulated in the Old Testament. And in that historical framework Jesus arrived, “on ground already prepared,” as John Paul put it (DM, 4). But, the Pope continued, Christ’s mercy is simultaneously “simpler and more profound.” (DM, 5) After a penetrating exegesis of the parable of the Prodigal Son, John Paul concluded that:

“The true and proper meaning of mercy does not consist only in looking, however penetratingly and compassionately, at moral, physical or material evil: mercy is manifested in its true and proper aspect when it restores to value, promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man.” (DM, 6)

This “more profound” articulation of mercy experienced in Jesus is not only difficult to grasp, but can be unsettling. It subverts our human conception of justice, often understood in a legalistic sense based on the OT law and image of God as “judge”. Both John Paul and Francis address this issue directly. Francis writes:

“For his part, Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups—the just and sinners—Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law.” (MV, 20)

Though John Paul did not write so candidly on the subject, he drew the same conclusion, namely that, “The primacy and superiority of love vis-à-vis justice—this is the mark of the whole of revelation—are revealed precisely through mercy.” (DM, 4)


The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were people of the law; they were religiously formed and considered among the guardians of the tradition. From that tradition they knew God as “merciful.” Still, the “liberating vision of mercy” that Jesus embodied was deemed unorthodox, even heretical. Such was the primacy and potency of mercy revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching. His public displays of mercy changed individual lives and eventually the whole world. Think of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15)—a favorite of John Paul II—or the woman caught in adultery (John 8). Think of the story of the sinful woman who washed the feet of Jesus in Simon the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7). Think of Jesus’ instantaneous promise of eternal salvation to the criminal crucified next to him (Luke 23). Jesus never tempered his mercy in public for fear of confusion or undermining God’s established laws.  His mercy was the fulfillment of the whole of the law.

I remember one of the press briefings during the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family when Mark Coleridge, a very astute, pastoral bishop from Brisbane, Australia, spoke about practicing mercy in the Church. He made the argument that the old distinction of speaking the truth in public but practicing mercy in private no longer works:

“I think what we need now—and this is what I’d like to see emerge from this synod—are public enactments of mercy, not just doing mercy in private behind closed doors or in a confessional. And it’s the sort of public enactment of mercy that we see I think in Pope Francis, who in a sense is modelling what the whole church has to ponder. But when you’ve been used to centuries of thinking about “mercy in private, truth in public,” it’s not always easy to even imagine what the public enactment of mercy might look like. And when you do see it, it can even be unsettling.”

Ahead of World Youth Day Krakow, where mercy will be discussed, prayed for, reflected upon, and put into practice, it’s worth recalling the “simple yet profound” development in our understanding of mercy that Jesus embodied.  In his day, the old understanding of mercy was not enough.  In our time, what’s needed are public enactments that unequivocally communicate the absolute mercy of God for people in their particular circumstances, whatever they may be.

For his part, Pope Francis promised to do one public act of mercy every month during the Year of Mercy, and he’s encouraged all Catholics to do the same. The World Youth Day in Krakow is poised to be the grandest of these public acts of mercy. It’s not so much what will be done as what will be seen: “a mosaic of different faces, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy,” as Francis called it. In light of all the division, hatred and violence manifesting itself around the globe, such an authentic mosaic is sorely needed. In spite of everything, the young people at World Youth Day will take a stand for humanity and proclaim that the name of God is mercy.


In the run-up to World Youth Day Krakow, Sebastian has been working on a story on mercy in the modern papacy entitled, “Mercy in Continuity.” You can watch it as part of S+L’s daily show World Youth Day Central, airing July 25-30 at 7:00pm ET. 

