Preparations and the Universal Church

by Randell Labio

North Texas Catholic contributor

Randell Labio and 200 other pilgrims from the Fort Worth Diocese will head off on their World Youth Day pilgrimage July 19. They will visit Rome, Prague, Assisi, Auschwitz, Krakow during their two-week excursion. 

It's 8:00 p.m. Monday, and I'm leaving for our World Youth Day 2016 pilgrimage in less than a day. I'm really excited!

As of now, I'm mostly packed with a few things left to put into my bags. I plan on carrying a 40L backpack along with a smaller daypack type of bag containing everything I need for the next two weeks as we visit Rome, Assisi, Prague, Auschwitz, and finally Krakow for World Youth Day.

Randell Labio

I have to be honest — I've been rather challenged in preparing for this trip. Sure, I made the concrete decision to go three years ago when Pope Francis announced Krakow at the end of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. I've had those three years to prepare, but I haven't really done much until recent weeks. I'm somewhat stressed out about it because when I went to World Youth Day in Rio, I was able to focus more on preparing materially and spiritually. However this time, I really haven't been able to focus.

Preparing has been challenging because my work has been sending me on a near-monthly basis to Japan for the past year or so. In fact, just last week I returned from my 14th trip since April 2015! I had less than a week to get my stuff together for Krakow!

With all these trips to Japan, I've had many opportunities to pursue the Catholic faith even though only 1 percent of its population is Christian. The Catholic Church in Japan has a fascinating history with martyrs, samurais, and complete isolation from Rome for a time. I'm quite blessed to be able to be immersed in our Church's history in Japan.

One particular aspect of being Catholic in Japan is being able to really taste the universality of the Catholic Church. One of the churches that I attend Mass at in Japan has an Australian pastor. The congregation? Mostly Filipino and expatriated Americans. The languages spoken? A mix of Japanese, Filipino, and English. Where are we? In the middle of Japan! That's so cool how people from totally different cultural backgrounds are able to share in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.

I mention the above because seeing these different cultures come together to celebrate the Eucharist when I'm in Japan is but a small reminder and preparation for me of what we'll be experiencing at World Youth Day. People from all over the world, including 20 from my parish and 200 from our diocese, will be congregating in Krakow to pray together, have Mass together, adore Jesus Christ in the Eucharist together, hang out with Pope Francis together, and other forms of building up the Body of Christ, too. That's awesome! 

Even though I just got off the plane from Japan less than a week ago, I'm ready to get back on another one tomorrow. I haven't had too much time to focus on preparing materially and spiritually, but I trust that God has been preparing me this whole time to encounter Him and His Church fully on our pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Krakow.

Randell Labio

Randell is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Young Catholic Professionals Fort Worth Chapter, and volunteers as an acolyte, reader, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. He also teaches high school youth as a catechist.

It's 8:00 p.m. Monday, and I'm leaving for our World Youth Day 2016 pilgrimage in less than a day. I'm really excited!