Preparing for World Youth Day Krakow 2016

June 16, 2015

Young adults from 27 parishes are preparing for the 31st World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, Poland, being held from July 26 to July 31, 2016. Pope Francis has encouraged everyone who is going to Krakow, and those who are joining virtually through the Internet, to “prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering may be a sign of faith for the whole world!”

International WYD have made a significant impact on the Church. I am a witness to that impact. Fifteen years ago, the WYD gathering in Rome changed my life and my career path to give my life’s work to the Catholic Church, leading to my current service to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The experiences I lived and messages given by St. John Paul II back in the year 2000 contributed to my own faith journey and still resonate in my heart and mind.

A recent survey performed by USCCB Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministries shows lay men and women like me, who experienced WYD as a youth or young adult, are now stepping into significant roles in the leadership of the Church in the U.S., one in five priests ordained in 2013 and one in four religious men and women who professed vows in 2013 participated in a WYD.

With the increase use of social media among young people a greater number of “digital pilgrims” will be possible. The USCCB study shows that instant communications have allowed a new sense of solidarity between the pilgrim who gets on an airplane to attend the international celebration with the Pope and the pilgrim who participates in the events in their home country. Youth and young adult ministries in our Archdiocese are encouraged to use the resources provided by the USCCB in preparation for this pilgrimage. By this autumn there will be resources available on retreats and days of reflection for everyone to deepen on the Beatitudes and messages from Pope Francis to the youth. For more information visit

WYD is not just a day or an experience, but an ongoing pilgrimage of faith for young people. The Pope chooses the theme for each WYD. In 2014, the theme was “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3).

This year we are asked to reflect on “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8) and the theme in 2016 (Krakow) will be “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7). In Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis asked the young people “with all your heart” to read the Beatitudes again and to make them the action plan for their lives: “Look, read the Beatitudes: that will do you good!” (cf. Meeting with the youth from Argentina 25 July 2013). All youth and young adults attending or not attending WYD in Poland are invited to deepen in these messages given by the Pope. You can find more information on Pope Francis messages at

Although WYD is believed to be an event for high school age students, statistics show that 82 percent of American pilgrims that went to Rio in 2013 were comprised of young adults in their 20s. Please join us in prayer while these young adults are preparing to join the other 3 million people in the place where Karol Wojtiła was born, formed and called to serve Christ. If your parish is planning to go, please write an email to to join in activities in preparation for this day. †

Gabriela Karaszewski is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry