After more than ten days spent in Poland for World Youth Day, all 231 pilgrims from the Diocese of Bridgeport have returned. Young men and women arrived yesterday evening at the Catholic Center in Bridgeport after upwards of twelve hours of travel.
Pilgrims spent the last week visiting pilgrimage sites around Poland, including the home of the Black Madonna icon and St. John Paul II’s boyhood home; praying, singing and dancing with other pilgrims from close to 190 countries; and welcoming and celebrating Mass with Pope Francis. Organizers estimate that close to two million people gathered in Krakow for the festivities.
“To see the rich diversity of the group, to participate in the joyful song of our music leaders, to witness the dance of praise that accompanied the morning prayer was to see the beauty of our Church at its best,” shared Bishop Caggiano via his Facebook page. “Every young pilgrim who attended could not but be touched by the majesty, diversity and strength of our Catholic family spread all throughout the world. It is this lesson of community that I hope is learned by every pilgrim who has come to Krakow.”
Despite apparent setbacks, diocesan pilgrims remained in high spirits throughout the course of the trip. The pilgrimage began with an unexpected delay when one of two planes carrying diocesan pilgrims had to be diverted back to New York due to a medical emergency of a passenger not from the Diocese of Bridgeport.
Heroically performing his duty as diocesan shepherd, Bishop Frank Caggiano chose to wait in the airport with the stranded pilgrims. The bishop and one hundred other pilgrims spent the night in the airport as they awaited a second flight.
The pilgrims arrived safely in Warsaw the next day. They faced impassable rain, miles-long walks each day and outdoor camping to participate in World Youth Day gatherings.
The group was preemptively heeding Pope Francis’ advice from his Sunday homily. “When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life—we can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words!” exclaimed the pontiff.
Janet Davis and John Grosso served as coordinators of the diocesan World Youth Day pilgrimage. Both worked tirelessly for the past eighteen months, coordinating WYD efforts on top of their full-time jobs at the diocese.
Upon his return from Krakow, Grosso said, “This trip has seen moments of total joy, and moments of profound exhaustion. In light of this pilgrimage, I marvel at how amazing and bountiful the Holy Spirit is. I treasure my World Youth Day family greatly.”
Pope Francis encouraged young people gathered at Sunday’s World Youth Day Closing Mass in Krakow not to forget their faith after returning home. “The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone. He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer!”
Pope Francis announced Sunday that the next World Youth Day will be held in Panama in 2019.
Click here to listen to Bishop Caggiano’s July 30 homily to United States pilgrims.