Photos courtesy of Bill Wittman and Catholic News Service

Pope Francis’ Video Message to Poland

Several days before his Apostolic Journey to Poland on the occasion of the XXXI World Youth Day, Pope Francis has sent a video in Italian to young people of Poland that was broadcast this evening at 8:00 p.m. across the Polish nation. Below is the English translation of the Holy Father’s Message that was sent from the Vatican to Poland.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 31st World Youth Day is fast approaching. I look forward to meeting the young people from throughout the world gathered in Kraków and having the opportunity to meet the beloved Polish nation. My entire visit will be inspired by Mercy during this Jubilee Year, and by the grateful and blessed memory of Saint John Paul II, who instituted the World Youth Days and was the guide of the Polish people in its recent historic journey towards freedom.

Dear young people of Poland, I know that for some time now you have been preparing, especially with your prayers, for this great encounter in Kraków. I thank you heartily for everything that you have done, and for the love with which you have done it. Even now I embrace you and I bless you.

Dear young people from throughout Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania! I also bless your countries, your hopes and your journey to Kraków, praying that it will be a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity. May the Lord Jesus grant you the grace to experience personally his words: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7).

I am very anxious to meet you and to offer the world a new sign of harmony, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy. 

I now turn to you, dear sons and daughters of the Polish nation! For me, it is a great gift of the Lord to visit you. You are a nation that throughout its history has experienced so many trials, some particularly difficult, and has persevered through the power of faith, upheld by the maternal hands of the Virgin Mary. I am certain that my pilgrimage to the shrine of Czestochowa will immerse me in this proven faith and do me so much good. I thank you for your prayers in preparation for my visit. I thank the bishops and priests, the men and women religious, and the lay faithful, especially families, to whom I will symbolically bring the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The moral and spiritual “health” of a nation is seen in its families. That is why Saint John Paul II showed such great concern for engaged couples, young married couples and families. Continue along this road!

Dear brothers and sisters, I send you this message as a pledge of my affection. Let us keep close to one another in prayer. I look forward to seeing you in Poland!


St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II: Patron Saints of World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow


Pope John Paul II’s interest in Divine Mercy goes back to the days of his youth in Krakow when Karol Wojtyla was an eyewitness to so much evil and suffering during World War II in occupied Poland. He witnessed the round ups of many people who were sent to concentration camps and slave labor. In his hometown of Wadowice, he had many Jewish friends who would later die in the Holocaust. During that time of terror and fear, Karol Wojtyla decided to enter Cardinal Sapieha’s clandestine seminary in Krakow. He experienced the need for God’s mercy and humanity’s need to be merciful to one another. While in the seminary, he met another seminarian, Andrew Deskur (who would later become Cardinal), who introduced Karol to the message of the Divine Mercy, as revealed to the Polish mystic nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who died at the age of 33 in 1938.

The Pope of Divine Mercy

At the beginning of his pontificate in 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an entire encyclical dedicated to Divine Mercy – “Dives in Misericordia” (Rich in Mercy) illustrating that the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ was to reveal the merciful love of the Father. In 1993 when Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Faustina Kowalska, he stated in the homily for her beatification mass: “Her mission continues and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world, and gaining so many human hearts!”

Four years later in 1997, the Holy Father visited Blessed Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki, Poland, and preached powerful words: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy…. From here went out the message of Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina.”

In the Jubilee year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sr. Faustina – making her the first canonized saint of the new millennium – and established “Divine Mercy Sunday” as a special title for the Second Sunday of Easter for the universal Church. Pope John Paul II spoke these words in the homily: “Jesus shows His hands and His side [to the Apostles]. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His Heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity.”

One year later, in his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday in 2001, the Pope called the message of mercy entrusted to St. Faustina: “The appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies…. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium.”

Again in Lagiewniki, Poland in 2002, at the dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy, the Holy Father consecrated the whole world to Divine Mercy, saying: “I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth, and fill their hearts with hope.”

In his Regina Caeli address of April 23, 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “The mystery of God’s merciful love was at the centre of the pontificate of my venerated predecessor.” Now that same Providence has desired that this year, on Divine Mercy Sunday, three years after he was beatified on this same feast, Pope John Paul II, the great apostle and ambassador of Divine Mercy, will be proclaimed a saint.

