The first time Father James King attended World Youth Day was in 2005, when the then-seminarian made the trip to Cologne, Germany.
“I was in Saint Panteleimon Church with Pope Benedict XVI and a thousand other seminarians from around the world, and we all prayed the Liturgy of the Hours,” he recalled.
“I then came to the realization that, even though we normally are separated by oceans and continents, we all pray together, everyday,” he continued.
“It made visible this unseen reality” of a global, united Catholic community, Father King said.
On the night of Friday, July 22, he and almost 30 others from the Diocese of Camden, including Bishop Dennis Sullivan, young adults, seminarians, and his brother clergy, are scheduled to depart from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport for an overnight flight to Poland. They will join Pope Francis and millions of pilgrims in bringing a visible, unified witness of their faith to this year’s World Youth Day in Krakow.
As chaplain of Catholic Campus Ministry at Stockton University in Galloway Township, Father King will make the trip with members of his college community, and he has already prepared them for what to expect, or not expect, over the 10 days of their journey, which will include a visit to Wadowice, the hometown of Saint John Paul II; a stop at the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa; and Mass with Pope Francis and a million new Catholic friends.
“I told them to be open to what happens; the fewer the pre-conceived notions, the better,” he said.
Amanda Dupras, 20, an incoming Stockton junior, is one of those students.
“I first heard about the World Youth Day trip a year and a half ago, as a freshman,” she said. “During that time and now, the idea of making this pilgrimage has transformed into ‘Wow, it’s in Poland, I’m Polish, I should go’ to ‘this is my next step in my spiritual journey.’ The meaning became deeper. To say I’m looking forward to it is an understatement,” she said.
Dupras, along with her fellow campus ministry members making the journey, crafted 40 rosaries to give to other Poland pilgrims in a World Youth Day item-swapping tradition.
In years past, in addition to packing walking boots, sleeping bags and raincoats in their luggage, pilgrims from the Camden Diocese have stowed away buttons, shirts and baseball caps to give to fellow youth.
Vivian Webster, 26, part of the rosary-making crew, will experience her second World Youth Day, after 2005’s Germany trip.
“Being around Pope Benedict XVI then had an effect on me,” she said. “I’m working on my relationship with Christ,” Webster added. “I’m going to take things as they come; it will be an adventure.”
Rev. Mr. Adam Cichoski, 21, has been diligently reading papal biographer George Weigel’s “City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow,” which was given to all diocesan World Day pilgrims in preparation for their trip.
“It will be a great sight to see all these youth with the same goal,” of wanting to know Jesus and living their Catholic beliefs, he said.
During their excursion, diocesan pilgrims will share their experiences on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, with #WYD16SJ. Combined with other dioceses celebrating their own World Youth Day events, the digital landscape will showcase a global youth movement on fire with their faith.
Seminarian Carlo Santa Teresa, 26, “came to love the faith” through the papacy of Pope John Paul II as he grew up. Now, with the opportunity to walk in the saint’s footsteps, he knows it will be “an intimate experience, being in John Paul II’s homeland, where he came to develop his own love for Christ and the Blessed Mother. He taught me how to find and love my Catholic identity.”
“I am looking forward to praying with youth from around the world and experiencing the presence, energy and vitality of the universal church,” he added.