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Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry

World Youth Day

Lisbon, Portugal 2022

The next international gathering for World Youth Day will be summer 2022. Dates have not been announced. In the summer of 2019, I will organize a planning team to set the stage for a diocesan pilgrimage. Please use the interest finder below to let me know if you would like to be a part of the team:


 pdf Interest_Finder_2022.pdf


WYD 2019 ~ Panama City, Panamalogo Panama2019


The 2019 International gathering for World Youth Day is now history. I will link to articles about the experience as they become available.


WYD 2016 ~ Karkow, Poland

Check out stories about the experiences with World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland!

Nick Brady submitted the following ~ http://nickbrady21loveandlive.blogspot.com/2016/08/mercy-my-world-youth-day-krakow-poland.html?spref=fb

From Kyle Holtgrave, Director of the Office for Youth & Young Adult Ministry

Pilgrims from 13 different parishes participated in the 31st World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland July 22 through August 1 as part of the diocesan delegation led by Bishop Paprocki and Fr. Chris Brey, pastor of St. Mary, Shumway, St. Anthony, Effingham and Sacred Heart, Effingham. Other groups from the diocese were also present, including pilgrims from Our Lady Queen of Peace, Bethalto, Sacred Heart – Griffin Catholic High School, and the Knights of Columbus College Council delegation that included pilgrims from our diocese.


We departed from Chicago on July 22, arriving in Warsaw to one night at a hotel there. While at the hotel, Bishop met with the group and we prayed Liturgy of the Hours together. Fr. Brey and other members of the leadership team gave briefings about various aspects of the trip as well.

On July 24 we visited the Jasna Góra Monastery and chapel of the miraculous painting of the Black Madonna at Czestochowa. This monastery is considered the most sacred place for Catholics in Poland. We learned about the history of the icon, with some accounts attributing its creation to St. Luke himself. The monks hid the icon during World War II and there are blemishes on the icon from an attempted robbery in the Middle Ages. We then celebrated Mass in the basilica of the Jasna Góra Monastery with Bishop Paprocki as the main celebrant and our accompanying priests as concelebrants.


Bishop preaching at the Jasna Góra Monastery.  Fr. Michal Rosa and Fr. Chris Brey concelebrating


Mass at the Jasna Góra Monastery

After Mass, we traveled to Wadowice to see the childhood home of St. John Paul II. We toured the home which is now a museum with many artifacts and pictures of St. John Paul II.

Finally, we visited the Nazi Concentration Camps at Auschwitz-Birkeneau. The entrance to Auschwitz I was preserved with the infamous “Arbeit macht frei“sign over the entrance as prisoners were escorted in. Also at Auschwitz I, we got to see a number places where Nazi atrocities were committed. The highlight was seeing the spot were St. Maximilian Kolbe was martyred. Bishop gathered the group for some catechesis about St. Maximilian and answered questions. We then traveled by bus to Auschwitz II, just a few kilometers away. This camp was much larger, with an intimidating gate over a single railroad line where deportees were brought in. Much of the camp is in ruins, some of which was the work of the Nazis to cover up evidence of war crimes. Some restoration work has been done. The gas chambers and crematoriums, however, were completely demolished. Throughout the camp were interpretive signs explaining what each part of the camp was used for. We had a chance to pray throughout the time we were in the camp and soaked in just how enormous of an operation the camp was during the Nazi era.


Gate into Auschwitz I


Bishop Paprocki telling the group about St. Maximilian Kolbe at the site of his martyrdom

On July 25 we traveled to the Shrine of Divine Mercy where St. Faustina received apparitions of Jesus and inspired devotion to the Divine Mercy, which refers to the unlimited merciful love of God towards all people. We celebrated Mass in the lower level chapel of the shrine with Bishop Paprocki. Several first class relics were accessible throughout the shrine for us to venerate. We also prayed in the adoration chapel that the sisters at the shrine use on a daily basis.


