#WYDKrakow by Gem Itao


It was a great privilege for me to have attended the World Youth Day for the third time. One of my lifelong prayers was answered when I went to WYD Madrid in 2011. Since then, I told myself that I would go to the next one. Through God’s grace, I was able to attend the WYD Rio in 2013. What made it more special was the fact that I was with my two brothers during the pilgrimage. I could have stopped with two WYD’s, but when I learned that the next would be in Krakow, Poland – the capital of the Divine Mercy and the homeland of WYD’s founder, St. John Paul II – I really wanted to go because going to Poland would mean going back to the roots of the World Youth Day.

With much providence from the Lord through community and loved ones, WYD Krakow has become a reality. This pilgrimage was different. The Lord talked to me through a beautiful paradox: There is greatness in the ordinary. During the pilgrimage, I saw the Lord not through the grandness of the World Youth Day (which to me, I think, is the summit of all youth gatherings), but through the little and ordinary things that come with it.

Out of the many grand blessings that I have experienced during the World Youth Day – such as having to attend the Night of Mercy at Tauron Arena where Matt Maher, Bishop Barron and other renowned speakers gave a talk, being able to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at exactly 3:00PM the monastery where St. Faustina’s tomb and the original image of the Divine Mercy can be found and seeing the Pope twice up close – I found myself being moved and touched by the Lord through the people I encountered and homilies or Catechesis I have heard.

CFC YFL Subgroup

This WYD, I was given the opportunity to lead the YFL delegation. We were 16 in the subgroup. The delegation was a mixture of leaders and members of community, two of which are minors. It was a challenge for me at first, because I know the struggle of taking care of youth during a pilgrimage. I worried that they might not get along because of the diverse mix of the group; that other things might distract them; or they might simply not follow us as subgroup heads. But all those things were plain worries.

Day by day, I witnessed how the relationship of the group became solid. I witnessed how everyone was cheering each other up when our legs are already tired from the long walks, how everyone was joining our chant battles with pilgrims from other countries, how everyone was so generous in sharing their baon when people have run out of stock of food during the pilgrimage and a lot more. I witnessed how love overflowed through the people I was with. God talked to me through the beautiful gift of the CFC YFL Subgroup.

Foster Families

It was a blessing to have two host families for the WYD Krakow. They gave me home away from home for the two weeks I was in Poland. My host parents went the extra mile of taking care of me. They even offered their very own bedrooms so I could have a comfortable stay at their home.

What inspired me most was my second host mother. Out of the WYD’s I have attended, this was the first time that a non-English speaking host accommodated me. Despite the language barrier, I felt the love through her actions. She was sick yet she still insisted that we sleep on her bed as she slept on the chair at the dining area. She always welcomed us with cookies that she baked when we arrived home from our daily activity.

I understood how the universal language of love unites us all. God talked to me through the generosity of my foster families.

Catechesis and Homilies

This was the World Youth Day that I have come to appreciate the gift of Catechesis. In our previous WYD’s, it was a challenge for us to attend one, because the catechetical sites are far from our accommodations.

This year, the Lord was compassionate enough to make our host parish a catechetical site. Every day, during the WYD proper, I understood more not only what mercy is but also who Mercy is. In the catechesis, there was confession on-site, and it would always end with a celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I remember one of the priests saying, “Mercy is the love that fills in the gap.” Truly, it is Mercy who reaches out to us. God talked to me through the heartfelt messages in the catechesis and homilies.

Everything about the World Youth Day was just so grand – the crowds, the energy of the pilgrims, the Pope and the like. While at times being such a small piece of such a big gathering is overwhelming, it is also empowering.

As I went back to the roots of World Youth, it also brought me back to the essential. The Lord allowed me to see the beauty in the little things. This pilgrimage helped expand my heart to see Jesus in everyone, everything and every situation. As what Saint Josemaria said, “There is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of us to discover it.” I thank the Lord for allowing me to encounter him through the simple yet the core experience of the World Youth Day 2016.

Gem Itao, CFCYFL Full time worker