Mary Pauline Kay Pesa packed her bags for Krakow a week before her scheduled flight. She could not contain her excitement for what she described as "a once in a lifetime opportunity and a lifetime mission for Christianity." "I am excited about the event, but most of all I am excited to see Jesus in everyone and in everything in that place," says the 20-year old student. This week, an estimated 2.5 million young people from around the world are heading to Poland, birthplace of Saint Pope John Paul II and the venue of this year's World Youth Day celebrations July 25-31. Mary Pauline who hails from Paranaque Diocese is among the 1,500 young Filipinos who will attend the gathering in Krakow. "The journey to the World Youth Day is not easy," says the young girl whose diocese can only send 29 delegates out of the hundreds of volunteers because of financial constraints.
Mary Pauline had to undergo several levels of screening and had to help raise funds for the trip. "People contributed to fund the delegates. They gave not only money but time, effort, and talent to make our dream come true," says the girl. Also traveling to Krakow is 33-year old Ervic Cabading, coordinator of the youth ministry of Tuguegarao Archdiocese in the northern Philippines. Sitting on a bench in the departure lounge of Manila’s international airport for his delayed flight, Ervic recalls the challenges he had to undergo to be part of his archdiocese's delegation. "I had to look for money to fund my own trip," says Ervic. "Unlike other dioceses in the country, Tuguegarao does not have the money for the airline ticket," he says. He thought of selling his gadgets and anything valuable to raise the money. "I even thought of selling our only farm animal," says Ervic. When he was about to give up the parish priest came with good news. Parishioners were able to raise half the money Ervic needed to buy the ticket. The young man says that aside from the money, he also owes them the prayers they offered for the safe trip of the delegates. Priceless journey
Mary Pauline and Ervic owe their trip to their respective parishes and dioceses and "to the nameless people who shared gifts." "The chance to see Pope Francis, hear what he has to say, and experience God with everybody else is priceless," says Mary Pauline. She says her "mission" is to learn from the journey and "to share what I have learned with other young Filipinos," adding that she hopes the World Youth Day experience "will strengthen my faith and deepen my relationship with God." "I will take advantage of the opportunity to talk with people from other parts of the world. I want to have a glimpse of their culture and religiosity," she says. For Ervic, a high school teacher in the town of Baggao in Cagayan province, the challenge is how to bring home what he will learn in Poland. "This is a mission," he says. "I have to bring home all the things that I will see and learn." Father Bernice Wynn Rio of Tuguegarao Archdiocese says the church should support young people in their journey. "We have to invest in the growth of their faith and their religiosity," says the priest, adding that Saint Pope John Paul II, who initiated the first World Youth Day in 1985, wanted to bring the youth closer to God. Father Rio says the church recognizes the importance of the youth whose religious lives are in the "formative years." The priest said Catholics should "never get tired of forming the values of our young." Father Rio hopes that after the World Youth Day, Mary Pauline and Ervic and the other Filipino delegates "will come back with the experience of love, mercy and compassion of God." "The experience should be their motivation to share love, mercy, and compassion to those who need it most," adds the priest. He says the challenge for Mary Pauline and Ervic is not the hardship in their preparation but the mission that lies ahead after the World Youth Day celebration. Held in a different place every three years, the World Youth Day is a week-long festival to celebrate faith through songs, dances, prayers, and sharing of experiences.
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