Mass in the lower chapel at the Shrine of Divine Mercy

The next day featured a walking tour of Kraków. On the square of the old city was the Basilica of St. Mary. We learned about a tradition that has been carried on for centuries at the basilica. A long time ago, the city was being attacked by an opposing army and the bugler tried to warn the residents of the city by sounding his bugle from the church tower. An archer from the opposing army cut the alarm short with a well-aimed shot, but the alarm had worked and the city was awakened. To this day, to honor the slain bugler, a song is played every hour from the tower but is always cut short in honor of the slain musician. We also visited a church that is believed to be where St. Stanislaw of Poland was martyred. We then saw the archbishop’s residence which is where St. John Paul II was archbishop when he was elected to the papacy. We prayed in the Franciscan church across the street from the residence where St. John Paul II prayed as well.


Enjoying a meal after the day's events with Fr. Steve Arisman

In the evening we had the official opening Mass to World Youth Day at Błonia Park.


Dominic Rankin, seminarian for the diocese, hanging out with Fr. Steve Arisman and Fr. Michal Rosa


Dancing along with the World Youth Day theme song after the opening Mass

July 27 – we celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica with Bishop Paprocki and our accompanying priests. We then toured several other churches as part of the World Youth Day celebration of the City of Saints. The highlight was to be able to pray before the remains of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, patron of young adults and one of the principle patrons of this particular World Youth Day celebration.

That afternoon we traveled to Tauron Arena where the USCCB had organized an English-speaking series of events. The Knights of Columbus were major underwriters of the event along with several other ministries. Our first presentation was from an archbishop in Iraq who spoke about the genocide of Christians in his country. He was thankful for the support of western countries but hopes more action can be done to prevent further loss of life in that region. During the event, Bishop Paprocki got to represent the episcopal region comprised of all the dioceses from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Leah Arisman from St. Agnes in Springfield got to introduce each of the states to the crowd of about 13,000. Alex Rankin from St. Rose of Lima in Quincy was also on stage. We were also challenged by Archbishop Lori of Baltimore to be brave enough to lay down our life for Christ, just as the modern-day martyrs are doing right now (in reference to the genocide in the Middle East). The evening concluded with Holy Hour and a talk from Bishop Robert Barron, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.


Bishop Paprocki on stage with Leah Arisman and Alex Rankin after they introduce Region 7 to the crowd at Tauron Arena

July 28 we headed back to Tauron Arena for a catechesis session. Our presenter was Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, Philippines. During his address, the Cardinal talked about acting selflessly, much in contrast to the song, “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. The Cardinal recited the song, he did not actually sing it, I think he could have given Bishop Paprocki a run for his money on using song in his presentations! We celebrated Mass at the arena with Cardinal Tagle as the main celebrant.


Awaiting the events inside Tauron Arena


Fr. Chris Brey, in the upper row, takes in the scene as members of the group participate in a Catechesis session inside Tauron Arena

In the afternoon, we returned to Błonia Park for the official papal welcome. During his remarks, the Holy Father said, “nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives.” The pope then challenged everyone to have the strength to challenge those who say that nothing can change in the world.

Keeping with the theme of mercy, as our World Youth Day theme was “Blessed are the Merciful” from Matthew 5:7, the Pope reminded us that “mercy always has a youthful face!” He then challenged everyone to have an open heart that welcomes everyone, to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home and to reach out to those who are suffering, who have no peace, or, worst of all, to those who have no faith.

Finally, the Holy Father said that it was “disturbing to see young people squandering some of the best years of their lives, wasting their energies running after peddlers of false illusions… who rob you of what is best in you. This pains me. I am sure that among you there are no such persons, but I want to tell you: there are young people that have gone into retirement, who have thrown in the towel before the game has even begun, there are young people who are enthralled by false illusions and end up in nothingness.” Pope Francis went on to say, “We are gathered here to help one another, because we do not want to be robbed of the best of ourselves… To find fulfillment, to gain new life, there is a way, a way that is not for sale, that cannot be purchased, a way that is not a thing or an object, but a person. His name is Jesus Christ.”


