For Elena Worlinsky, a young adult from the archdiocese who traveled to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day, the desire to see the universality and beauty of the Church close-up prompted her to make the weeklong pilgrimage.
She is a member of Corazon Puro, an organization based in the Bronx that teaches chastity inspired by St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Corazon Puro also has members in Texas, Nicaragua and the Philippines, and 50 traveled to World Youth Day.
“We all united together to pray with the rest of the world and to see the Holy Father here in Krakow,” said Ms. Worlinsky, 27.
More than 1 million pilgrims from 187 countries gathered with Pope Francis for the pilgrimage.
“I am actually Byzantine Catholic, so it’s really cool seeing all of the beauty of the different cultures,” she said.
The international pilgrimage, which spanned July 26 to 31, “gives the young church a sense of hope,” said Ms. Worlinsky, who considered it especially unifying to pray with those from troubled and persecuted areas of the world.
Waving flags and singing songs together in restaurants, on streets, in hotels and everywhere else they traveled, the pilgrims displayed their faith to Poland and to a watching world on television and through social media.
“It is scary knowing there is a lot of violence and terrorism going on in the world, to be here and to know that in a way we are a target,” she said.
“We can’t live in fear. We have hope that God will protect us and He will strengthen us to overcome the difficulties in the world.”
Victoria Wolak, 24, who traveled with the group organized by the archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office, said, “Seeing so many young people united by their faith in Jesus Christ is just beautiful.” She was impressed to see Catholics from places that experience persistent strife, such as the Middle East and Africa, especially when she saw how much joy they brought with them.
Throughout the pilgrimage, there was a sense of camaraderie. This was shown through the exchanging of bracelets, pins and other small mementos between pilgrims from different countries. Many pilgrims’ arms were full of colorful string and plastic bracelets by the time World Youth Day ended.
Other small ways of showing friendship were shared. “I received so many hugs and high fives from complete strangers,” Ms. Wolak said with a smile.