WYD – JASNA Experiences

Teenagers and young adults, who traveled to Poland and Slovakia for World Youth Day and the Jasna Youth School, spent time praying, praising God, and immersing themselves in a crowd of their peers. This experience was a true pilgrimage experience in the sense that many such sacrifices were made, from walking for hours, to spending a day or night completely drenched from pouring rain; from waiting for hours for a bus that never came, to taking cold showers, etc... But these experiences created solidarity and a supernatural atmosphere among the Midwest Focolare youth.

AnnaFrancis4Teens4Unity of the Midwest say a big thanks for the generous local support which made possible their participation at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, this past August, concluding with a one week school in Jasna, Slovakia. The Focolare Midwest contingent was comosed of a group of 26 youth coming from different parishes and cities across the Midwest. It was an unforgettable experience, with a lot of challenges and hard moments. It was, as well, an opportunity to see how beautiful, vital, and youthful the Church is.  There were almost 2 million young Catholics coming from all corners of the earth to Krakow.  A smaller, but just as enthusiastic group, stayed for the one week school in Slovakia organized by the Focolare Movement.

Pilgrims from the whole world were one force all together in wanting to build a better world and ignite enthusiasm among young Catholics for their faith and the desire for a new brotherhood in the world among all. At the same time, each group rejoiced in their own national pride and that of the other pilgrim groups as they would each carry their national flags which proudly displayed the commitment of the youth from each respective country to the ideals of WYD.

AnnaFrancis3The WYD experience could not have happened without the hard work of the host Polish youth, who prepared everything with such love and care and welcomed all with a big Polish heart.

One Midwest participant reflected how World Youth Day had been filled with an unexpected amount of love that came from the small acts of kindness that all the youth chose to do for others,

“I saw kindness in the strangers that would help us out on the tram. I saw kindness in the volunteers who would try their best to speak English for us. I saw kindness in my friends who would fan each other to cool down, even if they themselves were also feeling hot. That week in Poland taught me to not underestimate the amount of love that small acts of kindness hold. My eyes have been opened to all of the love that goes unnoticed, and I want to experience and appreciate more of that.

In this experience of small acts of kindness a further highlight of the WYD experience was to hear Pope Francis’s message live, there in his presence. We saw him up close, but cooler than that was to realize that what we have most at heart was exactly what he was asking us to do: let mercy flow out of our hearts into our hands and muscles.  What a discovery to realize that deep within us we are in sync with Pope Francis!”

AnnaFrancis2As the youth concluded their time in Krakow and moved to the youth school in Slovakia, new surprises and joys awaited them. In tune with the new mind set being put in place in Focolare communities around the world, the school in Slovakia was organized by one member of focolare women’s center and a priest focolarino, rather than being organized directly from the Focolare’s youth center in Rome. As a very cool further indication of the new mind set put in action in Slovakia, the main talks of the program were prepared and presented by yet an even broader representation of the Focolare community. This broader group are also experts in fields that inform and highlight the Focolare spirituality. This larger group included Michele Vandeleen (theologian), Gianlucca Falconi (philosopher), and Antonella DePonte (psychologist).

The program was both simple and profound with the title of You God(d) Me!. The title works in two ways. It first, in a play on words, connotes the many faceted rapport which exists between oneself, God, and the other. Secondly the title captures an important expression coming from the experience of Paradise ’49 in which Chiara exults, “There, in the mountains, you enraptured me! (Nelle montagne me hai rapito”). The days of Jasna, in the beautiful Tatras Mountains, facilitated a similar, deep experience of God for the youth participants.

Check out the short video clips which capture the WYD/Jasna spirit

Coming home, the Midwest Focolare Teens4Unity want to share with everyone what happened. One pilgrim shared just this sentiment,  “We could talk about it for hours.”

The youth look forward to sharing lots of beautiful pictures and memories with all!!




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