When we took off on flight FR1901 from Dublin Airport none of the 133 pilgrims from Kildare & Leighlin Diocese could fully appreciate the profound affect the following week would have on all our lives.
I was privileged to accompany young people, their priests and leaders from every area of the diocese. The young people in their bahaviour and attitude were a credit to their parents, parishes and peers.
We were embraced and welcomed by our host parish of Giebultow, around 10kms outside Krakow. Their parish priest Fr. Stanialaw and his WYD volunteers and parishioners; the school principal Staniswava and her staff saw us as neighbours and friends not tourists. We went to World Youth Day as pilgrims not as tourists. A tourist visits sites and buys souvenirs; a pilgrim encounters the Lord through places, people and situations. So often I found the Lord in the wonderful exchange with our young people.
A highlight for me might have been when we were privileged to lead the Evening Prayer for the Irish Pilgrims on last Wednesday evening in the parish of Kazimierz in Krakow. Or two days later when we gathered in Blonia Park for the Stations of the Cross; how moving those stations were as each station unfolded through scripture, contemporary reflection and most moving mime and drama. We went on several camino’s walking to the ‘nearest’ bus stop, the convenient train station or the parking bay where the coaches were parked. At times doesn’t every parking bay look the same!
The young people with their exuberance, energy and excitement brought for me a special dimension to this pilgrimage. I thank each of them sincerely, the priests and youth leaders who were a superb help throughout and saw to every need and the coordinators Fr. Liam, Cathriona and Rob for their work behind the scenes leading up to this pilgrimage and throughout the days. The attached photographs are only a selection, but they offer a little flavour of a time when the Diocese joined Pope Francis as pilgrims in WYD Krakow 2016. Our challenge now is to tell the story of Krakow and sow the seeds for Panama 2019.
I conclude with a prayer:
May God the Father guide your footsteps,
May God the Son share your journey,
And may God the Holy Spirit continue to lead you on life’s pilgrimage. Amen
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin