The Holy Father invited and they are going.
So said Father Giuseppe Fedele, who oversees the Neocatechumenal Way in Colorado. Some 300 of the catechumenate’s members will be journeying to World Youth Day in Poland at the end of the month.
“There is a call from Peter, the Holy Father Francis, to go,” Father Fedele said, referring to the pope’s message last August when he became the first pilgrim to register for the event and invited youths to attend.
The Way group is the largest from the Archdiocese of Denver going to the July 25-31 international Catholic youth celebration in Krakow, which in keeping with the current Year of Mercy is themed, “‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’” (Mt 5:7).
This is the first time a World Youth Day has taken place during a jubilee year.
“The Lord is waiting for you there,” Father Fedele told the Way pilgrims after Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila blessed them June 24 at the St. John Paul II Center in south Denver. His words echoed those of Pope Francis in his World Youth Day 2016 message.
“Dear young people … Jesus is waiting for you,” he wrote. “He has confidence in you and is counting on you!”
Like the pope, Father Fedele and Archbishop Aquila urged the pilgrims to be a light for the world so desperately in need of Christ’s love and mercy. This, too, is a reason for going on the pilgrimage, they said.
“To give to society, especially to Europe, which is becoming more and more secularized, a hope that is beautiful,” explained Father Fedele. “That they may see that it is joyful to believe in God and that there is another way to live as a youth. That you can be happy following the Lord.”
The Way youths will evangelize by announcing the good news in public squares and giving witness to what Jesus Christ has done in their lives.
In addition to attending the vigil and Mass with the Holy Father at the Field of Mercy, located southeast of central Krakow, the Way pilgrims will visit Terezin, a concentration camp outside of Prague that was run by Nazi Germany from 1941-1945, and the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, enshrined at Jasna-Gora Monastery, the national shrine of Poland located in Czestochowa.
They will also attend an international vocational meeting with the initiators of the Way, during which youths will be invited to answer a call to priesthood or consecrated life and families to go on mission to de-Christianized areas of the world.
“God has a plan for (everyone),” Father Fedele said. He has a mission for (everyone). The whole purpose of Christian life is to discover what that mission is, the plan God wants to open for you.”
Not only is Christ waiting for the pilgrims in Poland, Father Fedele said, but he desires that they be the source of an encounter for others with him.
“God wants to have a personal experience with each one of us that can really change our life,” he said, referring to the joy of new life in Christ that transforms us from being self-centered and empty to selfless and loving. “[Then] everything has a meaning, even suffering.”