Four teens and two chaperones from St. Francis By The Sea Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island traveled to Krakow, Poland, to attend World Youth Day.
Jack Jolley, Kaeleigh Judge, Jaqueline Narvaez and Lydia Novak made the journey with chaperones Kelly Jolley and Colleen Rzeczycki.
The group flew out of Charleston on July 20 to New York, then on to Amsterdam. From there, they flew to Warsaw, Poland, for a night, then traveled on to Krakow.
Despite it’s name, World Youth Day is really a week of festivities and special masses to energize younger generations of Cathlics. This year’s event is July 25-31. Pope Francis arrived in Krakow on July 28.
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Aug. 1 update
We were out of cell phone range for the past few days. On Friday, we decided to attend Catechesis at the Tauron Center, aka Mercy Center. There we were treated to a wonderful talk from Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York. We all came away with the same thoughts: This man loves God! He talked to us about how we can give mercy to others. It could be as simple as bringing someone back to the Church and helping them learn about God. As he left the altar after mass, he was hugging and waving to all of the kids who are a part of his diocese!
After we finished catechesis, we returned to the hotel to rest up and pack for our 8 mile walk to the site of the Vigil and Final Mass with Pope Francis. The rest was key for us!
On Saturday, we attended mass with all of our US bishops and we heard an inspiring homily from Bishop Frank Caggiano from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn. He talked to us about Mother Theresa, Maximillian Kolby, and John Paul II. He told us that we, too, can be saints by just doing small works of mercy for others.
After mass, we began our pilgrimage to see the pope. It was a long walk and when we finally arrived, space was extremely tight. But Father Paul ran into a good friend of his from Boston and they graciously moved over their stuff to help accommodate our group. An act of mercy for sure!
The candlelight vigil was extremely touching as we looked out among the 2.5 million other pilgrims with their candles shining brightly. We all felt like surely we were the "Light of the World." We then had to trek 3 miles back to get our food bags and by the time we got back to our site, it was 12:30 a.m. We quickly ate and tried our best to get some sleep as the temperature had dropped and it was a little chilly.
In the morning we were awakened by music beginning at 6:30 a.m! So we all arose and got ourselves ready for the mass with the Holy Father. It was an awesome experience to see 2.5 million people from all over the world participate in the liturgy. As the temperatures rose, many of our fellow pilgrims fell ill from the heat. Paramedics and police were very busy trying to help.
All in all, this was a wonderful experience for us! We are excited to report that the next World Youth Day will be in Panama! Thank you, Papa Francesco! We are ready to go out and be merciful to others!
Tomorrow we will be leaving this beautiful city of Krakow!
Lydia Novak, Jack Jolley, Kaeleigh Judge and Jaqueline Narvaez
July 28 update
Our day started early as we had to ride the Tram over to the Mercy Center to get good seats for our morning of catechesis. We were treated to some excellent music again this morning and then we had the most awesome talk from Cardinal Al Tagle from the Philippines.
His talk started out a little dry and we all thought that maybe it was nap time, but as he continued, we were all mesmerized by his insight on life and his humor. His talk was about why Jesus would leave 99 healthy sheep to chase after one wounded, sick or foolish sheep. He said it was because Jesus would say that "You are Mine." When he said "mine", his voice broke and it felt like our hearts did too. As we looked at each other, we realized that we all had tears in our eyes.
After he left the stage, we all had the same feeling; we just met the next Pope! What an awesome man! We were excited to see that Cardinal Tagle was the celebrant for our mass.
We returned to the hotel after catechesis to rest up and get a good meal before making our trek over to greet the Pope. The crowd was just awesome! As we looked across the field we could see flags from all countries and states flying. People were singing and dancing and celebrating chanting "Papa Francesco".
As the Pope neared the park where we were to greet him, the crowd grew louder in their chanting. It really was an awesome experience for all of us. Our spot on the field prevented us from getting a good view of the Pope, but we could see his white hat! He told us that he was extremely energized by the love, energy, and zeal which young people live their lives. He said when Jesus touches the lives of young people that we can accomplish great things and as we looked around it left us wondering, "how can over a million people from over 180 countries get along so well and our world be so violent"! He asked us to pray to Jesus to teach us to seek mercy!
What an awesome experience for us! Tomorrow is more catechesis in the morning and then we are going to get ourselves packed for our pilgrimage on Saturday to have a Vigil and on Sunday, celebrate mass with the Papa Francesco!