Members of the Polish military keeping us safe during the week enjoy receiving patches from the Springfield Police Department

On Friday, we celebrated Mass at St. Ann’s near our hotel. The church was across the street from the Jagiellonian University where a number of saints studied and also where Bishop Paprocki studied Polish in 2000. The church is the burial place of St. John Cantius so we were able to pray at his tomb.


Priests concelebrating Mass with Bishop Paprocki.  From left to right: Fr. Brian Alford, Fr. Michal Rosa,

Bishop Paprocki, Dominic Rankin, Fr. Steve Arisman and Fr. Chris Brey

In the evening, we participated in Way of the Cross at Błonia Park. Each station was an artist expression of that station. Some involved live actors, others were paintings or other art media. Each station included a mediation and a video piece on a particular ministry in the world that built on the Corporal Works of Mercy. Our sector was on the route for the stations so we were able to see the 10th Station- Jesus is Stripped of His Garments up close. For this station, an actor was hoisted up by a crane and slowly spun around while a long, white cloth slowly unraveled from around the actor to represent Jesus being stripped of his clothing during his Passion.


Our view of the 10th Station


Meering pilgrims from Iraq

The Holy Father challenged everyone at the end of the evening to reflect on the Way of the Cross, reminding us that the Way of the Cross, “is the way of hope, the way of the future. Those who take up this way with generosity and faith give hope to the future and to humanity. Those who take up this way with generosity and faith sow seeds of hope. I want you to be sowers of hope.” The Pope concluded by reminding everyone that the world is watching to see how we respond.

Saturday was the vigil at Campus Misericordiae, which means “field of mercy.” Our group arrived early at our sector for the vigil and that allowed us plenty of time to set up a makeshift camp. Since the sector was not crowded yet, a group of us tossed a Frisbee for a while, others chose to relax and nap to avoid the heat of the sun. Fr. Michal Rosa, parochial vicar for the parishes in Effingham, led prayer at various times during the day. Ten members of our group were awarded passes to sit up close to the stage when the Holy Father came later in the evening.


Hiking in to our campsite for the evening vigil as we prepare to close World Youth Day


Relaxing in some improvised shelter

In the evening, we heard several testimonies from young people, including a young lady from Syria who described life for Christians in that region. The Holy Father thanked her for her courage to speak and asked everyone to pray for her and her beloved country. Pope Francis went on to say, “our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family.” He then asked everyone to join hands for a few moments of silence to pray.

Pope Francis continued by talking about how the Apostles hid in the upper room before Pentecost out of fear and how fear leads to another problem – paralysis, the inability to act. “When we are paralyzed, we miss the magic of encountering others, making friends, sharing dreams, walking at the side of others.” Paralysis, the Holy Father goes on, leads to an even more dangerous situation, one that is harder to identify. “I like to describe it as the paralysis that comes from confusing happiness with a sofa.” Sofas, the pope explains, like to make us feel happy, safe and comfortable. “Sofa-happiness” allows us to stay home and not worry about what’s going on around us, the Pope explains. Then the Pope challenged everyone by saying, “we didn’t come into this work to ‘vegetate’, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark… Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.” Pope Francis went on to say, “The times we live in do not call for young ‘couch potatoes’, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced.” Pope Francis concluded his speech by challenging young people to answer Jesus’ invitation to leave a mark on life and on history.

World Youth Day concluded with Mass on Sunday morning with Pope Francis. Bishop Paprocki, Fr. Alford, Fr. Rosa and Fr. Arisman concelebrated. Crowd estimates for this event were between 1.6 and 2.5 million people gathered at Campus Misericordiae. During the homily, Pope Francis reminded us of three obstacles that Zacchaeus faced in the Gospel. First was his short stature, the second was how Zacchaeus felt a paralysis of shame, of which the pope spoke about yesterday, and the third was the grumbling crowd who criticized Zacchaeus because he was a tax collector. With each of these obstacles, Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to help us overcome similar obstacles. To conclude his homily, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus invited Zacchaeus to come down from the tree and that he wanted to stay with him. “Jesus extends that same invitation to you: ‘I must stay at your house today’ (Lk 19:5) We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus want to meet you from now on” [emphasis original].

