The last group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn gathered at John F. Kennedy Airport to fly to Poland for World Youth Day (WYD) on Monday, July 25. Despite delays due to heavy thunderstorms, the pilgrims remained upbeat and hopeful to live out their faith with millions of other young Catholics.
As the pilgrims arrived at Kennedy Airport’s LOT Polish Airlines, the terminal was filled the sound of enthusiastic clapping.
“The tension has been building up for the past five months, the fact that we are finally here is a lot to take in,” said Jeremy Laguerre, 17, a pilgrim from St. Clare, Rosedale.
During the two-hour delay, the young pilgrims got to know each other, played cards and in some cases practiced singing Catholic songs. Representatives from St. Sebastian Church, Woodside, shared a donation of energy bars with the other pilgrims.
Father Rodnev Lapommeray, parochial vicar at St. Sebastian, mentioned that the group had prayed the rosary at the beginning of the trip because one of the pilgrims was having a problem with his ticket. Thankfully, the situation was resolved while praying.
“We keep on praying,” Father Lapommeray said. “This shows that God must have something good in store for us.”
The excitement continued during the flight to Warsaw and three-hour bus ride to Krakow. The pilgrims prepared to join the rest of the Brooklyn Diocese contingent for the World Youth Day opening Mass on Tuesday, July 26. The Mass, concelebrated by the Archbishop of Krakow and priests from around the world was the official kickoff of this journey.
“Some of us still can’t believe it. I’m excited, I’m waiting. I’m just grateful,” said pilgrim Cindy Giron, from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica. “I’m hoping to experience this WYD journey with some of the people that I’m close to and also to find God’s mercy and love in another place and also with two million other people.
“Being Catholic means being a community so I want to feel that with others, to enjoy this transformation with others,” she added.
Pilgrim Brianna Longoria said that despite being nervous about flying, she was excited at the prospect of seeing Pope Francis in Krakow. This is the first time her parish, St. Brigid, Bushwick, sent a parish group to World Youth Day with the diocesan contingent.
“Since it is a pilgrimage, I’m hoping everything goes well for everyone and that (WYD) is filled with peace, harmony, joy and happiness,” said Isabella Guzman, St. Brigid’s chaperone. “This could change their lives.”
In the Footsteps of Saints
The pilgrims were thrilled by this World Youth Day’s theme: “Blessed are the merciful for they….” They also looked forward to walking in the footsteps of WYD patron saints St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II.
This was the case with second-time WYD pilgrim Annika Maniego, 19, from Holy Family, Fresh Meadows. “I am looking forward to strengthening my faith again but this time following the steps of St. John Paul II,” she said.
Margaret Rooney, 21, also from Holy Family, said she was looking forward to “further witnessing this incredible excitement displayed by such a massive number of fellow Catholics, so enthusiastic about our faith.”
After the long journey, Laguerre looked forward to all aspects of the pilgrimage, especially Pope Francis’ message, dinner with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and the Stations of the Cross. In addition to evangelization opportunities for all pilgrims, he wants God to act in his life. He would like to be a music director and give back to his community.
“I would like for God to continue leading me on his path. I’m very devoted to the music ministry in my parish,” he said.
Pilgrims from Holy Family, Canarsie, reflected on the blessing of being able to go to Poland to experience World Youth Day.
Yhane and Khalief Williams, who had previously gone to World Youth Day in Madrid, were looking forward to the event’s highlights, especially camping outside for the overnight vigil.
The two young adults, as well as Steven Nguessan, were also grateful to their grandparents and God for helping them to get to Krakow.
“I look up to the Lord Jesus Christ and He is the mighty one, He is the greatest example there is,” said Nguessan, who is 22, and looking forward to growing and sharing the message of God.
“In seeing the parishioners from other countries and seeing how they practice their faith, we know that even though we don’t speak the same language, we are all the same, God’s people.”
Khalief added that he hoped that this World Youth Day recharges attendees so they can be new persons who spread the faith back home in a positive way.
“I expect everyone to come close to God and get that experience and understanding,” he said.