A group of 11 pilgrims from the Circle of Life youth ministry program, a family from Holy Spirit Church and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz are among the 2.5 million Catholics who are expected to gather in Krakow, Poland, next week for World Youth Day.
World Youth Day is an international gathering of Catholic youth first established by St. John Paul II in the late 1980s. The most recent international World Youth Day took part in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro just several months after Pope Francis was elected.
The international gathering will take place in and around Krakow July 26-31, with Pope Francis leading events July 27-31, including an overnight vigil and Mass. Many pilgrims also take part in events known as “Days in the Diocese” in the days leading up to World Youth Day.
The Circle of Life youth ministry program is a group comprised of high school youth and college-age young adults from St. Luke, St. Rita and St. Athanasius churches, said John Sohl, coordinator of youth ministry for the three parishes.
Sohl, who attended St. Aloysius School in Shepherdsville, Ky., and DeSales High School, took part in World Youth Day events in Rio in 2013 and in Madrid in 2011.
The Circle of Life group departed Louisville July 18 for Warsaw, Poland, where they will visit local places of historical and cultural interest and perform service work. The group will then travel to Krakow to participate in events with Pope Francis.
“In this Year of Mercy, I think it’s really providential that this World Youth Day is in Poland,” he said. “I really hope everyone deepens their understanding of unconditional love and what they are capable of.”
He said the group plans to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet each day.
“I hope that even in the moments of inconveniences and suffering that we can see God’s love and mercy,” Sohl said.
Read more about the Circle of Life youth group’s pilgrimage here.
The Haugh family from Holy Spirit also expressed their hope for the experience in Krakow to be one of prayer and mercy.
Suzanne Haugh is the director of Goodness Reigns, a local non-profit organization which seeks to invite youth and young adults “to use media and art to explore and share the faith.”
Goodness Reigns will again host a film festival during the official World Youth Day events in Krakow. The theme of the contest is mercy.
Haugh, who attended World Youth Day in Rio and Madrid, said attending the international gathering in the jubilee Year of Mercy is an opportunity to “reflect on how we have received mercy and also how to be conduits for mercy.”
“I think part of being merciful is understanding. It’s a reminder for us to get out of our own world and ideologies and try to understand where other people are coming from and to be compassionate,” said Haugh, who also works in communications and media relations for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville.
Haugh; her husband, Gil; and their three children, Carolyn, 20, Patrick, 17, and Emily, 13, planned to depart Louisville today, July 21, for Poland.
Archbishop Kurtz will also be in Poland to attend World Youth Day events. He will serve as a catechist July 27, 28 and 29 for English-speaking youth. He will also serve as a homilist for Mass on those days.