Mercy is our hallmark

We must ask ourselves: what is new about this message of Divine Mercy? Why did Pope John Paul II insist so much on this aspect of God’s love in our time? Is this not the same devotion as that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Mercy is an important Christian virtue, much different from justice and retribution. While recognizing the real pain of injury and the rationale for the justification of punishment, mercy takes a different approach in redressing the injury. Mercy strives to radically change the condition and the soul of the perpetrator to resist doing evil, often by revealing love and one’s true beauty. If any punishment is enforced, it must be for salvation, not for vengeance or retribution. This is very messy business in our day and a very complex message… but it is the only way if we wish to go forward and be leaven for the world today; if we truly wish to be salt and light in a culture that has lost the flavor of the Gospel and the light of Christ.

Where hatred and the thirst for revenge dominate, where war brings suffering and death to the innocent, abuse has destroyed countless innocent lives, the grace of mercy is needed in order to settle human minds and hearts and to bring about healing and peace. Wherever respect for human life and dignity are lacking, there is need of God’s merciful love, in whose light we see the inexpressible value of every human being. Mercy is needed to insure that every injustice in the world will come to an end. The message of mercy is that God loves us – all of us – no matter how great our sins. God’s mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Essentially, mercy means the understanding of weakness, the capacity to forgive.

Apostle of Divine Mercy

Throughout his priestly and Episcopal ministry, and especially during his entire Pontificate, Pope John Paul II preached God’s mercy, wrote about it, and most of all lived it. He offered forgiveness to the man who was destined to kill him in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope who witnessed the scandal of divisions among Christians and the atrocities against the Jewish people as he grew up did everything in his power to heal the wounds caused by the historic conflicts between Catholics and other Christian churches, and especially with the Jewish people.

I shall never forget the stirring words of St. John Paul II spoke at the concluding mass of World Youth Day at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 28, 2002. These words keep us focused on the importance and necessity of mercy in the Church today.

“…At difficult moments in the Church’s life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit…”

“…Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

Let us pray with joy and gratitude:

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that Saint John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God forever and ever. Amen.


Photo WYD Krakow

Deacon-Structing WYD: Saints

Last time we saw how WYD is an opportunity to “proclaim it from the rooftops.” Today, we have some models that we can follow when we gather to live and celebrate our faith.

In the year 2000 WYD returned to Rome for the Year of the Jubilee. On the Holy Father’s message to the youth of the world on the occasion of this World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II wrote “Young people of every continent, do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.” We are created to be saints, JPII told us we can be, and to help us understand this, every WYD has Patron Saint. One of the Patron Saints for WYD2000 was Pier Giorgio Frassati. This is very exciting because Pier Giorgio was not a priest or a monk. Pier Giorgio was a regular young lay man, someone to whom I can relate.

When we think of Saints, normally we think of “holy” and religious Europeans who lived hundreds of years ago – people who levitated, or who had the stigmata; people like Saint Francis of Assisi. But there is little in common between St. Francis and me.

But Pier Giorgio lived from 1901 to 1924. His sister just died last year. He was a young man, went to university, fell in love – but he lived a good life and did a lot of good, in particular by helping the poor and marginalised, from whom he contracted the tuberculosis that killed him at age 24.

wydpatrons-101x300WYD Toronto’s Patron Saints and Blesseds were mostly young people from different countries, and most of them lived in the 20th century: Agnes of Rome, Andrew of Phu Yen, Pedro Calungsod, Saint Josephine Bakhita, St. Therese, St. Gianna Molla, Marcel Calo, Francisco Castelló y Aleu, Kateri Tekakwitha and again Pier Giorgio. Young Saints who the youth of today can imitate. I would suggest that you go and research the lives of these great people of the Church. For us, there are no greater models for life.

And this is the reason why we need Saints: we all need models to imitate. John Paul II knew this very well. It is no coincidence that more people were canonised and beatified during his 26 years of Pontificate than of all the other Popes put together.

