By Gregory A. Coogan
Life-changing. Mountain top experience. Reinvigorating. Renewing. The Super-Bowl of Catholic events.
These are some of the phrases and words that I have heard or that have come to mind when I think of World Youth Day. World Youth Day is a large gathering of the young church that takes place every two to three years with the pope. It is designed to attract young people who represent all the ends of the Earth.
Are you interested in joining a pilgrimage like this? The Diocese of Camden, along with the New Jersey dioceses of Trenton and Metuchen, are collaborating to send a young adult delegation (those ages 18 and over by July of 2016) to World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan has agreed to accompany the pilgrims as a way to rejuvenate the spiritual life of young adults along their journey, which ultimately leads to Christ Jesus.
Pope Francis and Poland are ready to welcome close to 2 million pilgrims in 2016. World Youth Day is being hosted in Krakow, Poland, and the event is returning to the home of St. John Paul II, the founder of the modern WYD experience. Over the past 30 years, countless stories have been told of women and men witnessing the power of the Holy Spirit at this universal church experience. There is a lasting impact on the faith of the pilgrims who attend. World Youth Day 2013, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, brought millions of young adults together with the Holy Father who challenged them to “make a mess” in their dioceses. In our diocese, young adults inspired by his message, helped to begin outreach efforts in Camden and Gloucester counties.
This exciting journey, July 22 – Aug. 1, 2016, will gather us with Pope Francis in the home of some of today’s modern saints like John Paul, Maximillian Kolbe and Faustina. There will also be opportunities to create community with the other pilgrims, meet young adults from Poland and see Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, and experience the sacred places of Poland including Czestochowa and the Divine Mercy Shrine. Spiritual and physical preparations will take place as we look forward in sharing the journey with others in our parishes and dioceses. I encourage our entire diocese to become digital pilgrims as this gathering will also be live-streamed, and our pilgrims hope to send messages back home, too.
How can you participate, invite others, and/or take the journey?
1) Pray. The entire church continues to pray with and for youth and young adults. We strive to pray and become a people that embraces the WYD 2016 theme of “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7). The hope is that pilgrims, practicing works of mercy, will be the hands and voice of Jesus before, during and after the experience.
2) Attend. Consider participating in an informational meeting or even watch the recorded webinar (camdendiocese.org/world-youth-day-2016). Two informational sessions are being held: Sunday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Trinity Parish, Epiphany Church Hall in Longport (9200 Ventnor Ave.) and Monday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Hope Parish Gym in Blackwood (701 Little Gloucester Road). All who would like to learn more are welcome to attend.
3) Support a pilgrim with prayer or funds. There are young adults seeking to participate who have the desire and can use prayer and/or a financial gift. Pilgrims will take your prayer requests at these sacred gatherings. Please contact Youth & Young Adult Ministry at 856-583-6122 or email@example.com.
We entrust this pilgrimage to God’s infinite mercy and hold our diocese in prayer in a special way.
Gregory A. Coogan is director, Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministries, Diocese of Camden.