World Youth Day 2016

From July 25 to July 31, Lauren and Amanda Urban, participated as pilgrims at World Youth Day in Poland.  Before his passing, Mark was working with Lauren and Amanda to fulfill their wish to pilgrim with a million other youth adults as they deepen their faith. This video provides a brief look at their journey,

And their reflection shares what that experience meant for them:

When we heard that World Youth Day 2016 was going to be in Krakow, we knew it was going to be something special.  How could an event that combines Pope Francis and Saint John Paul II being anything short of amazing?  So we did the only thing we knew to do: Bug Mark and Carol about it.  Relentlessly. 

In the months leading up to Krakow, we met with our fellow pilgrims for prayer, to learn about Poland, and to learn about Saints Maximillian Kolbe and Faustina.  There were even futile attempts at learning Polish on Duolingo.  Soon enough, we were on our way.  It’s a hard experience to sum up – so here are some highlights!

Our first stop was the monastery in Niepokalanow that was founded by Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  The best part of the day was attending mass in Spanish and Polish, reminding us of the richness of our Universal church.

We prayed at Auschwitz and Birkenau.  We heard from a young woman from Syria who works with refugees.  In this year of Mercy, the world really does need our prayers and our actions. 

We toured Wadowice, the town where John Paul II grew up.  We visited his ornate parish and wondered if he kicked a soccer ball around the town square.  We had the best ice cream of our trip at a shop on a side street where a kind woman put up with our attempts at counting in Polish.  After one of the catechetical sessions in Krakow, we listened to two members of Saint John Paul II’s youth group.  He took them on canoe trips and they called him Uncle Karol.  The Pope who became saint suddenly seemed more human. 

Our favorite place was the John Paul II Sanctuary.  It’s not only one of the most beautiful places we have been, but has a sense of peace about it that we weren’t expecting.  Seeing the bloody cassocks from his attempted assassination was striking and moving. 

World Youth Day is a gathering like none other.  No discussion would be complete without talking about high fiving people for blocks on end or singing on crowded trams with people from all over the world.  The Lion Sleeps Tonight was a particularly popular choice this year – especially with the Italian pilgrims! We waited with some Polish locals, and pilgrims from Spain and El Salvador to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis and the motorcade. 

Of course, we are left with more questions than answers.  How did John Paul II lose so much and not only go on, but go on to do amazing things?  How did Poland suffer such oppression and still cling to faith?  What action are we supposed to take?

Never far from our minds was that this was not how we envisioned getting to World Youth Day.  We thought of Mark as we rode buses and walked through holy doors.  Carrying Mark’s legacy is a big job, so we hope to see everyone at the Foundation event in November. 

  • Lauren and Amanda Urban