And that brings us to 2002. It’s important to mention that a new aspect was introduced to WYD in Toronto in 2002: the service project. Why gather all these young people together, calling them to live as the saints that they are, and not give them an opportunity to serve – to serve the poorest of the poor, the marginalised and those left out? We had service projects with Habitat for Humanity, with the Canadian Organisation for Development and Peace, and with many local service agencies. After all, don’t we, as Catholics have a preferential option for the poor and are called to act with justice and charity? These service projects were repeated in Cologne, in Sidney and in Madrid. The plan for Rio is to replace the “Days in the Diocese” with “Days of Mission.” Latin Americans have always had a sense of mission when it comes to service.

And this is the most important aspect of WYD. The Pope invites us to go to WYD, but this is not an invitation to a party or just a celebration. The invitation is to go on a walk, under the Cross, together with Mary and the Saints, towards Jesus – in order to meet with the Church and to learn about our beliefs – and to go in a spirit of reconciliation, pilgrimage, worship and service. It’s an invitation to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s an invitation to live as Saints.

But it’s not an invitation to be something that we cannot be. John Paul II said to us, “do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium”. That means we can be. But it’s not an invitation to be saints if we feel like it, or if we’re in the mood. We are created to be saints. The invitation is to say yes to that for which we are created. For many (and for me too) this is very hard to realize – it’s something that scares us. But JPII kept telling us, and Pope Benedict has reminded us: “Do not be afraid.”

Deacon-structing WYD Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

When I First Saw Pope Francis


Story and Photos by James Ramos

I really couldn’t feel my legs anymore.

My knees lean against the concrete bench that won’t move in front of my group, almost like a church pew kneeler. The crowd behind me presses against my back and 10 a.m., the supposed time of Pope Francis’ arrival to Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, ticks closer and closer.

Emotions and discomfort runs high. To my left, a claustrophobic lady asks for room to breathe. To my right, an even older lady tries to sit on the bench. There isn’t much room, but I tell her to take all the space you need.

My group that surrounds me — a team of social media journalists — doesn’t talk much. Our photographers grapple with a metal fence that corrals us, my other teammates behind me work the crowd handing out Pope Francis #PopeEmoji fans. I look down, triple-checking my own test shots then a roar of noise erupts down the street.

When my heart exploded

“He’s here! He’s here!” I hear a girl scream. Cassie is shaking. The entire crowd around me vibrates with the most energy I’ve ever felt in my life.

I lift my camera to my eye — I’m a journalist after all. I raise my iPhone higher above my camera, finger on Snapchat’s trigger — I’m a millennial after all.

The Fiat rolls up — I don’t have time to breathe — a man dressed in white steps out. He’s taller than I expect. I see his skull cap. He turns slightly. My heart explodes. It’s really him! It’s the pope!

The humble Fiat pulls away and Pope Francis greets those around him. Then he turns around and looks at us and the crowd is deafening.

My camera shutter is firing off a million times, I’m Snapchatting this whole thing, my heart is still exploding and I forget to breathe. He turns towards the church, walking up the steps into the Cathedral Basilica to celebrate Mass with the men and women religious of Philadelphia. And suddenly, he’s gone. The Holy Doors are closed, and then I remember to breathe. My chest feels tight and my eyes feel dry. Did I even blink? He was so close to me, I could have (badly) thrown a football to him.

I turn to those around me, “Wasn’t that amazing? Did you see his smile? He waved at us! He looked at us!”

When I heard “He looked at us!” I had just scrolled to a picture where Pope Francis seems to be looking directly at me. His eyes are dead into the center of my camera. They pierce the lens and, still leaning against the bench, they pierced my heart. He saw me. I’m sure he was looking at the hundreds around me, also in a chaos, but that photo captured a silent gaze of love.

When I finally sit down

Mass starts, and it’s the Gospel. I realize I’m not actually attending this Mass, just listening, and also remember that I can’t feel my legs. I tap my knees, still pushed against the bench, good, they’re still there. I need to sit down, but the crowds aren’t moving. They’re expecting him to exit the church the same way he came in, but I doubt that and wade through people to find a place to sit.

