World Youth Day 2016 Blog

World Youth Day (WYD) is a worldwide encounter with the Pope which is typically celebrated every few years in a different country. In the summer of 2016, 40 young pilgrims from St. John and St. Paul parishes traveled to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day 2016.  While there, the group provided daily updates and photos – the most recent posts are at the top, so scroll down to start at the beginning!

(When reading a post, you can click on any photo to see a larger version.)

Our World Youth Day 2016 Video

Please watch this video slideshow about our trip to Krakow for World Youth Day.

WYD 2016 from Saint Paul on Vimeo ...
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Tuesday, August 2nd

Our last day in Zakopane was spent experiencing the outdoors the way John Paul II did with his own youth group when he was a parish priest in Kraków. Our group had the choice of taking a long hike through the woods to have mass by a lake, or to climb the mountain behind the hotel to have mass on top of the mountain. Both were picturesque locations for mass, which we all enjoyed. We spent the afternoon spending the rest of our zloty in the shops and restaurants of the downtown area of Zakopane, the pilgrims making sure to get gifts for their sponsors and loved ones. We closed the day, and the pilgrimage, with adoration and reconciliation in a wooden chapel at the bottom of the ski slope. Adoration was lead by Fr. Matt Williams from the archdiocese and included a reflection on all we had seen and accomplished during our time in Poland. We prayed about times when we had felt especially close to God, and reflected on how our lives have changed and how we will deepen our faith once we return home. We have an early departure tomorrow, and are now frantically packing two weeks worth of clothing and souvenirs to head home. We are sad the pilgrimage is over, but are excited to be going back to our families, sponsors, and parish to share our experience with you all. Can't wait to see you when we return! Please ...
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Monday, August 1st

The hotel in Zakopane is set right in the middle of the mountains and after an unbelievable thunderstorm during the night, we woke to a misty, rainy and cool day which was a welcome relief from the heat of the last few days in Kraków. After breakfast, prayer and singing, we spent some time in small groups reflecting on the experiences of the week, especially the vigil and mass with Pope Francis and sharing how our faith has been changed. Our time in Zakopane is for reflection and relaxation and so we headed into the town for some relaxation and to enjoy buying souvenirs. Some of us enjoyed Kremowka Papieska which was St. John Paul's favorite dessert. Apparently he and his school friends used to pool their funds to buy this from a baker in his home town of Wadowice. I understand why - it is delicious! Others concentrated on shopping And some of us even entertained the local children. There is a beautiful wooden church in the middle of the town which we visited. Churches here are full of people dropping in to say a prayer and everyone enjoys it when we come in and sing. Later in the afternoon we joined with the other pilgrims from the Archdiocese who are here in Zakopane to celebrate mass in St. Clement's church which is a beautiful church right in the center of the town. We had booked a local restaurant for dinner after mass ...
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Saturday, July 30th and Sunday, July 31st

What an amazing two days it has been! Luckily we had beautiful weather for the start of the big climax of World Youth Day. We set out early on Saturday morning and walked through the Old Town one last time to Mass with Cardinal Sean at St. Mary's Church, which is right next to the Square in the Center of Town. It was such a beautiful morning to enjoy the city's old buildings once more. After the Mass it was time to set out on the long hike to Campus Misericordiae for the overnight vigil and Mass with the Pope. We were packed up with backpacks, sleeping bags and lots of water. It was a great day for the hike as there was a breeze which helped us to keep a little cooler. We hiked for 9 miles in total and enjoyed a few rest stops on the way. As we got nearer to the field the numbers of pilgrims grew until it was a steady stream of young people from all over the World. The atmosphere was so amazing with chants and songs and people greeting each other all along the route. As we neared the Campus we were given bags with food to last us until the following day. It is an incredible feat of organization to move over a million people into their allotted spaces with food, water and bathrooms provided, but this was done flawlessly here with nice touches like a ...
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Friday, July 29th

