A group of students and chaperones from the Diocese of Superior traveled to Poland in July for World Youth Day 2016.
The five-day event included catechesis and liturgy celebrated by Pope Francis in which he challenged youth to develop a deeper relationship with Christ and his church, explained Laura Fenzl, youth director at Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander.
Besides Fenzl, the Superior diocesan contingent included Rachel and Mary Uhlarik, Nativity of Our Lord, Rhinelander; Rachel Radcliffe, St. Joseph, Hayward; the Berry family, Sacred Heart, Waseca, Minnesota; and Victoria and Aurora Fenzl, Evangelical Free Church, Mound, Minnesota.
Lynn Berscheit and Erica Warning, both from Rhinelander, attended WYD with a group from the Diocese of La Crosse and Badger Catholic from UW-Madison, respectively.
Globally, youth are considered to be age 17–35, young adults by U.S. standards. The Superior pilgrims ranged in age and included a 13-year-old eighth-grade student and her 70-year-old grandfather.
Rachel Uhlarik, who used WYD as her confirmation retreat, said, “Our faith unites us no matter where we live in the world. The way Pope Francis spoke to us made me want to take action to carry Jesus love and mercy to those at home.”
“Go, seek Christ and you will find him. Christ has met me here, in Europe. The entire experience was an explosion of love, praise, and worship to God! Now, we must enter the world back home and share the Gospel boldly,” said Victoria Pawlowski, a pilgrim and great-granddaughter of a Polish immigrant from Lodz who settled in Chicago.
“When you walk the streets of saints, you learn some things – God can call anyone to His work. Basically, Papa Francesco said that it makes him sad to see so many young people stuck on their couches. Stop making Papa Francesco sad, don’t be a potato. Get off the couch and live for God!” said Aurora Fenzl.
“Many have asked, ‘Did you feel safe?’” Laura Fenzl said. “Who wouldn’t feel safe, with helicopters in the sky, thousands of soldiers and police, and a 45-minute background check to buy (a) cheap cell phone or $5 SIM card?
“The security wasn’t for the pope,” she continued. “It has been constant in Poland since the Russian invasion and the secure re-homing of our refugee friends from Syria and Turkey.
“I felt safe, in particular because of the ‘small world’ effect. I ran into so many old friends. Past Extreme Faith campers, all grown up … students, now ordained or professed and bringing their own groups.”