Sixteen-year-old Lily Rice says what made it special for her was the overwhelming amount of love and support the community had for them. “Once we got to Kraków I felt so safe and welcomed. It was incredible to know we were a small part in such an amazing and joyful event. We have been through quite a bit this pilgrimage, but leaving today I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. The hardships we faced opened my heart to God’s great mercy in the end.”
Nicole Shanks, 17, agrees. “I’m so glad I continued… Getting to express my faith with millions of other people is rare and the pope has the ability to light a fire under the youth of the Church and call us to action. Despite the journey being hard, if I had to do it over again I would without a doubt.”
Viviana says being part of WYD and sharing their story showed how their experience in Munich had a purpose. “I feel like we are all a representation of what Pope Francis is calling us to be– a proud generation of Catholics ready to stand up for our faith and ready to not let fear keep us from the love of Christ.”
Andrea says her own experience can be summarized in one word: joy. “I hope to bring the joy and mercy I’ve learned about and witnessed this week wherever I go and to all the endeavors I will encounter in my life.”
Devany Harrell, 18, says she leaves WYD with a greater sense of the Catholic community all over the world. “I have a greater desire to go out and share my faith and live it out in my everyday life. Pope Francis really made the point that the youth are important in the Church and that was really refreshing…it gives me courage to go out and do something with my faith.”
For 17-year-old Ana Szymanski, the highlights of the pilgrimage came from the Masses celebrated by Fr John Amsberry, a priest from Portland, OR, traveling with their group.
“Most of what I’m going to take home from WYD 2016 came from his homilies. For example, he was saying how mercy (from misericordia) means to relieve the misery of another person’s heart. In preparing for this trip, I was really hoping to get a better understanding of what mercy really is … I learned a lot from Fr. John, and because I understood this, I had the key for understanding what the pope has been saying.”
As for Schrimpf, the group’s fearless leader throughout the eventful pilgrimage, he says he leaves his sixth WYD with a certain awe about the resilience of the teens. “I see them laughing and chatting even re-reading the pope’s messages on their phones and they seem normal. I think that’s because they are normal and what they went through doesn’t define who they are. Last year in our ministry we had a theme: ‘You won’t know who you are until you know whose you are.’ They know they are God’s and there is a certain sense of worth and value in knowing that. There is no fear. No condemnation. Just eternal hope that Christ is our loving Savior who calls us to be his ambassador’s here on earth and that he’ll never leave us. That makes me smile.”