Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy” was a fitting theme for World Youth Day. That was the feeling of the teens and young adults from St. Mary, Mother of the Church parish in Fishkill who made the long trek to Poland for the weeklong pilgrimage.
Deacon Mel Pampolina, who traveled with 10 young people and one other chaperone, said, “We have experienced so much violence and hatred recently, both locally and globally, that it is hard to find a week in the recent past that deals with news about anything else. The trend to more of such news seems inevitable.
“It is important to stress the Beatitudes to our young adults, so that this cycle of violence and hatred ends,” he said.
The Beatitudes come from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew.
“Blessed are the merciful…” was selected as the theme for World Youth Day, which was held in Krakow from July 26 to 31 with Pope Francis. The week included a prayer vigil and Mass with the pope; catechesis sessions, including several led by Cardinal Dolan, who served as one of the official U.S. catechists; Stations of the Cross; and time for confession, adoration and entertainment, among other events.
“As Cardinal Dolan said during his catechesis session…the young of today must be ‘agents to God’s mercy’ and also be ‘instruments of mercy,’” Deacon Pampolina said.
“If we show and practice mercy towards others, we are reflecting God’s mercy for us,” he said. “It is my hope we all take that message of mercy to our families and friends back home.”
One of the group’s pilgrims, McCarry Papula, 18, discussed the pilgrimage experience, particularly the morning catechesis sessions. “It was a wonderful way to focus our day on Christ from the beginning,” she said.
“We heard talks about chastity, vocations, mercy, scripture and faith.”
A session about mercy led by Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines, on July 28 made a big impression on McCarry. “It spoke about how our pride and our fear of failure stops us from accepting God’s mercy,” she said.
“Young people are at a point in their lives when they are trying to establish themselves, while transitioning into adulthood. Being reminded of God’s immense love for us and the importance of our Catholic faith in our lives is essential for our future as people.”
Another pilgrim, Victoria Smith, 17, said, “At World Youth Day, I have learned the power of God’s love and mercy.”
Sharing her World Youth Day experience with CNY, she said, “I went to the sacrament of reconciliation and gave my most complete confession. I now feel so free. I was able to do this because of all of the moving talks discussing mercy.
“This theme is extremely relevant in today’s society because in the wake of all of the recent tragedies, we still need to remain forgiving Catholics. We cannot give into the temptation of hatred and anger,” she said.
“As Catholics, we have a duty to remain merciful and loving to all people,” she said.