On Tuesday 26th July 2016, 29 enthusiastic people left from Cork Airport in the early hours of the morning to experience World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, Poland. For the vast majority of the group it was their first time to WYD. The opening ceremony of the pilgrimage was on Tuesday which was celebrated by Krakow’s Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz who was personal secretary of St. John Paul II. The atmosphere in Blonia Park was electric, people of all ages and nationalities. On Wednesday morning, the group visited John Paul II Sanctuary and continued on their pilgrim walk to the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Lagiewniki. Later in the late afternoon, the group participated in the English catechesis which was hosted by the local parish where we were staying. It was an ideal opportunity to meet other Irish people from the different diocese and make new friends. Thursday was our first opportunity to see the Holy Father when he arrived for the welcoming ceremony to Blonia Park. We were very fortunate to be about 10 feet away from where he passed by in the Popemobile. The singing and music added to the atmosphere. The rain did not dampen our spirits. On Friday, we returned again to Blonia Park for the Way of the Cross in which Pope Francis delivered a short address afterwards. On Saturday, we started our day with Mass before he headed on our pilgrim walk to Campus Misercordiae – the ‘Field of Mercy’ at Brzegi near Krakow. Along the route we stopped for a catechesis session lead by Fr Sean Corkery. This gave us the strength to continue our journey in the scorching heat. After four hours we reached our spot in the Campus Misercordiae, space was precious but we were very fortunate to be all together. Over the course of the evening, it is estimated that 2 million young people gathered. For some it was a new experience camping out without a tent – it was incredible. The rain stayed away on Saturday night but did pay a visit on Sunday as we were walking back to the city. The rain, thunder and lightning added to the experience of WYD. While our bodies were weary and tired our hearts were buzzing with the renewed energy of meeting and talking to new friends about their experience of WYD and their relationship with God and the Church.
On Monday it was time to say ‘Good-Bye’ to Krakow. Our final stop before coming home was to visit the shrine at Czestochowa where the Black Madonna of Czestochowa – a revered icon of the Virgin Mary housed at the Jasna Gora Monastery can be seen. Monday evening, we stayed in Wroclaw where we shared a meal together and our memories of WYD 2016. Many young people of the group described their world Youth Day experience as ‘powerful’, ‘amazing’, ‘overwhelming’ and that the Church is alive and the vision now is to bring that back to our local parishes. It was a fantastic experience and planning is already under way for Panama 2019. Check out the diocesan website for pictures – www.cloyne.ie & www.cdys.ie