The MSC small group with Beth and Ellie, our amazing leaders. There really are no words to describe World Youth Day. It’s an incredible event for the seventeen of the MSC pilgrims, coming from Galway, Cork, Dublin and London. We joined up with the Archdiocese of Birmingham for the 40 hour drive / flight / taxi / bus / ferry / bus trip to Poland. However, before you know it were in the parish of St. Marks, Łomianki, just outside of Warsaw. There was an incredibly joyful group of parishioners, who were delighted to welcome us to our Mission Week.
Mission Week is an essential part of the WYD experience. It’s about taking the time to ground your faith in acts of service. This is especially important during Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. We’re told to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, bury the dead, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned.
Altogether there was 120 pilgrims in the group, who were divided over a variety of projects. We don’t tick every box during Mission Week, but we were close.
The first team headed to Sadawa, a residential home for people with disabilities, to build a multi sensory garden. They had to dig up paths, decorate jumbo pots, and paint a sail boat. They also managed to fit in time for bike rides through the forest, dancing, as well as arts and crafts. The next group built a Rosary walk in a home for the elderly. Another spent a few days entertaining the kids at a local paediatric hospital with drama and music. The rest of us were in the park organising few days of games and activities for local children. It was pretty manic, but we had loads of help from Ola and the members of the Łomianki youth group. They were just brilliant.
By Sunday the songs were sung, the garden dug, and pots were planted. Bishop William Kenney CP blessed the sensory garden and Rosary walk and then we all headed for a barbecue – as you do. The next morning our Polish families saw us off on the bus and we began our journey to Kraków. On the way we visited Wadowice, the birth place of Pope John Paul II. We also paid our respects in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was a sobering reminder about the world’s need for justice and mercy.
Late on Monday evening we finally arrived at the Junior Krakus in Kraków, tired but excited for Week 2 of World Youth Day!