After breakfast this morning we posed for a group photo with the staff from the hotel who have been so great to us. All public transport is free for pilgrims and the tram system is great especially since we have a stop right outside our hotel,so we took the tram to the Mercy Centre for Catechesis this morning. The Centre is the huge stadium we attended on Wednesday. Here the theme of the Catechesis was "The Cross". After music and bands playing the first speaker was Sr. Gaudia Skass who is a Divine Mercy nun. She told us that the theme of the day (the cross) and the theme of WYD (mercy) are not so different.  The cross and mercy are both about giving your life for others out of love. Mercy is about actions and concrete deeds. She told the young people that we can imitate the crucified Jesus by giving our lives for others in our daily life and that the focus should be on "he", she","they"and not "me". All around the Mercy Centre there are exhibits including a vocations cafe where young people can go to talk with representatives for any orders of priests and nuns. There are also opportunities for some fun photos. The Main Catechesis speaker today was Cardinal Dolan from New York who began by telling the thousands of young people in the stadium that "we have seen you all here, seen you happy, seen you tired, seen you walking, ...
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Thursday, July 28th

We started a little later today and had small group sessions where we talked about our highs and lows, and moments on the pilgrimage where we have felt God's presence in a new or deeper way. It is good to be reflecting on these things as we go because otherwise the whole week can seem like a whirlwind of activity and emotion. Many of the pilgrims have had deeply spiritual experiences already and as we get to know each other better and build up more trust in our relationships it is easier to share these personal moments. We had Mass in the conference room in the hotel today. It felt good to be staying in one place for the morning. After Mass we set off for the Papal arrival in Blonia Park which is a 3 mile walk from our hotel. On the way we stopped to pick up lunch and some more food for later. There are food stations all around the city and we have food vouchers to use each day. After lunch pilgrims started to walk from the Centre of the city toward Blonia Park. The streets were full of young people from every country singing and chanting as they walked. The people of Kraków are so welcoming and delighted for us to be together in their city. This couple sat in the park literally watching the world go by as thousand of young people walked past them on their way to meet the ...
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Wednesday, July 27th

We made it to our early breakfast and then headed straight out to the Kraków Arena which has been renamed as the "Mercy Centre" for World Youth Day. All the events here throughout the week are being hosted by The Knights of Columbus.  The whole city is full of catchesis sites which are divided by language and catchesis is provided for today and the next two days.  We took a train to get here - all public transport is free with our WYD passes. There were speakers and events organized for the whole day today starting with Sr. Bethany Madonna of the Sisters of Life. Sr. Bethany gave us a lovely witness about how each of us is uniquely made through the work of God's hands and that we should continue to remain open to His call, whatever it may be. Our own Cardinal Sean also talked to us about how mercy is the answer that God has given the world. All the talks this morning focused on Mercy, respect for life and love for one another. Cardinal Sean was also was the chief celebrant at Mass at the end of the morning. Later in the day we heard from a panel of speakers on the theme of religious liberty including Archbishop Lori who is the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. The speakers talked about the persecution of the Church around the world and emphasized the need to take on the challenge ...
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Tuesday, July 26th

Today started with a welcome late breakfast time of the 9:15! After breakfast, prayers and small group meetings we set out for a day exploring the city. We walked through the Market Square which is getting busier very time we go through. From the other side of the square we headed for Wawel hill where the castle and the cathedral are situated. Along the way we saw many groups from around the world and had the chance to interact with them. This usually consists of jumping into each others' group photos! Outside the castle is a statue of a dragon which, according to legend, lived underneath the castle and was slain by King Krak. Some of us didn't believe that dragons breathe fire! We enjoyed a rainy lunch in the rain after a long wait to get food from the food station. The pilgrims are great about these waits in line even though they can be very challenging. Luckily we had been provided with ponchos in our World Youth Day pilgrim packs which were given to us yesterday. After lunch the Dominican brothers welcomed us into their church in the center of the city where we had a beautiful group mass in the side chapel of St. Theresa of Avila. After the mass the brothers invited us into their cloistered garden of the priory where they provided us with coffee and pastries in a huge tent with seating areas for us to ...
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Monday, July 25th

Today started with breakfast followed by a 2 hour ride on the bus to visit Auschwitz. We had prepared our young people as well as we could for their visit and they have learned about the Holocaust at school, but nothing can prepare them for how they will feel when they are actually walking around Auschwitz. There is a special route around the camp which is available for all the World Youth Day pilgrims who will visit this week and we walked around quietly and respectfully. We were given a leaflet especially prepared for WYD pilgrims and I think the prayer on the front summed up the atmosphere there today with these young people. The most important prayer at the threshold of Auschwitz is - silence. Silence Listening Searching the voice of Auschwitz the voice of your own heart the voice of the other the voice of God. We saw the memorial to Maximilian Kolbe who gave his life for another man and we stopped to pray for a while in the camp. Pope Francis is going to visit Auschwitz later this week and has said that he wishes to be silent and pray when he is there and so it felt very right for us to be doing the same. In fact the quietness continued for a while when we boarded the buses before we gradually began to share our feelings and thoughts a little. Part of the wonderful planning of this pilgrimage by the Archdiocese is ...
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Sunday, July 24th

We woke up to another beautiful day in Warsaw. The temperature is around 80 degrees with a breeze which is perfect for traveling. After breakfast in the hotel we packed up our luggage, checked out and boarded our buses for Czestochowa. We headed to one of the most important religious sites in Poland. The Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa is the home of the early C14th icon of Our Lady which is know as the Black Madonna. This is one of the most famous images of Mary in the world and the icon continues to draw thousands of pilgrims each year. When Poland was under the rule of Communism, the number of pilgrims making a pilgrimage to visit the icon alarmed the Communist authorities who eventually stole the painting in an effort to stop the large gatherings at the site. The plan backfired however, as the number of pilgrims increased instead of decreasing, with people instead coming and praying at the empty frame. Eventually a group of priests arranged to "steal" the icon back from the communists and it has remained in its position in Jasna Gora ever since. We were so lucky to have mass in the chapel in front of the icon which was celebrated by Archbishop Wenski of Miami. This monastery contains many beautiful  chapels with stunning architecture. After mass and a little time for ice cream and souvenir shopping we headed back to the bus. We were met in Czestochowa by some ...
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Saturday, July 23rd

What a busy and amazing day we have had! Breakfast at 8:30am was a welcome late start for us after yesterday. All pilgrims slept well and looked so much better than when they went to bed last night after being up for two days! After breakfast we boarded buses which took us to Holy Redeemer Church close to the Old Town of Warsaw. The whole group from the Archdiocese of Boston met us there for mass together. We were welcomed by one of the nine priests in the parish who told us some of the history of the beautiful church and told us that the church is full of people praying from early in the morning to late in the night. Mass was celebrated by Fr Mark Bishop, one of the priests from the Archdiocese of Boston. He preached a fantastic sermon to the 300 young people there. He talked about John Paul II and how he understood that the young people of our church are the seeds and plants which are growing to nourish the whole world. This was one of the reasons that he initiated the first World Youth Day. The young people were encouraged to take this role seriously and to choose to grow in his image. After mass we went on a walking and bus tour of Warsaw and learned more of the history of the city. This is the monument to the Warsaw uprising of 1944. We walked through the the square ...
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Friday, July 22nd

We are happy to reply that everyone arrived safely and all is well. We flew overnight from Boston to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Warsaw. We were treated to a beautiful sunset over Newfoundland. After arriving at the hotel and checking in we explored the area which is in the center of Warsaw and found some food to keep us going during this long day. After lunch we boarded buses to take us to Niepokalanow about and hour outside the city of Warsaw. Niepokalanow is home to the sanctuary of St. Maximillian Kolbe who built his monastery there. We celebrated mass in the beautiful church there. During this mass we thanked God for a safe journey and remembered all those who have helped us to come to World Youth Day in our prayers. After mass the group was able to visit the small chapel where Maximillian Kolbe used to pray. There is always waiting time on a pilgrimage and especially on World Youth Day when large groups of pilgrims are moving from place to place. Waiting on the bus allowed some stand-up comedy. Waiting in the group is filled with singing, meeting other groups and taking group photos. On the way back to Warsaw we stopped for food and to buy water and now everyone is in bed getting a well-deserved rest before our busy day tomorrow. We have been very warmly welcomed by the Polish people we have met so far and everything is so ...
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Thursday, July 21st

We are off!  We had a beautiful Mass at St Paul's concelebrated by Fr. Laughlin and Fr. MacKay. Thank you to all who came to pray with us and to wave us off. We are about to board the plane and are excited to be on our way. We are flying via Frankfurt to Warsaw and will check back in tomorrow ...
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Welcome!

Welcome to our blog! Our pilgrims are finishing their preparations for our departure on Thursday 21st July. Stay tuned for updates! ...
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