by Katie Hyde
Special to The Leaven
It was in Jasna Gora, a world-famous Marian shrine in Czestochowa, Poland, that many of the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas got an important lesson in the diversity of the Catholic family.
Packed with thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, the shrine was filled with the sounds of voices praising in different languages . . . loudly. Even during Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, the songs of pilgrims celebrating joyfully outside of the shrine were heard, accompanied by tambourines, drums and guitars.
And while many pilgrims were initially tempted to become frustrated at the potential distraction, they began to recognize the beauty of the moment.
“I felt their praise was adding to ours,” said Sara Jo Schwinn, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception – St. Joseph in Leavenworth.
The archbishop echoed a similar appreciation for the jubilant and universal celebration of the faith in his homily.
“It’s beautiful that Our Lady and her Son have brought us together from so many different places,” he said. “But more importantly, what brings us together is our love of Mary and her Son.”
Coming to appreciate the diversity and richness of the Catholic Church — even in occasionally frustrating circumstances — was an important moment for each of the pilgrims.
For Stacey Raines, youth director at St. Paul Church in Olathe, watching her youth group members encounter the universality of the church in Poland was inspiring.
“[Pilgrims from other countries] are loud and jubilant, and it was wonderful,” said Raines. “Our culture in KCK is more reverent. But there really is an interplay between both there. We see these differences in styles of worship.
“But it’s still one church.”
“At Steubenville [summer conferences] and NCYC, [the pilgrims] are able to experience that the church is big,” Raines continued. “Here at World Youth Day, they experience that not only is the church big and full. . . . It’s huge!
“But it’s the same faith. It’s the same Mass. That’s such a valuable appreciation [to have] — to know that it is the same experience across the world and that God works in you wherever you are.”
Aside from this realization, all the pilgrims came away from World Youth Day with some amusing memories of cultural exchange as well.
Archdiocesan pilgrims can now tell you that Australians call McDonald’s “Maccas.”
And that Brazilians are some of the friendliest people on earth.
The pilgrims can now say “hello” and “How are you?” in Polish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French.
And they are all remarkably adept at having conversations without any words at all, relying on hand motions and facial expressions to get their point across.
With these experiences comes a new appreciation for cultural differences in the Catholic faith, as well as the unity that transcends ethnic, cultural and national borders.
“[People from other cultures] are definitely crazy and they’re not afraid to be themselves,” said Logan Ruddy, a parishioner at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Church in Topeka. “They sing all the time, and we Americans never do.
“But the way I see it, you’re my brother or sister. We’re all just one, big, Catholic family.”