After more than a year of backbreaking planning, social media director John Grosso will lead 232 pilgrims aged 16 to 35 from the Bridgeport Diocese on the trip of lifetime across the Atlantic Ocean and onto Polish soil.
The delegation has never sent more than 30 travelers to World Youth Day, and anything over 200 representatives is no longer a far-fetched ambition, but a realized accomplishment.
The diocese has 82 parishes situated throughout Fairfield County. “Once we arrive, I want the pilgrims to embrace not just their faith, but also to light a fire surrounding the more than one million Catholics their age,” said Grosso. “I would like them to see both the welcoming and struggling faces of those around them and know that they are never alone, whether there are internal or external challenges. Solidarity permeates throughout young people.”
Grosso made sure to acknowledge those vital to the trip’s planning, most notably Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
“I am inevitably grateful to Bishop Caggiano for his drive and zeal that put all of this together,” Grosso said. “When he came here from Brooklyn, this was one of the first projects that he enacted because the trip is in line with the values used in the church. He believed that travel allowed the church to come together in solidarity with a common mission, not to mention the importance of going into the world and meeting others who share a similar faith.”
Caggiano is one of 13 American bishops going to Poland to teach on WYD, where the United States will be sending 85 bishops and 40,000 pilgrims to the festivities.
“I have had the privilege of attending three other World Youth Day events, and I hope that this will energize and give hope to our pilgrims while allowing them to love the church,” said Caggiano. “This is a tremendous experience where young people can live as they are living, not alone. WYD encourages friendship and enthusiasm, so that these pilgrims can continue their journey of faith.”
Administrative Assistant Janet Davis will be a prominent member of the trip. Grosso thanked her for her contributions to the preparation, saying “Janet is the right hand of Youth Day, and without her and all of her hard work, this would not have happened.”
The 12-day pilgrimage commences on July 22. Prior to teaming up with the rest of the attendees and welcoming Pope Francis in Krakow on July 27, the group will make its way to Auschwitz, the German concentration camp that took millions of lives, such as saints Edith Stein and Maximilian Kobe. The delegation will also visit Czestochowa, where Jasna Gora is located, the monastery that is home to the Black Madonna icon.
“I’m still trying to figure out my faith and what it means in everyday life,” said Katrina Pesta, a 25-year old member of the St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk. “I am really excited to attend the huge Mass at the end with the pope, where one million will be celebrating with a wide variety of cultures and identities.”
In order for many to reach the estimated $3,750 needed for the trip, there has been many outlets for fundraising.
“Everyone should have a fair chance to attend and money should not be an impediment,” Caggaino said. “Each of the past two years, the church has put aside $250,000, and over 100 scholarships have been awarded because many families don’t have the financial means to pay for a trip that costs roughly $4,000.”
Grosso explained one of the portions of the pilgrimage he has marked on his calendar as a very exciting opportunity.
“I am looking forward to the Stations of the Cross with the Holy Father,” he said. “The pope is dynamic, engaging and passionate in participation, and this is the essence of our faith.”
With Poland selected as the site for the 2016 event, Grosso believes there could not have been a better place nominated.
“As members of the church, we are supposed to be a loving, open, forgiving body of people,” he said. “Poland, the land of the divine and the home of St. John Paul II, has a rich faith that embraces mercifulness, and there is no better destination chosen by Pope Francis.
Leaders, chaperones and pilgrims from the Bridgeport Diocese have put in hours of industrious work, and soon it will be time for them to reap the benefits.
“We are all really thrilled to enter this uncharted territory, with most of our pilgrims having never traveled internationally before,” Grosso said.” I want all of the pilgrims to understand that faith is much bigger than themselves, and that the world is so awesome, and by extension, so is our Catholic faith.”
by Gili Lipman, CT Post