Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
I took the Popes words to heart
By DOMINIKA BOCZULA
For me, the preparation for World Youth Day 2002 began as I listened to the final words of Pope John Paul on a morning in a field two years ago at Tor Vergata, Italy. "God loves you; the pope loves you. Go in peace."
And so, to attend my second World Youth Day this year was no more of a question to me than "Do you love God?" Of course, I would attend.
To make matters even better, our group consisting of 47 pilgrims from Our Lady Queen of Peace Church would travel across Canada by bus, attend World Youth Day, and then travel back to Calgary through the United States. We were to leave on July 19 and return Aug. 4.
We travelled each day eight hours and more, making our own lunches and dinners along the way. These consisted of Kraft Dinner, buns and baby carrots, or similar make-quick, eat quick "gourmet" meals. We slept with kind families who took us in, and treated us like their own relatives, or in sleeping bags on church basement floors with no showers and a couple of sinks.
Along the way to Toronto, we stayed at Polish churches in Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie.
The sometimes harsh conditions were welcomed by me. I saw them as an adventure. It was fun to spend each day, morning to night, with 46 of my closest friends. On the bus, we joked around, played cards, watched movies, listened to music, prayed the rosary and listened to our priest's daily conferences.
We often took in the attractions along the way. Just after we entered Manitoba, we spent a few hours at a lake surrounded by cabins and families spending their vacations together. My friends and I went swimming in our clothes. When else do you do something like that?
We arrived in Toronto on Tuesday, July 23 at about 6 p.m. We received our pilgrim packs of meal tickets, one-shouldered packsacks and other goodies and were off to our home for the next five days - St. Richard's School in Mississauga. Pilgrims from Minnesota and Wisconsin also shared the school.
Our schedule in Toronto consisted of many events, meeting many, many people and getting very little sleep. Every day we showered at a local pool at 7 a.m., hopped on the bus, went to Mass, and mingled and lunched with fellow pilgrims.
What a welcome we gave the pope. Everywhere you looked, there were people and flags. Many, many flags. My name being Dominika, I had studied that country in junior high school. I ran up to them. We switched emails, autographs and took photos. I promised them I'd visit. I know I will someday.
Some people stood for 10 hours to secure a good spot close to the stage, some (like us) came eight hours later and ended up two metres behind them.
It didn't matter once our best friend, Pope John Paul, arrived. It was beautiful. Some smiled without end, many cried. It was so touching to see and hear him, not through TV, radio or anything else - he was really there. Speaking to us, to me.
He seemed very happy and very loving. He was just as he had been in Rome. I took every word he spoke to heart. I think everyone did.
On Saturday, July 27, most of the day was spent getting to a giant field, a former air force base, where the pilgrims were to attend the evening vigil, camp overnight, and attend Sunday morning Mass with the pope. Once again, there were multitudes of people. However, everything was well organized and everyone was well behaved.
One thing which was different from the World Youth Day in Italy were the "circle dances" of bongos and guitars in the middle, chant-like singing and tens or even hundreds of dancers around them. Anyone was free to join in and it was possible to dance like that in a circle with repetitive music for hours without becoming bored. It was all amazing.
The vigil that night was beautiful, sprinkled with personal testimonials, lighted candles and the long Polish parade which seemed to go on all night, winding through the crowds. We joined in, of course. The pope spoke to us once again and everyone seemed very at east. It was a warm summer evening, but not many people got any sleep. I don't think anyone really wanted to sleep. This was too unrepeatable and exciting to sleep through.
At 6 a.m. Sunday, the rains came. I suppose it was God's form of a uniform wake-up call. How else to wake up hundreds of thousands of people in a field? Everyone was up and scrambling for cover within one minute. Impressive. It rained for some time that morning.
However, the pope arrived and within 10 minutes, the rains ceased. The sun immediately shone and we all enjoyed a very beautiful Mass. By the end of the Mass, everyone had completely relaxed, and everything, with the exception of a few sleeping bags, was dry.
I still feel something special inside of me every time I think about those amazing meetings with millions of people and one amazing, outstanding individual. No rock star, concert or event can compare to the sheer multitudes and meaning which World Youth Day brings. I can't begin to imagine how many lives they have not only touched, but saved. Wow!
Pope John Paul said, "The third millennium needs young people who are strong in faith and generous in serving their brethren." I am ready to serve, be the salt of the earth, the light of the world and, above all, the best Catholic I can be.
On the last day, we said to each other, "See you in 2005." No doubt I will be there.