More than 600 young people from Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens are attending World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, this week. Here are two pilgrims’ stories:
Young people at Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary Church look up to Cindy Giron, especially this summer while she’s been volunteering at the parish day camp.
“I was just excited to work with kids,” she said. “It’s nice to be a good role model to them.”
A first-generation American with roots in Honduras and Guatemala, Giron is the pride of her community. She is a top-notch student, graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in June and is going to Notre Dame University this fall.
At Presentation, she trains, supervises and coordinates the altar servers, besides being one herself; she works in the rectory and does whatever work needs to be done in the parish.
“Cindy is one of the greatest youth leaders in our parish,” said Father Manuel De Jesus Rodriguez, pastor.
“I rely a lot on her as a pastor. She’s very smart, she’s very committed and she’s very responsible, in addition to being very friendly and nice to everyone.
“I’m very proud of her. I think in this World Youth Day she’s going to have a wonderful time,” he said.
Giron is traveling with about 30 young adults from her parish. They’ve spiritually prepared for this festival of faith by going to Mass, attending retreats, doing community service and making a Holy Door pilgrimage.
“I’m really excited because it’s a new experience going to Europe and the culture, the language, especially going with people I’ve known for so long and sharing that moment with them,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to experiencing God’s love and mercy … with other people who have the same religion as I do and the same faith.”
She and her peers started fundraising two years ago by holding car washes, raffles and weekly food sales, which parishioners have generously supported. “We want to make them proud, and know that their hard work and prayers haven’t gone unnoticed,” she said.
And when she returns, Giron said she hopes to share what she’s learned with the next generation, those campers who might follow in her footsteps one day.
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Increasing her time in prayer was key to Chrisel Gladson’s preparations for World Youth Day.
“I started saying the rosary every single day,” said the 17-year-old. “My aunt actually got me into this thing where you just say a decade anytime you can.”
Gladson was only two years old when she emigrated from Kerala, India, to North Floral Park, Queens. She and her parents are active in the Indian Latin Rite community at Our Lady of the Snows parish, which sent 17 pilgrims to Poland.
“My faith is a very strong part of my life. It’s a holding factor. It’s my rock. When I need it the most, it is there. And even when I don’t need it, I can thank and praise God for the things I have,” she said.
A rising senior at The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, her faith and outlook on the world have been shaped by volunteering at a camp for youth with special needs.
“That has been one of the most humbling and one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Gladson said. “It opens my eyes and teaches me new things. It lets me look at the world in a completely different light.”
Bindu Cheriaparampil believes her daughter’s perspective is expanding even more this week.
“She’s going to experience the magnitude of the global nature of the Catholic Church with kids from all over the world,” Cheriaparampil said. “There will be a different dimension to take her to a different level of spirituality.
Gladson said she was bringing no hopes or expectations to World Youth Day, just her enthusiasm and an openness to what the Lord has planned: “The craziness, the loudness, the faith, the adoration, all of it, all in one,” she said.