Eight of the 12 World Youth Day pilgrims from Holy Trinity Parish in Stony Plain and Spruce Grove enjoy a moment of relaxation as the day of departure to Poland draws near.


Eight of the 12 World Youth Day pilgrims from Holy Trinity Parish in Stony Plain and Spruce Grove enjoy a moment of relaxation as the day of departure to Poland draws near.

June 13, 2016

Spirits are high among youth at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove as World Youth Day draws near.

A dozen people from the parish, including Father Jan Sobkowicz, the pastor, are preparing to attend the event in Kraków, Poland this year.

Through fundraisers big and small, they have raised more than $10,000, which will pay for a portion of the ticket and stay. Whatever they raised through their well-attended June 5 barbecue and silent auction will be added to the total.

The group's goal is to fundraise $15,000 plus some extra money to help teams from other countries that don't have enough to attend WYD.

The pilgrims, who range in age from 18 to late 30s, are going for different reasons. A few are originally from Poland or their family is Polish, "so on top of going to see the pope, they are going to experience some of their own culture," explained James Whyte, the group's co-ordinator.

The remainder of the pilgrims are going "to discern what they are meant to do with their lives, and people like me are just going to see the World Youth Day, the catholicity of the Church and just how big we are," Whyte said.

The group will leave July 18 and is first going to Wroclaw for the Days in the Diocese from July 20 to 24. Most parishes from the Edmonton Archdiocese will end up in Wroclaw for the same activities.

From July 25 to 31, the pilgrims will be in Kraków for the formal World Youth Day activities which include a Mass with Pope Francis.


"I always wanted to go to World Youth Day," exclaimed Ruby Nazaruk, 19. "When I was young, my mom went and I've always loved the idea of it because I'm a fan of St. John Paul II who started this big thing for youth to help us grow in our faith."

Being able to have the opportunity to see a different country and meet new people who share her beliefs are big draws for Nazaruk. "Plus my mom's side of the family is Polish so I have a deep connection there. So I really want to see where that side of my family came from."

Added Nazaruk: "It's such an amazing opportunity. I feel God will have a chance to work with me in different ways through the different experiences I'll be able to have."

While in Poland, young people will have access to workshops, Masses and other events that will strengthen their faith and prayer life.

"I have always been very strong as a Catholic so for me going to World Youth Day was always a big thing," said university student Paul Kozakiewicz, 19. "I want to see how many people are as strong as me, especially now when some kids are falling away from the faith."


But the biggest draw for Kozakiewicz is that he was born in Poland and has family there. "So for me this is a chance to show my faith, but also be able to see my family again, which I haven't seen for around 10 years."

During the pilgrimage Kozakiewicz expects to find "a renewed idea of faith" and "a better sense of community."

Elijah Jodoin, 18, is going to Krakow "because going to World Youth Day is a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially for someone that just gets out of high school, because once you go to college it just gets too difficult."


"Really I'm talking this opportunity to go and see the pope, to learn a little bit more about myself and to take this time to really come to know God on a more intimate level."

Jodoin says to go to World Youth Day, one has to have the right mindset. "If you don't, and you go there and you want it to be a vacation, it will be a vacation, albeit a crappy vacation. It's crowded and you are going to be sleeping on a gym floor.

"It is a pilgrimage, but you have to have the right mindset. If I'm going there to see the pope, to learn something new, to become a better person, then it's going to be a wonderful trip."

Jodoin says he is still not fully prepared for the pilgrimage "but I'm preparing myself. I'm taking supplementary lessons like doing day-long missions and extra Masses.

"I'm taking my own personal preparation. I'm making sure I keep in touch with God because that has a bit to do with the mentality thing."

Cody Skinner, 29, is also excited to go on his first World Youth Day.


"I'm going probably because I have some Polish ancestry and I always heard stories about going to World Youth Day have greatly deepened the faith of people who went and how an amazing experience it has been for people I know," he explained.

"I was going to go to Rio (in 2013), but circumstances changed. This year I can go, and I am so excited about going."