Young Polish-Canadian pilgrims about to embrak on the journey to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day 2016 show the crosses they were given by Bishop Matthew Ustrzycki at a commissioning Mass June 5. Photo by Jean Ko Din

World Youth Day pilgrims reminded the cross brings happiness at farewell Mass

  • June 7, 2016

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. – Always remember why you are there, Hamilton auxiliary Bishop-emeritus Matthew Ustrzycki told 600 young Polish-Canadians preparing to return to their ancestral homeland for World Youth Day this summer.

“My dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by all people of all times and of all ages,” said Ustrzycki. “This happiness comes through what? The cross... Have it with you all the time.”

Ustrzycki was joined by Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek from Lomza, Poland, and nine Polish-Canadian priests to celebrate a farewell commissioning Mass June 5 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Mississauga for the young pilgrims heading to Krakow, Poland, for WYD 2016. Youth from eight parishes across southern Ontario gathered at St. Maximilian Kolbe to meet fellow Polish-Canadians who are preparing for the pilgrimage to Krakow.

During the Mass, the young pilgrims received a WYD cross as a reminder of the spiritual journey on which they will embark.

“Hold on to that cross that’s given to you today,” said Ustrzycki. “Keep in mind that it reminds you what to do with your life... Through thick and thin, hang on to it because He will lead you home and that’s what counts.”

Ustrzycki reminded the pilgrims that Pope Francis has asked them to reflect on the Beatitudes as preparation for their journey to WYD from July 25-31. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, he said young people are called to be instruments of mercy to those around them.

“One of the greatest first sermons that Jesus preached on the mountain was the Beatitudes,” said Ustrzycki. “Jesus is challenging us and saying to us that look, if you live this way, you will be happy... This present culture which is secular, which has removed God and is doing everything possible to remove God, says there’s no hope. And yet your faith and mine says something different.”

Simone Zamarlik, 23, is a member of the WYD committee and one of 300 pilgrims from St. Maximilian Kolbe parish. Zamarlik said this pilgrimage is an opportunity to be both Polish and Canadian. It’s an opportunity for pilgrims to immerse themselves in their roots, but also to see themselves as witnesses to the faith of young people in Canada. 

“For some people they’re going back home. For others, we’re going to our second home,” said Zamarlik. “Though it takes away, in a way, the whole getting to know a different culture... it also adds to the experience of really going deeper into our faith.”

St. Maximilian Kolbe is the largest Polish parish outside of Poland with more than 40,000 registered parishioners. 

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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.