All the benches are taken, but there are several shady trees, and the grass looks soft. I find a big tree with a small older lady sits beneath it, reading a book. She looks friendly, and with a deep sigh of relief, plant myself under the green canopy. She looks over at me and smiles. “You were up at the front, weren’t you?” she asks.

I simply nod and show her the photo of the Argentine pontiff looking at me.

Her eyes and smile are as big as mine. “He’s looking at you! He’s making eye contact with you. That’s such an intensely personal experience, and so special,” she explains, reaching over and squeezing my shoulder. “You should feel very special.”

Before I can do anything, my eyes well up and tears start to fall. Seeing this, she lovingly pats my hands in a motherly way. They’re joyful tears, tears of thanksgiving.

When I look ahead, I also look back

I attended World Youth Day in Madrid, but never got to see the pope up close like in Philadelphia. As I prepare my heart and soul to once again encounter the Universal Catholic Church, just as I did in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families, I am setting no expectation. I ask for your prayers, and will bring you with me on this pilgrim journey with the pope.

Now with just days before I see the Holy Father again in Krakow, I think back to my time under that tree with my friend in Philadelphia. Dozens of families finally make their way to the park, setting up picnics around our tree.

To my right, a father rolls a small orange ball to his young child. The little boy can’t seem to pick up the rubber ball and seems content with just pushing it. His dad takes his hand, placing it under the ball and lifts it so it will drop. His little face lights up when he sees the ball fall and bounce on the grass. The ball keeps rolling, and he chases after it.

Under the shade of a towering leafy tree, I can feel my legs again. My new friend leans back over: “Peace be with you.”


James Ramos is a storyteller and designer with the Texas Catholic Herald in Houston. Follow his #Krakow16 journey on Twitter, Instagram, and his blog. He’s also great at high fives, loves group selfies and is terrible at #PokemonGo.

My World Youth Days


There are many ways to live a World Youth Day. Of these, the classic one is to be a faithful attendant of the special occurrence. Another one is to tell what’s happening, instead, and bring others into the event. This is the role I’ll be covering in 360 degrees over the next few days, and further I’ll be able to explain what attending a WYD has been like for me. It’s something more intimate and those memories and emotions I can bring to you by just closing my eyes for a second…

My WYD can only be that of 2000, in Rome, on the occasion of the Jubilee. A Holy Year, obviously not like the others, that not only marked the end of a century but even the beginning of a new millennium.

Living in Rome offers many privileges and endless opportunities when it comes to Catholic celebrations, but having the WYD in front of one’s house, literally, is really something that happens to a very few. My family and I, during that sultry summer of 2000, found ourselves living that event in a unique way.

I remember the human tide that filled the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed along my way to get to the Pope for the evening vigil.

Since living in that area, a few days before, we had received a special pass from the mayor Francesco Rutelli, a coupon that allowed us to move freely in our district despite the checks and the engaged areas for young faithfuls.

I remember the long night of August 19, 2000, sitting on the lawn of Tor Vergata with my father and my aunt and the smiling and amused face of Pope John Paul II, dragged by the contagious enthusiasm of the young people, the music and the incredible festive atmosphere we breathed.

I was 13 years old that summer, and last year, filming an episode of Perspectives at Tor Vergata for the 15th anniversary of that WYD and remembering what had happened in 2000, I found myself seized with a great emotion. Never would I thought of going back there, after so many years, to tell those childhood memories as a journalist.

And the memories of those days bring me right back to today, to Krakow and to this next impending appointment. To speak about moments like these implies patience and flexibility, because, sometimes, just passion and faith are not enough to cope with the impressive amount of work. Great events require a maximum effort, but at the same time offer unique reasons that are a boost of rare power. Being able to tell what will happen in Poland remains an undoubted privilege because to explain what’s going on somewhere in wich one million of people are gathered does not happen every day. This numerical data by itself, for example, gives the idea of what regards appointments like this one. And when they’re young people involved, who, setting rhetoric aside, are actually the future, then attention and curiosity inevitably increase.

