by Antonina Zielinska
After a year and a half of spiritual preparation and fundraising, 10 young people from Transfiguration parish, Williamsburg, are less than two weeks away from joining thousands of pilgrim from throughout the world to celebrate World Youth Day in Spain.
“It will be an experience of a lifetime,” said Arisleidy Maran, one of the 10 pilgrims. “And I am very exited that we will be going together.”
The pilgrims, all of whom attend Mass in Spanish, know each other well through the many ways they minister to the parish community. Aside from the weekly youth meetings, they donate their time and talents to the parish in various ways including: volunteering in the homeless shelter, serving as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, assisting during feast days of saints, staffing the rectory and being part of the Jornada movement.
Pilgrim Michelle Enriquez said she is looking forward to World Youth Day because it will bring a new perspective to the group.
“I’m excited to meet other young people,” she said. “It’s amazing, because it’s going to be a reminder that we are not alone.”
Jason Espinal, a seminarian in his pastoral year, will be one of the chaperones at World Youth Day. He grew up in Transfiguration parish and became part of the youth group when he was 14 years old. It was at the seminary that Espinal realized the Church community is so much bigger than just his parish. He said he hopes the members of the youth group going to Spain will have a similar realization.
“I can’t wait to see their face when they see that they are not the only youth group — that as much as they pray and struggle, they are not alone, and that the Church will continue to have a future in them,” he said.
Coming to understand his relationship with the Church through the experience of others is one of the goals Jon Soto has set for himself while in Spain. He will ask people about the reasons for their faith because he struggles to understand that about himself.
“I will try to learn more about my faith through other people’s faith,” he said.
Soto said the preparations for the pilgrimage have already increased his understanding. The pilgrims had to face the challenge of raising enough money with the help of a community that is struggling financially.
“It shows that when you have a goal and a little bit of faith, anything is possible,” he said. “And if we are able to accomplish this, imagine what else we can accomplish.”
Pilgrim Pedro Ramirez said he did not want to join the pilgrimage at first because of the daunting task of fundraising.
“I didn’t think it was possible to raise money for everyone to go,” he said. “My mom pushed me and made me see that it was possible.”
The group was able to raise enough money to pay the $3,189 per person pilgrimage fee.
“The people in the community helped us a lot,” Maran said. “Without them the fundraising would mean nothing. We are very blessed to be part of this community. Father Tony is very supportive of the youth. He supports our ideas and fundraisers and thank God for that.”
In their appreciation, the pilgrims said they will bring back what they learned and experienced during World Youth Day and share it with Msgr. Anthony Hernandez, pastor, and the rest of the church community.
It is because of the church that we are going to Spain,” said Pilgrim Elizabeth Enriquez. “It will help us appreciate the church more. We will value it to a higher extent.”