Isabel Correa, third from left, at WYD 2011 in Spain. She said the purpose of a pilgrimage is to go on a journey to seek the Lord Photo courtesy of Isabel Correa

Canada’s WYD pilgrims begin spiritual journey

  • February 5, 2016

The World Youth Day pilgrimage begins at the local level.

With less than six months before young Canadians leave for Krakow, Poland, this July, youth ministry groups are hard at it preparing their pilgrims for spiritual formation.

The past year has seen group leaders in the Archdiocese of Edmonton meeting every two months to tackle travel logistics. Now that registrations are set, the leaders are shifting their focus on spiritual preparation.

“There are a lot of pilgrims that are going for the first time, so we’re organizing sessions for them on how to prepare and what to expect,” said Szymon Bamburak, Edmonton’s WYD co-ordinator. “Based on just the diocese level, we have created retreats for everybody that’s going. We just had an Advent retreat... and there’s going to be another retreat in Easter.”

These retreats are based on the Year of Mercy and the WYD theme taken from Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Bamburak said it is important for the diocese’s 250 pilgrims to begin reflecting on the spiritual lessons together, so that they can bring that sense of community to their trip in July.

Gerard Garcia, WYD co-ordinator for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, said some of its 350 pilgrims have already organized their own sessions. Some groups have conducted workshops on the life of St. John Paul II and on the city of Krakow, while others have looked at what happens after WYD.

“There’s going to be a lot of interest and build-up preparing and then actually at World Youth Day, but also we want to start looking and preparing for what comes after,” said Garcia. “Sometimes, we can miss the boat on that.”

Although there are no set plans for after the pilgrimage just yet, Garcia said the diocese is already looking into organizing a diocesan formation event for the fall. Until then, the youth office is working to build those community relationships now.

One way Isabel Correa is preparing is through social media. Correa follows all the official Krakow 2016 social media regularly and uses its content to keep the young people in the Montreal archdiocese excited about WYD.

“For us, it’s a way of generating enthusiasm, letting people know that believing in Christ is fun and dynamic and it’s also transformative,” she said. “We’re not the only ones in our own little parish corner... that there are young people all over the world.”

Correa said that having constant traffic on social media is an important tool to evangelize young people. For her, building that online presence answers Pope Francis’ call for the faithful to be a constant reminder of Christ to others.

Correa has organized seven WYD pilgrimages for the archdiocese. This year, she is co-ordinating about 250 pilgrims heading to Krakow. In her years of experience, she has seen how WYD’s online presence has grown over the years, but one can always do more.

“We need to be doing a much better job of getting ‘What is World Youth Day? Why should we care? How’s it going to change young peoples’ lives?’ here in Canada because we’re losing a generation of people going,” she said. “The numbers are I think decreasing everywhere.”

World Youth Day unites young Catholics between the ages of 14 to 30 years old from all around the world to celebrate their faith with each other and with the Holy Father. This year, the week-long event will take place July 25-31 in Krakow, Poland, the home town of WYD founder St. John Paul II.

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  • Jean's Photo Diary

    July 26, 2016: The shrine of the Black Madonna was opened to World Youth Day pilgrims so that they could venerate the miraculous image up close. (Photo by Jean Ko Din)

    Follow our reporter Jean Ko Din as she photographs her journey to Krakow, Poland for the 2016 World Youth Day.