It will be another story to tell, with the memory of Tor Vergata that is within me but which will make room for this new version of this special event. A WYD to live in a different way, accompanying people from home to experience the emotions that Pope Francis and Krakow will certainly give.

photo by Corriere Del Sud

From Kingston to Krakow

crome 3

By Nadia Gundert, Coordinator of Youth Ministry, Archdiocese of Kingston

The Archdiocese of Kingston is excited to have 31 young adults, including two of our awesome priests, attending the upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. We have been preparing for this incredible experience since summer 2014. I have been to several other World Youth Days and they shaped my vocation as a Youth Minister and now as Coordinator at the Archdiocese of Kingston, and influenced my spirituality and involvement in my faith significantly.

My husband Mike, who is also participating in this pilgrimage, sees his involvement in World Youth Day 2002 as a significant influence on his spiritual journey and vocation as a Catholic educator. I have an immense love of Saint John Paul II which began when I attended WYD 2000 in Rome, so when I heard that WYD was going to be in Krakow, Poland there was no doubt in my mind that I had to go and that I would love to bring others with me from the Archdiocese. Our archbishop was very supportive and a pilgrimage group was formed!

Since 2014, we have been busy working on various projects to grow as a group, to get to know one another, and to fundraise for the pilgrimage.  A priority has also been our spiritual preparation as a group and inviting the rest of the Archdiocese to join us in our preparations and deepening of faith. One of the first faith and fundraising projects was creating a “Cooking with the Saints” cookbook that included recipes submitted from parishioners across the Archdiocese. The response was overwhelming! We received over 300 submissions and pre-orders for the cookbook! The cookbook includes delicious recipes for appetizers, main dishes, soups & salads, sides, desserts, breakfasts and baked goods but also has info about saints for various cultural recipes and some patron saints of cooking and baking. We highlight some Polish and Canadian saints in particular, and include details about our pilgrimage to Poland on traditional Polish dishes. We sold over 600 cookbooks! We were so appreciative that people wanted to support our desire to deepen our faith and this pilgrim project, designed and created by participants of our group.

cookbook 2

In June 2015, we held a World Youth Day Polish Dinner & Dance at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall—an evening celebrating Polish culture and learning more about World Youth Day. The event sold out and over 250 people enjoyed a traditional Polish meal, traditional Polish deserts prepared by our very own pilgrims, a silent auction, traditional Polish folklore and dancing, Polish folk songs, and an opportunity to learn some Polish dances. It was an amazing experience and really got the Archdiocese and pilgrims excited about Polish culture and faith.

dancing crome

In October 2015, we hosted another faith event, a Catholic Comedy and Praise night, where Catholic comedian Judy McDonald delivered a faith-filled comedic routine. She had the crowd roaring with laughter and some World Youth Day and papal comedy even made it in the act. Canadian Christian music artist Chris Bray led us in prayer and praise with some of his own music and with familiar praise and worship songs.

As another faith development event, some of our fifteen pilgrims from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Kingston’s west end hosted the New Evangelization Summit this past April, which was webcast across the country. This conference encourages and helps equip Catholics to be engaged in the new evangelization.

This past May, we had our final group meeting to go over logistics and details of our pilgrimage and shared a meal together. Then we hosted an evening on The Year of Mercy and World Youth Day with Sebastian Gomes from Salt + Light. Sebastian, who is originally from our Archdiocese, did a wonderful job giving an overview of the Year of Mercy and the importance of mercy in the upcoming events at World Youth Day, including connections to Saint John Paul II and our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. It was a wonderful evening and pilgrims and parishioners from across the Archdiocese were even more excited for our pilgrimage.

As further spiritual preparation, each pilgrim was provided with a copy of George Weigel’s book “City Of Saints”. This book is a beautifully illustrated spiritual travelogue that was amazing preparation for our own pilgrimage. The details, spiritual connections to JPII and other Polish patron saints are remarkable and really assisted me in preparing our spiritual pre-tour of Poland before the World Youth Day events.

