On July 25, young people from around the globe will gather in Krakow, Poland, to celebrate the 14th international World Youth Day. Announced by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and first held in Rome the following year, World Youth Day has become an eagerly-anticipated, week-long festival featuring speakers, concerts, catechetical workshops, and worship opportunities. The most recent event, held three years ago in Rio de Janeiro, saw over three million pilgrims flood the streets and fill the beaches of Brazil’s second-largest city. At its conclusion, Pope Francis exhorted his listeners, “Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved! Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did!”
Answering this call to get involved and immerse themselves in the reality of Christian discipleship, 47 youth and young adults from around the Diocese of Raleigh have signed up to make the trip to Poland and to participate in this year’s gathering. Prior to departing, they gathered on Saturday, June 11, at St. Mary, Mother of the Church in Garner, to spend a day in reflection and prayer. Using resources produced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and joined by Bishop Burbidge, the pilgrims were encouraged to think about how this once-in-a-lifetime experience might open their hearts to an outpouring of grace from the Holy Spirit.
“You’re not just taking a trip,” Bishop Burbidge reminded the teens who had gathered. “You’re getting ready to go on a pilgrimage, a sacred journey. You’re going to be visiting shrines and holy places in the land of Pope John Paul II’s birth.”
Bishop Burbidge then showed the pilgrims his pectoral cross, which was given to him by Pope John Paul II. The pectoral cross is a sign of his Office as Bishop, and it serves as a palpable reminder to him, during moments of distress or fatigue, that the self-sacrificing act of Jesus on the cross should never be far from his heart. “And this was given to me by a saint!” Bishop Burbidge exclaimed. “Who knows? Maybe one of you will be so inspired by your time at World Youth Day that you will return and live your life so that you, too, become a saint!” [Tweet this!]
For their part, the students are filled with enthusiasm and hope in the weeks leading up to their trip. “I am excited to go on this pilgrimage with other Catholics, in the US and from other countries,” remarked Abby Coderre, a 16 year old who attends St. Mark Catholic Church in Wilmington. “After leaving the retreat, I felt more comfortable with the people I'm going with. I feel this is going to be an amazing experience for everyone going, including myself!”
The pilgrims from the Diocese of Raleigh depart for Poland on Sunday, July 24. The group will include Fr. Michael Burbeck, Reverend Bill John Acosta-Escobar, V.F., seminarians Noe Ramirez and Juan Carlos Garcia, as well as the Diocese of Raleigh’s Senior Director for Youth and Young Adults, Michael Bayer, and Coordinator for Hispanic Youth and Young Adults, Ricardo Veloz. You can follow their journey here at the Diocese of Raleigh’s website, and on our social media accounts.