On July 24th at the 10 AM Mass, Fr. Stephen Saffron held a Blessing Ceremony for Philip Apilan and Jack Foppiani, the two young parishioners, who along with Fr. Saffron were St. Anselm’s pilgrims to World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. The two young men were presented with rosaries and patriotic themed baseball caps, symbols of their faith and nationality. Later the same day, at Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, the St. Anselm travelers gathered with many of the more than 400 Diocese of Brooklyn pilgrims to hear Bishop DiMarzio urge them to keep focused on the idea that they were going on a pilgrimage, not a tour. (See News: July 24, 2016 – Ma Blogoslawiona Pielgrzymka – Have a Blessed Pilgrimage)
Arriving in Poland, Fr. Saffron, Philip, and Jack took in the beauty of Krakow’s historic “Old City”, the country’s ancient capital, with its great square (the largest in Europe), market hall, St. Mary’s Church, Wawel Royal Palace and Cathedral. The three St. Anselm representatives joined the hundreds of thousands of clergy, religious, and young people from all over the world who had come together to Poland for World Youth Day.
On opening day, July 26th, the Brooklyn Diocese pilgrims proceeded to Jordan Park, Blonia for the opening Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and Vatican Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II. Throughout the week English-speaking pilgrims from around the world and from Brooklyn and Queens participated in a series of catechesis talks and witness testaments at the Tauron Arena, also know as the Mercy Center, which was decorated with banners of Polish saints: Saint Albert Chmielowski, Blessed Jerzy Popielusko, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II, as well as the banner of the Knights of Columbus, a major supporter of World Youth Day, as was our own St. Anselm parish for our three pilgrims.
At St. Joseph’s Church in Krakow the pilgrims from the Brooklyn Diocese participated in Mass with Bishop DiMarzio the principal celebrant and priests from the Diocese, including our own Fr. Saffron, as co-celebrants.
For many in the Diocese of Brooklyn group and our three St. Anselm pilgrims the visit on July 27th to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz was one of the most significant, and spiritually moving events in the Pilgrimage. It was here on July 29th during his own visit that Pope Francis prayed in the cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and met with Holocaust survivors.
On the evening of July 28th the Pope attended his first World Youth Day event, a welcoming ceremony in Jordan Park, Blonia. Pope Francis told the more than 600,000 young people to oppose those who say things cannot be changed. He asked the young crowd, “Can things change?” and was met with an enthusiastic answer, “Yes!” The Pope urged the young pilgrims to not look for an “early retirement”.
After a Mass celebrated on Saturday morning, July 30th by Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, the Diocesan pilgrims left the Tauron Center and trekked to Blonia Park, a three hour walk on a hot and muggy day, to welcome the Holy Father for the evening Vigil Service. Excitement spread through the crowd as the Pope Francis entered the park in his pope-mobile while pilgrims craned for a look and waved banners. The Vigil was a prayer service with witness talks from young people and video presentations on the theme of Mercy. It concluded with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in five languages and Benediction.
In his homily at the Vigil service, Pope Francis said, “My friends, Jesus is the Lord of risk, of the eternal “more”. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. 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. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.” The Pope concluded by challenging the pilgrims, “What answer will you give, … to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?”
The Vigil concluded with the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in five languages and Benediction. With the sunset and night overshadowing the park, a sea of light from hundreds of thousands of candles glowed in the dark.
The “final” event of World Youth Day for the more than a million pilgrims was the Papal Mass in Jordan Park, Blonia, on Sunday, July 31st. The Pope’s homily focused on the scripture story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the tax collector who had the courage to respond to Jesus’ call. He reminded his listeners that “Jesus calls you by name” and “He loves all of us with a special love; for him, all of us are important: You are important! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.” Pope Francis then returned to Krakow and made one last appearance and blessing from the balcony of the Archbishop’s Palace, wishing the crowd assembled in the square below “Do Widzenia” (Good Bye).
The departure of Pope Francis for Rome the pilgrimage did not end for our intrepid St. Anselm pilgrims, however. On Monday, August 1st they visited the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa, at the Jasna Gora (Hill of Light) Monastery, where Fr. Saffron delivered the petitions for Our Lady that had been entrusted into his care. Journeying on to Lodz to stay overnight, they visited the early 20th century gothic revival cathedral of St. Stanislaus Kosta, and arrived in Warsaw on August 2nd. Here they toured the city, visited the totally rebuild “Old Town”, destroyed by the Germans at the end of the World War II and enjoyed the sights.
We thank Fr. Saffron for shepherding his little flock (Philip and Jack), for sharing with them his knowledge and love of icons, particularly the Black Madonna, and his knowledge and love for Polish history and culture. We trust they were all enriched by the beauty of Krakow and the energy of the pilgrimage experience shared with countless others from around the world. We hope and pray that our St. Anselm pilgrims – Fr. Saffron, Jack Foppiani, and Philip Apilan, and all the pilgrims who gathered in Krakow for World Youth Day 2016 will always be able to pray in their hearts the Prayer of Divine Mercy: Jezu Ufam Tobie – Jesus, I trust in You!
The next World Youth Day will be held in Panama in 2019.
All the Best,
The St. Anselm Publicity Committee