When I was first becoming more active in my Catholic faith as a high school student, I remember hearing about the World Youth Day events held throughout the world, drawing thousands of young people from every country imaginable to gather in celebration and prayer with the Holy Father. I knew for certain that I would love to attend a World Youth Day, but I didn’t know if I would ever have the opportunity.
Well, God certainly has a way of fulfilling my desires and surpassing my expectations. I’ve been blessed to attend not one but two World Youth Days and both were incredible, enlightening, challenging, and joyful experiences. I accompanied groups of high school students to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain in 2011, and to Krakow, Poland in 2016. It was amazing and encouraging to watch the young people truly see the Church on a universal scale, as we saw groups of pilgrims from different countries joyfully professing their faith and proudly carrying their flags. World Youth Day shows the young people who attend, as well as the rest of the world, that the Church is alive and a life lived for Christ is one of joy and hope.
Another highlight of World Youth Day is the arrival of the Holy Father to the host city. In Madrid, we positioned ourselves alongside a street where Pope Benedict was scheduled to drive by in the Popemobile. In Krakow, we met some local police officers who told us that we should wait outside the Archbishop’s palace for the chance to see Pope Francis give a short speech from the Archbishop’s window. Seeing and hearing both Popes was incredible, electrifying, and nearly indescribable, and absolutely worth the wait, but even the process of waiting lead to many deep conversations, the chance to talk to pilgrims from other countries, and the opportunity to pray, sing, and cheer with other pilgrims to pass the time.
There is much more to be said about World Youth Day than I can fit into this short blog post. Attending a World Youth Day is absolutely worth the time, cost, travel, and any other difficulties involved. Please join me in praying that many young adults, especially those in the Diocese of Bridgeport, will respond to the call to attend World Youth Day in January of 2019 in Panama City. Interested young adults can visitwww.conncatholics.org for details about our pilgrimage and to download a registration form.
By Jess Nayden, Program Coordinator for the Catholic Service Corps