By Nadia Gundert, Coordinator of Youth Ministry, Archdiocese of Kingston
The Archdiocese of Kingston is excited to have 31 young adults, including two of our awesome priests, attending the upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. We have been preparing for this incredible experience since summer 2014. I have been to several other World Youth Days and they shaped my vocation as a Youth Minister and now as Coordinator at the Archdiocese of Kingston, and influenced my spirituality and involvement in my faith significantly.
My husband Mike, who is also participating in this pilgrimage, sees his involvement in World Youth Day 2002 as a significant influence on his spiritual journey and vocation as a Catholic educator. I have an immense love of Saint John Paul II which began when I attended WYD 2000 in Rome, so when I heard that WYD was going to be in Krakow, Poland there was no doubt in my mind that I had to go and that I would love to bring others with me from the Archdiocese. Our archbishop was very supportive and a pilgrimage group was formed!
Since 2014, we have been busy working on various projects to grow as a group, to get to know one another, and to fundraise for the pilgrimage. A priority has also been our spiritual preparation as a group and inviting the rest of the Archdiocese to join us in our preparations and deepening of faith. One of the first faith and fundraising projects was creating a “Cooking with the Saints” cookbook that included recipes submitted from parishioners across the Archdiocese. The response was overwhelming! We received over 300 submissions and pre-orders for the cookbook! The cookbook includes delicious recipes for appetizers, main dishes, soups & salads, sides, desserts, breakfasts and baked goods but also has info about saints for various cultural recipes and some patron saints of cooking and baking. We highlight some Polish and Canadian saints in particular, and include details about our pilgrimage to Poland on traditional Polish dishes. We sold over 600 cookbooks! We were so appreciative that people wanted to support our desire to deepen our faith and this pilgrim project, designed and created by participants of our group.
In June 2015, we held a World Youth Day Polish Dinner & Dance at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Hall—an evening celebrating Polish culture and learning more about World Youth Day. The event sold out and over 250 people enjoyed a traditional Polish meal, traditional Polish deserts prepared by our very own pilgrims, a silent auction, traditional Polish folklore and dancing, Polish folk songs, and an opportunity to learn some Polish dances. It was an amazing experience and really got the Archdiocese and pilgrims excited about Polish culture and faith.
In October 2015, we hosted another faith event, a Catholic Comedy and Praise night, where Catholic comedian Judy McDonald delivered a faith-filled comedic routine. She had the crowd roaring with laughter and some World Youth Day and papal comedy even made it in the act. Canadian Christian music artist Chris Bray led us in prayer and praise with some of his own music and with familiar praise and worship songs.
As another faith development event, some of our fifteen pilgrims from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Kingston’s west end hosted the New Evangelization Summit
this past April, which was webcast across the country. This conference encourages and helps equip Catholics to be engaged in the new evangelization.
This past May, we had our final group meeting to go over logistics and details of our pilgrimage and shared a meal together. Then we hosted an evening on The Year of Mercy and World Youth Day with Sebastian Gomes from Salt + Light. Sebastian, who is originally from our Archdiocese, did a wonderful job giving an overview of the Year of Mercy and the importance of mercy in the upcoming events at World Youth Day, including connections to Saint John Paul II and our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. It was a wonderful evening and pilgrims and parishioners from across the Archdiocese were even more excited for our pilgrimage.
As further spiritual preparation, each pilgrim was provided with a copy of George Weigel’s book “City Of Saints”.
This book is a beautifully illustrated spiritual travelogue that was amazing preparation for our own pilgrimage. The details, spiritual connections to JPII and other Polish patron saints are remarkable and really assisted me in preparing our spiritual pre-tour of Poland before the World Youth Day events.
We’ve also had a pilgrim Facebook group where I’ve posted updates, articles, messages from Pope Francis, updates from the WYD organizing committee, travel tips, prayers, info on WYD patron saints, Christian music, and more!
Our pilgrims will be heading to Poland on July 19th and will spend the first 5-6 days visiting historical and religious sites. Our first stop will be to Blessed Jerzy Popie?uszko’s Shrine, where we stay at the pilgrim house while visiting historic and religious sites in Warsaw along the Royal Route.
From there we go to Niepokalanow, where St. Maximillian Kolbe initiated the “City of the Immaculate” dedicated to the movement of Marian Consecration. By 1939, the city had expanded from eighteen friars to an incredible 650, making it the largest Catholic religious house in the world. We will then visit Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa where Fr. Nikodem Kilnar, a friar at the monastery, will guide us around Poland’s national shrine to Our Lady. It is to this holy place—”The Bright Mountain”—that Polish kings over the centuries have come to lay their crown at the feet of Our Lady.
We will then have a full day of all things JPII, as we visit Wadowice, his hometown, and the shrine at the John Paul II Center “Have No Fear!” We will end the day with a visit to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which was a popular pilgrimage place for Pope John Paul II when he was a young man and where in the 17th century the Palatine of Krakow founded a Franciscan Monastery. We will visit the Convent of Sisters of the Mercy in ?agiewniki, where Saint Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, lived and died.
We will also pay a visit to the Wieliczka Salt Mine, once Europe’s most prolific rock salt mines where the miners built shrines and an underground Cathedral. The “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is one of the most valuable monuments of material and spiritual culture in Poland. We are grateful to be able to reflect and pray at Auschwitz I in Oswiecim, the infamous Nazi concentration camp, now preserved as a national monument.
While in Krakow for World Youth Day events, we are honoured to be able to celebrate a private group Mass at the Cathedral in St. Leonard’s Crypt at the underground altar where Saint John Paul II celebrated his first Mass as a priest. We will also visit the archdiocesan museum, many sites associated with John Paul II and a visit to Wawel Castle. There is so much to see and take in during these first few days that we will certainly be in a state of awe and amazement at the rich Catholic culture of Poland.
We then participate in the events and festivities of World Youth Day with hundreds of thousands of young people from across the globe and await the presence, encouragement and guidance of our Holy Father, Pope Francis. We look forward to receiving God’s mercy and observing His mercy through the lives of these amazing saints that we will come to know better during our pilgrimage.
Some of our pilgrims have shared why they signed up for this pilgrimage experience and what they are hoping to encounter:
from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Kingston says: “I want to go to World Youth Day to build on my faith and further develop my personal relationship with Jesus. I’m excited to be blessed with the opportunity and the freedom to share my faith and love for God with other young adults from all over the world. I’m most looking forward to experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit among us.”
from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston says: “Kraków will be my first World Youth Day—and what a city to experience it in! While it will be beautiful to visit many holy sites around Poland, especially those connected to Pope Saint John Paul II's life, I am most looking forward to encountering countless Catholic youth and, in spending time with them, witnessing the providential ways God will work in their hearts through these days.”
from St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston says: “I attended World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 where I witnessed the universality of the Church and heard Pope Emeritus Benedict speak about our faith. After growing from that experience, I look forward to hearing Pope Francis speak in Poland about God's mercy. I particularly look forward to our group's tour of the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, where St. Faustina Kowlaska lived.”
My prayer for our 31 pilgrims is that they come back to our Archdiocese, filled with love for God and our Church, a clearer purpose of the role God and faith play in their lives, and eager to share their faith and mercy with those in our Archdiocese; especially in the area of Youth Ministry which is so desperately needed and important in our parishes and communities. You can follow our pilgrimage group’s experience through our Youth Office Twitter account at @archkingstonwyd or our Youth Office Facebook page @archdioceseofkingstonyouthoffice.