Lydia Novak, Jack Jolley, Kaeleigh Judge and Jaqueline Narvaez
July 27 update
We began our day as usual with breakfast at the hotel and then proceeded to the Krakow Arena for English Catechesis from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. We saw speakers such as our friend, Chris Stefanick, Jason Everett and his wife Crystal, Sister Bethany, Bishop Barron, Joel Stepaneck, Sarah Hart and many others. They were so inspirational and moving. After that, we had a contemporary mass.
After making a quick stop back at the hotel we headed back to the arena. We had a tragic occurrence yesterday where we thought Kaeleigh had almost lost her wallet. But today we prayed to St. Anthony and she found it. When we arrived back at the arena, we split up for a bit. We watched a video of Pope Francis arriving in Krakow. We are very excited to welcome him tomorrow. We met a lot of different people from different states and countries. It was nice that everybody spoke English for the day.
Kaeleigh, Lydia, Jackie, Mrs. Colleen and a few other girls had dinner atop of the second level and then proceeded to a concert led by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad. Including a Eucharistic procession, there were tears in every section. It was truly an emotional experience for everybody. Our Catechesis was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. After the amazing concert was over we walked to the metro. But there was absolutely NO availabilities so we voyaged on back to the hotel. It was a good preparation for our hike to the vigil on Saturday. God really shined in our hearts today.
Lydia Novak, Kaeleigh Judge, Jaqueline Narvaez and Jack Jolley
July 26 update
On the halfway mark of our journey, we started the day off quickly with a walk to the Wawel Hill, which includes both the cathedral and old royal castle. While touring the cathedral we climbed the enormous Sigismund Bell Tower. From its top one can see all of Krakow's marvelous vistas.
Following that trek up and down many flights of stairs we descended even lower into the crypt where many Polish monarchs we buried. As photos were not allowed in the cathedral nor the castle, it's hard to describe the beauty. We toured the rest of the cathedral, and discovered that it held a piece of one of the nails Jesus was crucified with. It destroyed any doubt we could've ever had in Jesus.
We took a short break and had some really good timing in doing so: We met Chris Stefanick, Catholic speaker, columnist, radio star and catechist in The Chosen videos.
We then took a walk into the castle where the president of Poland will meet with Pope Francis tomorrow, July 27. The rooms inside the castle are stocked with tapestries from the 14th century. The big ballrooms and breathtaking ceilings had us wishing we could step back in to the 1300s.
We tried to use the food vouchers the diocese had given us, but there were too many people so we just did the American thing and ordered burgers to go and went back to the hotel.
We met our group and walked about two and a half miles to the Opening Mass. We were met by a million smiling Catholics, despite the rainy weather. We celebrated mass in Latin (none of us understood anything). There was a moment of silence during the mass for all special intentions and after a day of hearing other countries singing, shouting out USA, and numerous police and ambulance sirens, there was not a sound in the whole place. We finished the service in a circle holding hands with people from all over the world.
We ate dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant and went back to the hotel for hot showers and lots of rest.
Tomorrow we will prepare for three hours of catechesis with one of the American bishops, then mass. In the afternoon, we will get in line with all the rest of the 2.5 million pilgrims and officially welcome the Pope to World Youth Day!
Kaeleigh Judge, Jack Jolley, Jaqueline Narvaez and Lydia Novak
July 25 update
This morning we began our day with breakfast at the hotel and then proceeded to drive to Kalwaria. There, we celebrated mass at Kalwaria's Zebrzydowska Sanctuary with Father Paul.
Inside one of the chapels is the picture of Calvary Mother of God. The story says that the picture was in a family home and began to cry blood. So, the family called their priest. He removed the painting and brought it to Kalwaria Zebrzydowska Sanctuary. The site where this church is located pictures can’t do justice. It is nestled in the hills of Kalwaria. It reminded us of the movie “The Sound of Music.”
After mass, we traveled to Wadowice and ate lunch at an adorable cafe. Afterward, we went to the childhood home of the Wojtyla family which is now a museum dedicated to Saint Pope John Paul II. It was amazing to see somebody so illuminated by Christ and all his glory.
“Joy and Pain, these roses and thorns are intertwined in our lives.” - JP2. Saint Pope John Paul puts our little battles we face everyday into complete perspective. Seeing things like the gun used to shoot him is unreal. Everybody took at least something away from what they experienced today.
