At the end of World Youth Day 2013, Pope Francis invited the world to celebrate their faith in Krakow, Poland, in 2016, for the next international WYD experience. The Diocese of Buffalo plans to be a part of that event.
The Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has begun organizing a pilgrimage to Poland that will allow 150 pilgrims to attend in WYD 2016. Plans began last summer when Bishop Richard J. Malone spoke to the staff, saying he wanted the diocese to participate.
"He believes how important it is, and he has supported World Youth Day for a long time before he came here, and really wanted us to get behind that. With his support and with him being the driving force behind the idea, we started to look at different travel options," said Alexander Eadie, program coordinator for the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
World Youth Day will run July 25-Aug. 1, with the theme "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy" (Mt. 5:7). Pope Francis chose the Beatitudes as the theme of the next three WYD celebrations. World Youth Day is an annual event celebrated on an international level every two or three years.
With exact details and cost still being decided, the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has created a tentative itinerary that includes excursions to Czestochowa, Auschwitz, and the mountains of Zakopane.
The plan is to fly from Toronto to Warsaw, tour the capital city, with a possible Mass at the Niepokalanów Monastery founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, then drive south through Czestochowa, where pilgrims will see the Black Madonna icon housed in Jasna Gora Monastery.
Once in Krakow, the pilgrims will take a daytrip to nearby Auschwitz and Wadowice, the hometown of Blessed John Paul II, the founder of WYD. After the six-day WYD event, pilgrims will spend a day of reflection in the mountains of Zakopane.
"We figured since we're going to be in Poland we might as well go and spend some time at other sacred, historical sites that are there because the country itself offers so much," said Eadie.
World Youth Day itself will offer a mix of catechesis, prayer, Mass and festivals. Pope Francis is expected to celebrate the closing Mass on Sunday, July 31.
A steering committee has been formed with WYD veterans Father Peter Karalus, Father Jozef Dudzik, Father Matt Nycz, Father David Baker and Father Ryszard Biernat to help plan the pilgrimage and local events.
"With three of them being Polish themselves, it was really nice to hear their perspective, their love of their country, and their excitement in us bringing groups from their parishes and the diocese as a whole to what they know is a wonderful place," said Eadie.
Father Nycz, a native of Rzeszów, Poland, has participated in World Youth Day events in Denver 1993 and Toronto 2002. He has seen teens return home with a desire to do more for their parish and improve their prayer lives.
"I experienced it first hand and how it affects all people who go there, but especially the young people," he said. "It was a brilliant idea from Pope John Paul II who started the worldwide gatherings of youth, Catholic youth, because it opens their eyes to the reality of the wider Church, and also allows them to experience the Church in a non-parish, non-diocesan level setting. It is a completely different atmosphere. It's electrifying."
One young man he spoke to discovered his priestly vocation during WYD. "Basically, the Holy Spirit was working. My description of it was, those kids were on fire. When they came back home they were on fire."
Father Peter Karalus, pastor of Blessed John Paul II Parish in Lake View, has led WYD pilgrimages in the past. For 2016, he will plan a local celebration for those unable to travel to Poland.
"It is important, I think, for young people to have an experience of the universal Church," he said. "We can sometimes think the Church only exists in our parish. By young people having an experience not only of the larger Church, but also the international Church, they can have that experience of, 'Wow, the Church is larger than my neighborhood. The Church is larger than my school. The Church is larger than my language group.' And they get to see and experience the Church in a different culture. That's why John Paul started World Youth Day. He wanted young people to understand how the Church expresses itself in different languages and different forms and have that cultural flavor. So it will be a great experience for those who do go to Poland to see the Spirit of the Church of Poland, the flavor that the Polish culture gives the Church."
"It's a big deal for us to go to World Youth Day because of what it means to our youth and young adults, and what it means for the Church," said Eadie. "Also, this is going to be the celebration of a 21st-century saint in Pope John Paul II. With how loved Pope Francis is, it's just going to be a wonderful experience."
Informational meetings and webinars will be held online and informational meetings will take place throughout the diocese. Registration forms and deposits are due May 31, 2014.
For more information or to register, visit www.dobyouth.org.