by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — You might think since World Youth Day Krakow, Poland, is in 2016, there’s plenty of time to decide if you’d like to attend, then plan and prepare for the trip itself.
Wrong! So very, very wrong!
“It will be here so fast it will make your head spin, especially when you plan for something of this magnitude,” said Rick Cheek, consultant for the office of evangelization and Catholic formation of youth for the archdiocese.
Parents and their high school- and even college-age youth should be having a conversation right now about attending World Youth Day.
In fact, the first date on the payment schedule is Feb. 15.
It’s surprising how much planning is required to take part in an international gathering of Catholic youth that attracts millions of participants, thousands of miles away in a foreign country.
The next WYD will be from July 23 to Aug. 1 — and yes, summers in Poland can get warm. And it rains there, too.
Organizers are expecting a pretty big crowd, since Poland is a very Catholic country, and it is the home of Pope John Paul II — who by that time will be St. John Paul II.
There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to go to World Youth Day — and not just to celebrate our latest papal saint.
At this event, young people have the opportunity to witness the universality of the church, walk in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, and get close to our current pontiff, Pope Francis, said Nancy Ruoff, coordinator of youth ministry at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Topeka.
“Of all the events young people attend, World Youth Day is probably one they’ll unpack for the rest of their lives,” said Ruoff. “I don’t think they always understand the full impact on them until years later . . . for the rest of their lives.”
But it won’t happen without planning.
What type of planning?
Well, since it’s a pilgrimage, you need spiritual preparation. And you need to become part of a group that becomes your “pilgrim family.” You also need to get a passport and do all the little practical things that go along with foreign travel.
Finally, of course, there’s the fundraising. The cost per pilgrim is $3,728, which covers the cost of travel, lodging and food.
That’s a hefty chunk of change, Ruoff admits, but she’s had energetic youth who’ve managed to pay 95 to 98 percent of their WYD pilgrimage through fundraising.
As a veteran of several World Youth Days, Ruoff has relied on a variety of fundraising activities: pancake dinners, penny-a-mile-pledges, appeals to people on the family Christmas card list, parish scholarships, and more.
Some young people have even taken part-time jobs to pay their pilgrim way to WYD, said Ruoff.
As it has for most WYDs, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas youth office will sponsor youth pilgrimage groups. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, vocations director Father Scott Wallisch and archdiocesan seminarians will also be part of the pilgrimage.
Some parishes organize groups to be a part of the archdiocesan WYD pilgrimage. If youths at a parish that isn’t forming a group want to go, all they have to do is contact Cheek and he’ll connect them with a group that is part of the archdiocesan youth office WYD pilgrimage.
For information about WYD and the archdiocesan-sponsored pilgrimage, contact Cheek at (913) 647-0351, or online at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the official World Youth Day site at worldyouthday.com/krakow-2016.