After that, we walked around the Minor Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This church was the childhood parish of the Woytyla family, where Karol Woytyla [who would become Pope, and then Saint, John Paul II] was baptized, received First Communion and Confirmation. This Basilica had the relics of St. Padre Pio, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Simon of Lipnia and a drop of blood from St. John Paul II.
We got into our bus in the nick of time as a thunderstorm came rolling into Wadowice. Then we finished with a tasty dinner at our hotel.
Tomorrow begins the festivities for World Youth Day!
Lydia Novak, Jaqueline Narvaez, Jack Jolley and Kaeleigh Judge
July 24 update
A roller coaster of emotions would be the best way to describe today. Our morning started at Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the conjoining Auschwitz 2: Birkenau; the labor camp.
As you walk into the camp, you see the ironic phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the main gate which translates to “Work Sets You Free.” There was a shroud of quietness surrounding the camp. The low whispers of our fellow travel group and cameras shuttering were the only things you could hear. No laughter, no smiling, or crying; just an eerie stillness.
And rightfully so. One million three hundred thousand people where removed from their homes, and 1,100,000 never made it back home. We mourned these souls with reverence and silence.
We later went on to view the Shrine of Divine Mercy, which contained the original painting of the “Image of The Divine Mercy.” This holy painting was designed based on a description by St. Sr. Faustina of a vision of Jesus. Jesus promised to provide mercy to those who venerate this image. Many come from near and far to profess their faith and admire this painting and pictures and a relic from St. Sr. Faustina.
Fifteen minutes away, we visited the new Pope John Paul II Center to attend mass and tour the museum. Its walls, main alter, marbled floors and high ceilings are embellished with colorful mosaics. Our mass took place inside the St. Leonard Chapel, a replica of where Pope John Paul II gave his first mass. In the chapel was also his original gravestone, moved to Krakow from Rome after Pope John Paul II was beatified. A popular attraction at the museum is Pope John Paul's blooded cassock, a remnant of his attempted assassination in 1981.
We finished the day with another tasty, filling dinner at the Queen Boutique.
Jaquelin Narvaez, Lydia Novak, Kaeleigh Judge and Jack Jolley
July 23 update
On our third day in Poland we did quite a bit more traveling. After a sleepless night, we began with yet another early morning and took our bus to the Old Town of Warsaw for mass in Saint Anne's Church. The church was all designed and built before the Second World War. However during the war the roof and ceiling collapsed under German bombing.
Owing to the fact that the church is not apart of a parish, St. Anne's is funded entirely by donations from visitors to the historic church.
After mass we spent four hours on a bus traveling south from Warsaw to Krakow. Upon arrival in Krakow, we went on a private tour of the oldest monastery in Poland, The Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec.
Our day ended with a bus ride to our hotel, The Queen's Boutique. We enjoyed dinner together as a group and we are looking forward to our day tomorrow, as we will travel to Auschwitz.
Kaeleigh Judge, Jack Jolley, Jaqueline Narvaez, and Lydia Novak
July 22 update
Today we got up early to get breakfast at our hotel. Then we proceeded on a tour of Warsaw via tour bus, until our private mass at noon with Fr. Paul at the beautifully constructed Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Next we toured the intricate crypt filled with the divine spirits of past bishops and noble people of Poland.
Then we split up with our Hilton Head delegation and went to lunch at a lovely restaurant ... where, inevitably, Jackie went on to get locked into the bathroom stall.
Leave it up to us to act like American tourists. Our favorite things today were eating tasty waffles, which Lydia proceeded to drop, and tracking down McDonald's for the benefit of Kaeleigh and Lydia. Finally, we finished the day with dinner back at our hotel.
Jack Jolley, Lydia Novak, Jaqueline Narvaez, and Kaeleigh Judge
July 21 update
We woke up at approximately 4:45 a.m. [July 20] and departed for the Charleston airport at 5:30 a.m. Our first flight was just under two hours to JFK. From JFK we flew to Amsterdam, and it was 7 1/2 hours. However, it was delayed just a bit due to a girl from Las Vegas who passed out while we were still on the runway. She and her family went to the hospital. It was then 7 a.m. local time when we arrived in Amsterdam. Our next and final flight of the day was from AMS to Warsaw.
We began our sight seeing of the city by going out to lunch and attending mass celebrated by Father Paul at All Saint's Church. The church is now under renovation after being destroyed during WW2. At that time, the parish priest, Fr. Monsignor Marceli Godlewski saved an abundance of Jews from the ghettos by hiding them in the church. After mass, we met a large group of people from Kuwait and we hope to meet many more people soon.