After Mass, we hiked our way out of Campus Misericordiae and returned to our hotel to clean up and prepare for the journey home. There was some free time to enjoy one last meal downtown. Much of the World Youth Day paraphernalia in the old town square was already being packed up, and there were no crowds as we had experienced before. Our bus picked us up at 11 PM to travel from Kraków to Warsaw to catch a flight to Zurich. Once in Zurich we connected with our flight to Chicago.


Tired pilgrims on the way home!

Quotes taken from the Vatican website:



Courtesy of Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Below are quotes from some of the participants in the diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2016 to Kraków, Poland. The prompt from me was “what was your favorite part of the World Youth Day experience?”

“Last night at the vigil, the pope talked about building bridges of hope, just reaching out to each other, was something he wanted us all to do. Then he had us reach out and hold hands with the people around us quietly for a few minutes. I also felt a great sense of peace and hope during World Youth Day even though we came from different communities. People came from all over and I felt a strong sense of connection and unity, that I was not alone in my faith.”

Lauren Serfas, St. Boniface, Edwardsville

“The theme of mercy struck me dead center here at World Youth Day… Youth have a lot of energy and we need to focus that on Jesus, on mercy itself, to extend mercy to all those we meet. Mercy is larger than forgiveness, it allows us to work alongside Him in the recreation and salvation of the world. Mercy is the reality of being in relationship with God because He is mercy itself.”

Dominic Rankin, St. Rose of Lima, Quincy and Seminarian

Tal Rozene, and adult from Sacred Heart parish in Effingham, said that participating in World Youth Day has “inspired me to be a more active Catholic. We can all make changes, starting with ourselves.”

When asked about her favorite experiences of World Youth Day, Ivy Handley of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Decatur said, “Amazing! Meeting so many people, it gets you out of your comfort zone. It’s a great experience meeting others!”

Alex Beesley of St. Anthony parish in Effingham, said, “It is an experience unlike anything. So many cultures, all different but praising the same God.”

Phillip Gorrell of St. Mary in Marshall said that prayer was very powerful. “Adoration at Tauron Arena was incredible” in reference to prayer service at the USCCB gathering sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Leza and Lexi Mendella, a mother/daughter pair from St. Anthony in Effingham, was with our group and described World Youth Day as “an eye-opening experience. We were blest to be able to see the world, hearing all the different languages.”

“One of the highlights of my trip was meeting people from other countries. It makes me want to be more involved in the Church.”

Gillian Erikson, St. Anthony, Effingham

“For me, one of the biggest highlights is exploring Kraków, seeing others who are here for the same purpose. It changes what I do about my faith, hoping to get more involved.”

Ava Erikson, St. Anthony, Effingham, sister of Gillian

“Stations were really cool!”

Natalya Fyans-Jimenez, St. Agnes, Springfield

“Auschwitz didn’t seem real when we were there. It was too peaceful now compared what it was like.”

Nick Brady, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

“Mass with the bishop. I felt encouraged by the whole experience.”

Kathleen Brady, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

“I always enjoy the universal Church. There’s an excitement about seeing all the different cultures and seeing the youth fired up about the faith. We got to celebrate Mass in a lot of different places, and, of course, concelebrating Mass with the Pope.”

Fr. Steve Arisman, Our Lady of the Holy Spirit, Mt. Zion (2nd World Youth Day trip)

“Being on stage to represent and introduce Region 7 at the USCCB gathering at Tauron Arena with Bishop Paprocki.”

Leah Arisman, St. Agnes, Springfield

“All the events at Tauron Arena were great! We had adoration along with a keynote talk with Bishop Barron [auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles]. Camping out with lots of people at Campus Misericordiae” [translated = “field of mercy”]

Alex Rankin, St. Rose of Lima, Quincy


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