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Planning for archdiocesan 2016 WYD pilgrimage well underway


CNS photo courtesy of World Youth Day Krakow 2016

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BRAINTREE -- Even though the 2016 World Youth Day gathering in Poland is still more than a year away, those who will lead the pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of Boston to the gathering with the Holy Father have been preparing for months.

The Archdiocese of Boston's Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has been meeting with parishes and groups interested in traveling to Krakow, Poland for the celebration in July and has traveled to the city to assess accommodations and logistics of the area.

At the meetings the office explains what World Youth Day is, how it affects youth ministry, what a pilgrimage is, and the benefits of attending the event.

"We have been going out throughout the diocese for the past year, meeting with individual parishes, vicariates, and collaborative parishes that are interested in World Youth Day," said Kathy Stebbins, the archdiocesan coordinator of youth ministry.

According to the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adult Ministry website the office will partner with Dube Travel to provide three tracks for travel to the gathering -- youth, young adult, and families.

According to the itinerary posted on the website, flights will leave Boston July 22 with return flights scheduled for August 1. Accommodations include a one-night stay in Warsaw and eight nights in Krakow.

Payments for the travel packages can be spread out over a year according to Stebbins, which may make the trip more accessible for groups and individuals.

Once groups register for travel to the event, the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adult Ministry begins meeting with leaders and chaperones. Future meetings will keep communities attending the event updated.

"We meet with those adult leaders every four to six weeks, starting late summer of 2015, early fall, and going right through our last meeting with them," Stebbins said.

The final meeting will be a day-long meeting, shortly before departure, to rally all groups traveling with the archdiocese to World Youth Day.

The office has also sent members to Krakow to see accommodations and familiarize themselves with the streets of the city, so the combined group won't get lost, will know places to eat, and have a general lay of the land.

"If you're going to bring a bunch of people, it's a good idea to go and scout it out first," Stebbins said.

Michael Drahos, a coordinator of faith formation for youth and young adults, said he feels the excitement building for the event. He said having accommodations within walking distance of the center of Krakow, a guaranteed tour of Auschwitz arranged by the travel agency, and a number of pilgrimage sites in the area make the plan ideal.

"This is going to be a very special pilgrimage, both for spiritual and practical logistical reasons," Drahos said.

Stebbins said the experience often inspires a spirit of discipleship amongst young people.

"They go home having had an encounter with Christ, to every nook and cranny, and corner of the world. What effect is that going to have?" Stebbins added.

Father Matt Williams, director of the Office for Lifelong Faith Formation and Parish Support's Faith Formation of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said the goal of faith formation programs is to form intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.

"World Youth Day helps to inspire, inform and empower young people to become disciples of Jesus Christ," he said.

He said World Youth Day has a history of producing such results -- including vital vocations to the priesthood.

"So many of our seminarians, a significant percentage of them have World Youth Day as a common experience in their discernment," Father Williams said.

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