The members of the Polish Lieutenancy of the OESSH are every bit as young in spirit, albeit somewhat older in years, than those who turned out in force for World Youth Day 2016. This mammoth enterprise was held in Kraków, Poland, on July 26-31. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, flew to the homeland of Pope Saint John Paul II on July 2. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7) was the theme for this year’s meeting with young Catholics. This is the second time that World Youth Day has been held in Poland. The first was in Częstochowa in 1991.
The Dames and Knights of the Order, together with their families and friends, were informally included in the preparations, often as early as last year. They took part in the main celebrations in Kraków and in the Mass at Jasna Góra, Częstochowa, to celebrate 1050 years of Poland becoming a Christian nation. Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, Metropolitan Archbishop of Warsaw and Grand Prior of the Lieutenancy, and Karol Bolesław Szlenkier KGCHS, OESSH Lieutenant in Poland, both took part in the thanksgiving liturgy.
Our involvement in World Youth Day was mainly out in the parishes and dioceses, where we put up young pilgrims from all over the world in our homes, provided them with transport, and saw that their bodies and souls were nourished. There was no shortage of joyful moments, interesting discussions, or inclusiveness through playing, dancing, singing and spending time together. Although there were barely five “Diocesan Days”, we managed to create lasting bonds that will be mutually enriching for many years to come. Our proverbial Polish hospitality gave us all the perfect opportunity to experience the universality of the church. Holy Spirit parish in Wrocław alone accommodated 150 young people from Münster, Germany.
Our confreres in and around Kraków were obviously especially privileged, as they naturally became the hosts for this particular religious event. Both they and many members of our Order in most of the dioceses from the other regions in Poland offered the pilgrims hospitality, prayed with them, and told them about our country and its history, including the more than 850 years of the Order in Poland.
A lot of the work carried out earlier was very closely connected with World Youth Day. This includes publications for the pilgrims, organizational cooperation at the diocese level, and practical ideas on how to communicate information on two important and closely situated buildings, viz. the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy and the Sanctuary of Pope Saint John Paul II. One of our confreres, Zbigniew Myczkowski KHS, a landscape architect and a lecturer at the Tadeusz Kościuszko Institute of Technology, was the design consultant on the Bridge of Mercy footbridge. Not only that but Dr. Stanisław Karczmarczyk KHS was the construction engineer of the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, and the design architect of the Sanctuary of Pope Saint John Paul II was the son of yet another one of our members. The two sanctuaries topped the list of the buildings the pilgrims felt obliged to visit. Many of us were involved in promoting the event and worked to obtain financial sponsorship. It is especially worth pointing out that the Altar of the Adoration in Brzegi is the work of the renowned Polish amber artist Mariusz Drapikowski KCHS. Now that the celebrations are over, the Altar will be taken to the Sanctuary of Our Lady, Mother of the Word, in Rwanda.
The OESSH clergy and laity from abroad who participated at World Youth Day quickly made contact with the local Knights of the Order.
Jacek Antoni Rutkowski
(August 5, 2016)