Pilgrims from archdiocese to attend World Youth Day for a Catholic faith boost
Justin Stroh first responded to the Holy Father’s call for an international gathering of youth by attending World Youth Day in Denver in 1993.
“Every time I’ve gone to World Youth Day, I’ve left with a deeper sense of love for my Catholic faith — it’s my identity, who I am as a son of the eternal Father in heaven who loves me,” he said.
Ninety-two youth of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, representing 12 parishes, will travel to Madrid, Spain, from Aug. 10 to 23 to celebrate World Youth Day through trips organized by the archdiocese. Another dozen parishes will send groups that are organizing their own trips.
One such combined group of 48 from St. Vincent de Paul in Brooklyn Park, Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata, St. Michael in St. Michael, and St. Albert in Albertville has an itinerary that includes stops in Portugal and at holy sites in Spain. In preparation for the trip, they held a potluck last Sunday for everyone going together.
A youth leader from Divine Mercy in Faribault, Stroh and 29 others from his parish have been fundraising for two years in preparation for the pilgrimage. Rather than holding a traditional bake sale, they sold home-grown veggies, coupons and cookie dough — unbaked goods, if you will — as fundraisers.
Raising $3,500 to cover plane flights, hostel stay, meals and an event fee goes along with spiritual preparation that starts months ahead, Stroh said.
Pilgrims from Faribault have been preparing by meeting monthly to pray together and attend Mass and eucharistic adoration. Friends who can’t go to Spain but want to take part put their names on a model of Madrid’s main cathedral so the travelers remember to pray for them during the trip.
“When World Youth Day happens in a city, the whole city becomes an evangelistic megapoint,” Stroh said. As someone who has gone to the last six World Youth Days — in the U.S., France, Italy, Canada, Germany and Australia — he’s seen it over and over.
“When the people who live there begin to see the faith of the young people in the street, they encounter Jesus,” he said.
Not a vacation
The personal faith of Mariann Kukielka, 17, has already had an impact on the people in her parish of St. John the Baptist in New Brighton.
When Kukielka realized she was the only young person going to World Youth Day from the parish, she decided to hold her own fundraiser — a Sunday continental breakfast. It took a lot of planning, but she raised $900.
Kukielka also shared at each Mass that morning about how she was excited to put aside distractions like her makeup and hair dryer to focus on God during the trip. Because she had spent two years on the debate team in high school, Kukielka said coming up with a concise message wasn’t hard.
“It’s a pilgrimage, not a vacation. It’ll be pushing me personally — I won’t have a cell phone or an iPod, so it’ll take me out of this materialistic world and I’ll focus on people and faith,” Kukielka explained.
Libby Dupont, Kukielka’s youth minister at St. John the Baptist, was a member of the World Youth Day leadership and planning team for the archdiocese, which started its work in July 2009.
Together, Dupont and a handful of others discussed matters like housing for the pilgrims, whether or not to take a side trip, how long they would be in Spain, and which travel agency to use.
Dupont, now a mother of two, is the daughter of a pilot. She offered her travel experience by preparing a “What Not to Pack” presentation and a flier about getting through airport security for pilgrims from the archdiocese.
Days in the Diocese
The archdiocesan planning team — led by Bill Dill, youth ministry events coordinator — decided to use a tour company called Youth in Europe that specializes in World Youth Day pilgrimages. The group organized a 14-day trip for members of the archdiocese who want to spend a few days at a parish in Valencia, Spain, before official World Youth Day activities commence.
The program in Valencia, called Days in the Diocese, will welcome pilgrims by hosting youth events and cultural activities. Both the two-week trip and a separate 10-day tour sponsored by the archdiocese will include an extra day in Avila, Spain, where St. Teresa of Avila was born.
Albertville native Betty Berling, a chaperone for St. Michael and St. Albert, waited months for a spot to open up. Berling wanted to see for herself what World Youth Day was about, but for years she has also wanted to go to Fatima, where Our Lady appeared. Her group will fly into Lisbon, bus to Fatima, then stay in hotels in cities along the way until local churches put them up in Madrid.
Details are still in the works, Dill said, but hopefully everyone from the archdiocese will gather for Mass with Archbishop John Nienstedt during the trip. The archbishop will travel to Spain with a group of other bishops.
Spirit of adventure
Faribault resident Jacie Carson and her 18-year-old son, Nick, both Lutheran, are familiar with Catholic tradition because Nick attended Divine Mercy Catholic School for years. Now, they’re continuing the ecumenical trend by traveling with the parish to see Pope Benedict XVI.
“It gives me a whole new perspective on what the Catholic Church is about. It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Jacie said.
Even though Jacie is a state employee and won’t be paid for this vacation if the government shutdown continues, she said she wouldn’t think of backing out.
“[We’re] going to be with a million Catholic people, seeing the pope, being immersed in the whole culture,” Jacie said. “I have no idea what to expect. But we’re going with an adventurous spirit.”
Jesus visibly unites his people at World Youth Day.
“That we all be one — that’s what Our Lord really wants,” Stroh said.
With the Internet and Facebook, Stroh hopes youth on the trip will be able to stay in touch with God’s people all over the world like never before. He produced a song, inspired by the World Youth Day movement, which can be viewed below.
“Africa on drums, on bass — Latin America! Spain on guitar and on keyboards the USA! And on vocals: the World over! . . . The church is one over all the earth, one in Christ let’s put him first.”