Twenty-four young people from Holy Family parish, Flushing, will join about 500 pilgrims from the Brooklyn diocese to celebrate their faith during World Youth Day (WYD) in Madrid next week.
“Some are afraid that the youth have fallen astray, fallen asleep,” said pilgrim Claudia Goncalves. “We are not. We are alive in the faith. World Youth Day is proof that the universal body of Christ is thriving today.”
In order to raise enough funds to make the pilgrimage possible, parishioners supported the group’s many fundraisers, including palm leaf sales, special parish collections, recyclable can collections, raffles, bake sales and community breakfasts.
The parish’s Knights of Columbus Council No. 14520 donated the cost of one pilgrim’s journey.
The youth group also worked with local businesses to raise funds with events such as a bowl-a-thon, which raised $5,000 in one night.
Pilgrim Joseph Cipolla said he will treasure the insight he gains from the pilgrimage.
“Seeing such a large group of teenagers that are so deeply rooted in their faith is going to be an experience that I will take with me forever,” he said.
Brothers Timothy and Jonathan Zappel, both of whom will be part of the pilgrimage, said that World Youth Day is especially important during the current political atmosphere.
“We’re looking to be inspired and awed by the amount of young adults who are proud to stand up and tell the world that we still believe, no matter what is said about the Catholic Church and its teachings,” they said.
Chaperone Mary C. Scheer, principal of Holy Family School, said the young people are able to benefit from the pilgrimage thanks to their spiritual maturity. She said this was clearly visible during the last World Youth Day.
“In Australia, I was astounded by how hundreds of thousands of young people were playing and talking and instantly became silent when the Benediction started,” she said. “It inspired me and gave me confidence in the youth of our faith and how they respect the faith.”
Although these young adults showed an understanding of the importance of these events, they said the pilgrimage offers them an opportunity to celebrate their faith in a fun way.
Pilgrim Giselle Deiros said she sees the pilgrimage as a “spiritual party,” that exposes pilgrims to varied ways to celebrate the faith.
Breaking the Mold
“I’m so excited for the music,” said pilgrim Jaymie Estevez. “It is amazing to see and hear Christian rock bands and pop groups. It completely breaks the image people think of when they think of these types of groups, much like the way WYD breaks the mold of how people think of Catholic youth.”
World Youth Day will give these pilgrims the opportunity to experience the way Catholics celebrate their faith in different parts of the world.
“I’m so exited for the great fiesta of Catholics to help me find myself and grow in my faith,” said pilgrim Ian McNee.
Pilgrim Anthony O’Reilly said he looks forward to taking advantage of the opportunity to speak with Catholics from different parts of the world. During the last World Youth Day in Sydney, he said he did not realize how much diversity was around him until he saw the many different flags that were displayed during the last days of the pilgrimage.
“This time I want to see how many people I can connect with from other countries by overcoming language and cultural barriers and connecting with them on a spiritual level,” O’Reilly said.
Stephanie Cipolla, who is also a returning pilgrim, said she will bring her past experience with her to Spain.
“Having been lucky enough to have attended World Youth Day in 2008, I am very excited to have the opportunity to once again join with Catholics from around the world to celebrate our faith, attend Mass with the Holy Father, and show the world that the youth of the Catholic Church are alive, united and passionate,” she said.