Before going to Poland for World Youth Day, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish brought a little bit of Poland to Orchard Park. The parish welcomed a group of dancers who hail from "The Land of the Fields."
The internationally acclaimed dance troupe Jedliniok was created in 1975 and takes its name from a Lower Silesian dance from Jedlina Zdrój. The members of the ensemble are students of the Agricultural University of Wrocław and other university centers in Wrocław. The ensemble, dressed in traditional costumes, performs national Polish dances polonaise, mazur and krakowiak.
For its contribution to spreading the national Polish culture in and out of the country and artistic achievements, the group was awarded the Diploma of the Minister of Culture and Art and also the Golden Badge to the Merit for the Wrocław Province and the City of Wrocław. It has also been awarded national and international prizes, distinctions, diplomas and medals.
Before and after the performance, the OLSH youth group, wearing red and white Polska sweatshirts, sold snacks and drinks to raise money for the pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland for World Youth Day. The group has also held Polish dinners, sold Macy's Shop for a Cause cards and sweepstakes tickets. In all, the parish has raised $3,300 for its 11 pilgrims.
World Youth Day is a weeklong experience of faith sharing and learning. During the days an expected 2 million young people from across the globe will participate in catechesis sessions and witness faith festivals in the evening. Pope Francis will deliver a welcoming address and celebrate two Masses.
Seeing Pope Francis is a big draw for the pilgrims.
"I'm going for the experience, to see the pope and hear what he has to say, and just to see where we are going and experience more in faith," said Morgan Blake, 16, from Our Lady of Charity Parish, Buffalo, who helped helped sell snacks during the performance.
Along with official WYD events, pilgrims will tour the cities of Czestochowa, Warsaw, Wadowice and Krakow, the birthplace of WYD founder St. John Paul II. The Auschwitz concentration camp and the monastery of St. Maximilian Kolbe are also on the itinerary.
"I think Auschwitz would be really cool to see because of the history," said Colleen Finn, 16, from St. Martin of Tours Parish, Buffalo.
Debbie Urban, of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, is looking forward to encountering other Catholics from around the globe who come to share their similar and differing traditions in the faith. "I think it would be a fun experience, and for the pope. I think that's pretty cool that I'm going to be able to see him," she said.
For Adam Waite, 21, seeing the sights of a new land and hearing the message of Pope Francis are the big draws.
"It's a new experience for me. I've always wanted to travel the world. As a Catholic I want to experience my faith in a new way, and to visit the pope," he said.
The decision to pursue the pilgrimage came from Father Adolph Kowalczyk, pastor of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and Lynn Lipczynski, youth minister. The parish has been working for the past year and a half to raise the funds needed.
Father Kowalczyk feels it is important for teens to experience the universal Church. "I think for them to connect with other young people from, not only around our area, but around the world, give them an opportunity to see how alive our faith is, especially with young people from different cultures, different backgrounds, but sharing that common faith in Jesus and the love of Catholicism," he said.
Father Kowlaczyk will not travel with the group. He had seen Poland while studying at the Catholic University of Lublin and met the pope last year in Rome, so he decided to leave room for some parents to go.
His message to the young pilgrims is simply to be open.
"To be open to the power of the Holy Spirit that will be working there. I think with Pope Francis it will be an opportunity to see so many people excited to be serving Christ, and just to be open to all the different situations they will be experiencing being in a new country and a new culture and also meeting a lot of new people. Hopefully they'll make new friends they can keep in touch with all this modern technology."