There could be no denying that we were all hot, exhausted, and ravenous for food. Our legs and feet were screaming at us from the many miles we had walked and yet, despite these afflictions, we all shared a tremendous joy and excitement. Surrounded by millions of Catholic youth from around the world, we jumped, screamed, and chanted in unison as Pope Francis, our Vicar of Christ, came in sight on the big screen. We were on pilgrimage in Poland for World Youth Day and it was on this pilgrimage that the many miles we walked, the crowds we endured, the lack of sleep, and the occasional lack of food became our joyful trials, the blessed difficulties of World Youth Day. It was here that millions of youth accepted these crosses with joy.
Ave Maria and the Mother Teresa Project were represented by our small group of 9 pilgrims. Our 2-week endeavor began in Warsaw where we stayed with various host families in a town called Zabki. It was here that we participated in World Youth Day’s Days of the Dioceses and it was here that we first encountered the overwhelming warmth and hospitality of the Polish people. We visited Old Town Warsaw, which was totally rebuilt after being completely demolished in World War II. We discovered the incredible heroism of Poland’s beloved modern-day martyr, Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko. We visited Niepokalanow (The City of the Immaculata) founded by St. Maximillian Kolbe. We traveled from Warsaw to Czestachowa, where we prayed before the beautiful and miraculous icon of Our Lady of Jasna Gora (The Black Madonna).
The pilgrimage continued as we made our way to Krakow and were united with young people from around the globe in joyful celebration of our faith! Here we took part in all the major events of WYD with the Holy Father, including Stations of the Cross, the Prayer Vigil, and the Closing Mass. I am sure the graces received were in abundance when we visited the Divine Mercy Shrine and all the major churches in Krakow, including the Dominican church which held the body of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. We walked the former grounds of the Auschwitz concentration camp- a difficult but powerful experience. We capped our trip with a delightful visit to Wadowice, the hometown of St. John Paul II.
Throughout our time in Krakow, the Mother Teresa Project was getting its name out at WYD’s Vocation Center. Here, we had a booth which attracted hundreds of youth worldwide. It was incredible to see the love of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta that so many people share. Her smile alone sparked immediate interest in the Project. We in MTP are excited about the fruits to come from these encounters at the booth! I was also blessed and honored to give a presentation to WYD pilgrims about my missionary experience in Calcutta, as part of the Vocations Centre program of events.
In Poland we experienced and took part in the joy of the youth, the joy of the future Church. Amidst the terrorism and hatred surrounding us in the world today, the Catholic youth have clung to the mercy of the Father. It is through this mercy that we have found our joy. Mother Teresa’s smile sparked so much attention because it reflected this Divine Mercy. She spread God’s mercy to the poorest of the poor through her love, her joy, and her smile. The theme of this World Youth Day was, in fact, mercy. Pope Francis declared the message to the youth to be “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” Our beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta not only practiced, but lived this beatitude through her love and joy. Let us pray for her intercession so that we may also obtain the grace to live this beatitude of mercy through our very own joy and smiles.
By Mary Kathryn Lee, MTP Staff and Mother Teresa Scholar Class of 2016