Campus Ministry to sponsor pilgrimage to World Youth Day
Andrea Vale | Thursday, December 10, 2015
Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry will take a group of students on a pilgrimage to the 2016 World Youth Day, which will take place next July in Krakow, Poland.
According to John Paul Lichon, assistant director of retreats, pilgrimages and spirituality for Campus Ministry, World Youth Day is “an international gathering which invites young people to gather for prayer, transformation and celebration of faith.”
World Youth Day was first organized by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and now occurs “about every three years in rotating host countries around the world,” Lichon said. Each World Youth Day typically garners around two to three million youth participants from various countries. While in attendance, participants “join together for about a week to listen to catechetical talks” in each of their native languages, “pray with one another and encounter God through this amazing gathering of the faithful.”
“Pope John Paul’s vision was to celebrate and invigorate the youth in our Catholic Church but ultimately to continue to evangelize and enliven all of the faithful around the world,” Lichon said.
According to Lichon, although groups of Notre Dame students have made independent trips to attend World Youth Day in the past, this year is the first time a pilgrimage to the event is being officially organized by Notre Dame.
Lichon said the decision to offer a pilgrimage to World Youth Day was largely a result of Campus Ministry’s pilgrimage program’s growth and expansion over recent years.
“Three years ago, we only offered about two to three pilgrimages a year,” Lichon said. “This year, we are offering 11 different pilgrimages all over the world. So it was a no-brainer to include World Youth Day next summer. With such interest and excitement around the practice of pilgrimage on campus, we wanted to include one of the most dynamic and memorable pilgrimage experiences one could go on. Just think about gathering with three million other youth from around the world to pray together and to encounter one another and God through this World Youth Day experience. What an amazing opportunity.”
According to Lichon, Notre Dame is planning the World Youth Day pilgrimage in collaboration with Notre Dame’s sister school, the University of Portland, which also identifies with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Considering attendees from both schools, the pilgrimage is expected to include approximately 40 students.
“Students will be invited to prepare for the pilgrimage during the spring semester, both personally and communally,” Lichon said. “We will have several meetings during the semester to prepare our hearts and minds for the experience. As well, we will have follow up reflections during the fall semester.”
Lichon said the actual pilgrimage itself “will be both exciting and exhausting.’
“As you can imagine, spending over a week together with millions of people from around the world in one city can be both exhilarating and overwhelming,” he said. “So I anticipate a lot of energy, a lot of fun, an incredible amount of memories made but also some great nights of sleep. This is a pilgrimage, so it does require some flexibility and sacrifice.”
According to Lichon, this sacrifice will include being “a little uncomfortable,” sleeping on the floor of a gymnasium and coping with hectic travel, but ultimately “the chance to meet people from all over the world, to pray with Pope Francis several times [and] to learn and grow and be transformed by this pilgrimage is worth it.”
Events during World Youth Day include an opening ceremony followed by several days of catechetical sessions, each run by English-speaking bishops; gatherings of pray and talk each morning; and an overnight vigil immediately preceding closing Mass with Pope Francis on the final day of the official World Youth Day gathering. According to Lichon, Notre Dame students “will get the perk” of arriving a few days before the events begin and departing a few days after they conclude, as well as some additional small excursions to John Paul II’s hometown, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and the Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
Applications and information on the pilgrimage can be found on Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry website. Applications for the pilgrimage are due on Jan. 4. Lichon noted “there are a limited number of spots available.”
“World Youth Day will be an incredible experience,” Lichon said. “While it will be a lot of fun and certainly an experience to remember for a lifetime, more than that it will be transformational. We are going on a pilgrimage, not a vacation. We are opening ourselves up to experience God through the people we encounter, through the culture, history and tradition of Poland, through the times of prayer and learning, and through our own personal discovery and reflection. By opening ourselves up to an encounter with God, we open ourselves up to deep and profound transformation and growth.”