We’ve also had a pilgrim Facebook group where I’ve posted updates, articles, messages from Pope Francis, updates from the WYD organizing committee, travel tips, prayers, info on WYD patron saints, Christian music, and more!

Our pilgrims will be heading to Poland on July 19th and will spend the first 5-6 days visiting historical and religious sites. Our first stop will be to Blessed Jerzy Popie?uszko’s Shrine, where we stay at the pilgrim house while visiting historic and religious sites in Warsaw along the Royal Route.

From there we go to Niepokalanow, where St. Maximillian Kolbe initiated the “City of the Immaculate” dedicated to the movement of Marian Consecration.  By 1939, the city had expanded from eighteen friars to an incredible 650, making it the largest Catholic religious house in the world. We will then visit Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa where Fr. Nikodem Kilnar, a friar at the monastery, will guide us around Poland’s national shrine to Our Lady. It is to this holy place—”The Bright Mountain”—that Polish kings over the centuries have come to lay their crown at the feet of Our Lady.

We will then have a full day of all things JPII, as we visit Wadowice, his hometown, and the shrine at the John Paul II Center “Have No Fear!” We will end the day with a visit to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which was a popular pilgrimage place for Pope John Paul II when he was a young man and where in the 17th century the Palatine of Krakow founded a Franciscan Monastery. We will visit the Convent of Sisters of the Mercy in ?agiewniki, where Saint Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, lived and died.

We will also pay a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, once Europe’s most prolific rock salt mines where the miners built shrines and an underground Cathedral. The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is one of the most valuable monuments of material and spiritual culture in Poland. We are grateful to be able to reflect and pray at Auschwitz I in Oswiecim, the infamous Nazi concentration camp, now preserved as a national monument.

While in Krakow for World Youth Day events, we are honoured to be able to celebrate a private group Mass at the Cathedral in St. Leonard’s Crypt at the underground altar where Saint John Paul II celebrated his first Mass as a priest. We will also visit the archdiocesan museum, many sites associated with John Paul II and a visit to Wawel Castle. There is so much to see and take in during these first few days that we will certainly be in a state of awe and amazement at the rich Catholic culture of Poland.

We then participate in the events and festivities of World Youth Day with hundreds of thousands of young people from across the globe and await the presence, encouragement and guidance of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. We look forward to receiving God’s mercy and observing His mercy through the lives of these amazing saints that we will come to know better during our pilgrimage.

Some of our pilgrims have shared why they signed up for this pilgrimage experience and what they are hoping to encounter:

Jessica Serran from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Kingston says: “I want to go to World Youth Day to build on my faith and further develop my personal relationship with Jesus. I’m excited to be blessed with the opportunity and the freedom to share my faith and love for God with other young adults from all over the world. I’m most looking forward to experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit among us.”

Mark Dumbrique from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston says: “Kraków will be my first World Youth Day—and what a city to experience it in! While it will be beautiful to visit many holy sites around Poland, especially those connected to Pope Saint John Paul II’s life, I am most looking forward to encountering countless Catholic youth and, in spending time with them, witnessing the providential ways God will work in their hearts through these days.”

Catherine Helferty from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston says: “I attended World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 where I witnessed the universality of the Church and heard Pope Emeritus Benedict speak about our faith. After growing from that experience, I look forward to hearing Pope Francis speak in Poland about God’s mercy. I particularly look forward to our group’s tour of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, where St. Faustina Kowlaska lived.”

My prayer for our 31 pilgrims is that they come back to our Archdiocese, filled with love for God and our Church, a clearer purpose of the role God and faith play in their lives, and eager to share their faith and mercy with those in our Archdiocese; especially in the area of Youth Ministry which is so desperately needed and important in our parishes and communities. You can follow our pilgrimage group’s experience through our Youth Office Twitter account at @archkingstonwyd or our Youth Office Facebook page @archdioceseofkingstonyouthoffice.