Young people from St. Bartholomew Church, Elmhurst, spent a weekend retreat focused on being Christ to others in preparation for this year’s World Youth Day in Poland. The young adults – who are part of the 400 pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn going to World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow July 26-31 – are preparing their hearts through service and prayer.
Most members of the 16-pilgrim group spent June 17-19 at the Saint Vincent DePaul Youth and Young Adult Center in Philadelphia, Pa.
Parishioner Manuel Ortiz, 20, said that he really liked working on a service project, called Inn Dwelling, where they rehabilitated decaying houses to make them available to families in need. The youth also met Paul, who dedicates his life to lead this project, and were impressed by his conversion story.
“To see Paul and hear his testimony during lunch. His life was a miracle,” said Kimberly Ortiz, 21, Manuel’s sister. “He did a 180 and was trusting in God and having a relationship with Him.”
Kimberly said that the weekend’s hard work and the testimonies they heard showed “what God does in our lives when we trust in Him.”
“We learned to look out for each other and stand up for what we believe in and not be afraid to let others help out,” she added.
Saying that he cannot wait to be in Poland, pilgrim Jason Galindo*, 22, added that the Philadelphia retreat helped the group to come together as one and taught them about solidarity.
“One of my favorite moments was a service hour,” he said. “We scraped floors and picked up a carpet for a couple. Both of them were handicapped and they were so welcoming and happy … They are happy to have each other. It reminded me that I should appreciate everyone that I have and not to forget that they are there for me.”
The group also had a scavenger hunt across Philadelphia to build team spirit and visited elderly vincentian priests at a nursing home. Through a theatrical presentation, they also reflected on the lives of the patron saints of World Youth Day 2016: St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska.
As part of their focus around Divine Mercy and this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the pilgrims visited the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, where the pilgrims entered the Holy Doors and deposited the prayer intentions of the parishioners who helped them to raise funds.
Loramarie Muratore, director of youth and young adult program, had hoped that the weekend’s focus on mercy, solidarity and service helped the pilgrims to reflect on what it means to be a young adult in the Catholic Church.
She added that the group has been meeting every month to pray together and raise money for this pilgrimage. Some of the fundraising efforts included walk-a-thons around the neighborhood to share their story and ask for people’s support.
“The entire group is going (to WYD) for the first time – for many it is their first time out of the country,” Muratore said. “They are a dedicated group.”
The young pilgrims were selected by Father Rick Beuther, St. Bartholomew’s pastor, because of their commitment to the life of the parish. Muratore planned the retreat to reinforce the meaning of the WYD pilgrimage for the young people.
This retreat also marked their second to last meeting before flying to Poland. Next time they meet, the pilgrims will be surrounded by the rest of the diocesan contingent at the departure meeting and Mass with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio on July 17.
The group is excited “to meet people from different walks of life who put everything down to come to this pilgrimage,” Kimberly said.
“The time to share my faith with 2 million kids in the presence of the pope is so close,” Manuel added.
Muratore also hopes that the youth’s renewed zeal after World Youth Day will expand their involvement in the already-vibrant parish.
Like other St. Bartholomew’s pilgrims, Kimberly said that faith is everything to her and that her trust in God helps her day to day. She hopes WYD strengthens her as a fearless witness of the faith.
“For the young adult population, living in the world can be intimidating. Sometimes to show your faith in God – having a God – is difficult” in today’s society, she said. “World Youth Day is a pilgrimage that is an example to all the Catholic youth. You can be loud about your faith. We can be fearless and have faith and courage.”
World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrims and chaperones from St. Bartholomew Church, Elmhurst, spent a mercy-centered retreat in Philadelphia in June. The retreat was one of the many ways the young adults have been preparing for WYD.