Local Catholics to follow in footsteps of St. John Paul II on pilgrimage to WYD 2016 in Krakow

By Jerry Circelli

Correspondent

October 20, 2014

Gabe Gutiérrez clearly remembers an exciting summer night in Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by 3 million spirited youth at Copacabana Beach, where it embraces the Atlantic Ocean in a 2.5 mile-long sandy crescent. At one end, Sugarloaf Mountain rises straight up from the water’s edge. “And the silence was deafening,” recalled, Gutiérrez, high school youth and young adult minister for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller.

There before the crowd was Pope Francis, who had asked the gathered masses at World Youth Day 2013 to pray in silence at Eucharistic Adoration and in the presence of Christ.

“The waves were crashing on the beach, and that’s all you could hear,” added Jason Spoolstra, a friend of Gutiérrez and youth minister at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Pilot Point, who also attended.

Together, Gutiérrez and Spoolstra helped guide about 30 youth, young adults, and chaperones on the spiritual pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. The two said their experiences were so moving that they wanted others to share another global journey in faith, this time to World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland.

On learning that Bishop Michael Olson was encouraging youth from throughout the diocese to attend World Youth Day 2016, the two offered to help organize the pilgrimage, slated July 19 through Aug. 1, 2016.

Marlon De La Torre, diocesan director of Catechesis, welcomed the help of the two young men and is looking to them to be coordinators for the diocesan pilgrimage.

Like the two World Youth Day coordinators, De La Torre has also grown spiritually through past involvement in the youth pilgrimages. As a college student in 1993, he attended World Youth Day in Denver, with his home parish from El Centro, California. In 2000, leading a large group from the Diocese of Memphis, where he served as director of religious education, De La Torre traveled to World Youth Day in Rome.

The side of St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow, where as pope, St. John Paul II preached and heard confessions when he returned to visit his native Poland. Krakow is the site of the 2016 World Youth Day. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Pilgrim Office, Inc.)

“It was the Jubilee year and it was phenomenal,” he said. “We had 2 million kids in the square chanting ‘Viva Papa!’ That was a pretty awesome sight.”

De La Torre said, “It gives us a chance to really see the Church universal. We are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And you come away with an awe of our Church and a better understanding of our faith.”

That was St. John Paul II’s plan all along, said De La Torre. Out of love and respect for youth, the pope encouraged and invited young people to come together and created the first World Youth Day in 1984. In all, 30 World Youth Days have been held, 18 at the diocesan level and 12 with international gatherings. Locally, World Youth Day is celebrated annually.

De La Torre is looking forward to helping guide a diocesan group this year, along with Gutiérrez, Spoolstra, at least six priests, and several chaperones. What he finds most exciting, however, is that Bishop Olson will lead the pilgrimage.

“Our shepherd is shepherding his flock to World Youth Day 2016,” De La Torre said, emphasizing that the bishop leads by example.

Gutiérrez, Spoolstra, and some of their friends met with the bishop recently and produced a video in which he discussed his own experiences at World Youth Day, attending as a local seminarian in 1993.

In the video interview, the bishop said of World Youth Day in Krakow and the exciting destinations planned along the way, “I’m asking you to join me as well as other Catholics, young adults, youth from the Diocese of Fort Worth, that we can take a great pilgrimage together to pray at these sites for the good of our diocese and to better understand the mission that the Lord has entrusted to all of us, and each of us as the Body of Christ in all our 28 counties in North Texas.

“Please pray for a successful pilgrimage, and please consider joining me on this pilgrimage for the sake of the Diocese of Fort Worth,” Bishop Olson added.

Pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Worth pose in front of the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue shortly after arriving in Rio de Janeiro for last year’s World Youth Day. Youth ministers Gabe Gutiérrez and Jason Spoolstra, who led the 2013 pilgrimage, are organizing the WYD 2016 pilgrimage to Krakow. (Photo courtesy of Randell Labio)

Spoolstra said that for a spiritual pilgrimage, the company at the upcoming World Youth Day couldn’t be any better. Youth will be accompanied by Bishop Olson, participate in a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis, and literally follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II.

“And most important of all,” Spoolstra said, “we’re going to have an encounter with Christ.”

The prospect of having those experiences is almost too much for 16-year-old Tori Caranna. “I can’t wait,” said the Aubrey High School junior who attends St. Thomas Aquinas.

“I have so many brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. I really want to meet some of them. I think it’s going to be a really cool experience,” Tori said. “I know I will be able to deepen my faith by going on this trip.”

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Burke of Fort Worth has also committed to the pilgrimage. “I’m super excited,” she said. “I already have enough money saved up for the second deposit for the trip,” Elizabeth said. “I think it will be a great experience to see the pope and so many Catholics from around the world all gathered in one place.

“Also,” she added, “I think it’s great that we’ll not only be going to Krakow, but we will also get to see so many other places that are important to the Catholic faith.”

Thirteen-year-old Bryan Shipman of Keller is also looking forward to the pilgrimage. He is especially interested in seeing Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi. “He’s my favorite saint,” Bryan said. “He loved animals and so do I, and I just find his story remarkable.”

Bryan’s father, Dale, is planning to join his son, along with the rest of their family on the pilgrimage.

“When I first heard of this, we determined we were going to go…,” said Dale.

“These are places we haven’t seen before. And, we have a very vibrant bishop who is alive with the Holy Spirit. And because he’s leading it, it motivates us, and it should motivate everyone in the diocese. He put out a call for everyone to come and join him, and we’re going. ”

For more information, visit www.fwwyd.org.

 

Gabe Gutiérrez clearly remembers an exciting summer night in Rio de Janeiro, surrounded by 3 million spirited youth at Copacabana Beach, where it embraces the Atlantic Ocean in a 2.5 mile-long sandy crescent. At one end, Sugarloaf Mountain rises straight up from the water’s edge. “And the silence was deafening,” recalled, Gutiérrez, high school youth and young adult minister for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller.

Published (until 10/20/2114)
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