A pilgrim’s tale

by Anita McSorley
anita.mcsorley@theleaven.org

You won’t see this photo in this week’s coverage of World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, although it is one of my favorites.

Newsprint is not kind to images like this — the porous paper we print on soaks up the black ink of the press and muddies the picture.

But I like to think this image captures a lot of things: bright colors in places where you would expect to see none, the exhaustion of our young pilgrims, a cross in the distance lighting them even as they are sleeping — and, perhaps most important to me — my photographer still working long after everyone else has gone to ground.

The latter, in particular, is appropriate.

When the archdiocesan group returned from World Youth Day, most everyone else got to head home to sleep for a week. But the work of The Leaven’s team was not yet done.

And the work of the home team was just beginning.

Photographers bring back from events like this thousands of images. It is our job to try to curate those images somehow — to select them, pair them with stories, and then edit them in such a fashion that they will reproduce to best effect on our imperfect medium.

Fortunately for us, our reporter, the inimitable Katie Hyde, both interviewed and wrote on the road, then got the remainder of the stories to us quickly. That made it easier to review the 3,000 photos turned in by Joe McSorley, and start throwing Friday’s special issue together.

Despite our best efforts, it is incomplete. There are many pilgrims not pictured; many, unquoted.

There are many moments uncaptured — both miserable and magic.

It wasn’t intended to be that way. But plans made so carefully before Katie and Joe set off didn’t, as the famous general once said, survive contact with the enemy — the crowds, the distances, the rain.

What did survive, however, was these pilgrims’ tales.

Watch for this special issue in the mail this weekend. When it arrives, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy.

And thank your lucky stars you didn’t volunteer to cover World Youth Day in Poland for The Leaven!

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