Polish pilgrims at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro 2013 cheer as Pope Francis announces that WYD 2016 will take place in Krakow, Poland. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Road to Krakow: Canada prepares for WYD 2016

  • August 14, 2015

Registration is now open for World Youth Day 2016 and Canadian pilgrims are beginning to mobilize. Individuals, groups of friends, parishes and archdioceses are all preparing for their trip to Krakow, Poland, next summer.

Tour Design Canada in Markham, Ont. is a Canadian travel agency that specializes in religious pilgrimages. The agency has been organizing WYD pilgrimages for parish and diocese groups since 1997.

Alan Law, director of sales and marketing, said WYD years are its busiest years.

“It completely consumes the office,” said Law. “It’s not easy moving a couple thousand people at once.”
Law said Tour Design is working with about 1,200 pilgrims, but he expects the numbers to rise to about 1,500 to 1,600 pilgrims.

“From our own numbers, the trend seems to be that people are travelling as individual clusters,” he said. “There seems to be less of the diocese-size groups and more parish and community groups.”

Law said this is because many of these groups like the flexibility of customizing their own trip. There are many famous religious sites in Eastern Europe and each client wants to choose what their tour looks like beyond the week of WYD.

Despite this increase in smaller client groups, Tour Design still provides diocese travel packages. Next year’s WYD will be the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s first time organizing a trip for about 400 of its youth. Gerard Garcia, consultant for the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said this trip will give youth a sense of being part of a larger community outside of their parish.

“Many of them want to participate in a large way,” said Garcia. “Some of the parish groups are small in size... they would be able to connect and build relationships with others in the archdiocese so they don’t feel like they’re the only ones going.”

At the same time, Garcia said there are other parish groups with about 50 pilgrims, but they, too, want to be a part of the archdiocesan group. He is also working to co-ordinate with other parishes that are not travelling under the archdiocese package, so that Vancouver pilgrims can come together in celebration at Krakow during the week of WYD.

“Even though we’re going as a large group, we don’t forget the individual person,” said Garcia. “We’re trying to do some small group, faith-sharing... so we don’t just have large-scale events.”

Besides the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Tour Design is creating diocesan travel packages for the Archdioceses of Ottawa, Winnipeg, Regina and many other dioceses in Canada. However, not all dioceses are planning to travel as a large group.
The Archdiocese of Toronto was a long-time client of Tour Design. This year, however, the Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) will not be organizing a trip.

“My instructions from when I was assigned (to be OCY director) was to focus on local events,” said Fr. Frank Portelli.

He is of course referring to OCY’s efforts in growing the Steubenville Toronto conferences and other local initiatives for the archdiocese. Portelli said that it is important to focus efforts in growing formation here at home before taking on something like WYD again.

Although OCY is not planning an archdiocesan trip, it is encouraging Toronto parishes to work with each other and with other dioceses.

St. Justin Martyr parish in Unionville, Ont., is planning to send six pilgrims to Krakow next summer. Youth co-ordinator Andrew Santos said he decided not to go with a tour company to plan the pilgrimage.

“I’m not saying that tour companies don’t make good pilgrimages because they do,” said Santos, who planned his last three WYD trips with Tour Design. “Sometimes, when you go with a tour company you get caught up in arranging the packages... In our trip, we’re really looking forward to getting back to the basics.”

Lauren van Vliet, who just finished her final year of Master’s study at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, said she is hoping to travel with the Jesuits in English Canada.

“Some friends of mine with the Jesuits in English Canada are putting together a trip and I’m hoping to go with them,” said van Vliet. “It’s still kind of up in the air, but I have every intention of going to World Youth Day.”

Mary Bajorek, a third-year student at University of Waterloo, was born in Poland in a town close to Krakow. She wants to travel back home with her two younger sisters for their first WYD experience.

Bajorek said that she and her sisters know that they’re going but they are still trying to work out the details. She said she is just looking forward to experiencing her first WYD in her hometown.

“I went on a walking pilgrimage in the summer of 2012 and I absolutely loved it,” said Bajorek. “I’m really looking forward to that same type of energy at World Youth Day, multiplied by a hundred thousand.”

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