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College Catholic communities to attend World Youth Day 2016

Members of the Cornell Catholic Community gather for their weekly “soup and supper” following mass. Some of these students will attend World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, this summer. (Credit: Kelli Kyle/Ithaca Week)
By Emily Fedor and Kelli Kyle

The year is 2005. In a large field in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI is preaching the word of God to thousands of young worshipers from all over the world.

This is World Youth Day, the world’s largest gathering of young adult Catholics. Now, almost a decade later, students from the Ithaca College and Cornell University will have a chance to head to Krakow, Poland, for that same experience—World Youth Day 2016 from July 25 to July 30.

Natalie Dolly—whose name has been changed—a fifth year Ph.D student at Cornell University, attended the celebration back in 2005. Now, Dolly said she is excited to return to World Youth Day with a different perspective.

“Now that I’ve matured 10 years, I’m looking forward to going back, to be in a more mature place in my faith and be able to have more real connections with the people I meet in faith,” Dolly said.

Officially established by Pope John Paul II in 1986, World Youth Day started as a celebration of the youth in Catholicism. Since then, the acting Pope has called the celebration every two to three years, allowing Catholics between the ages of 16 and 30 to come together in international worship.

Dave Holmes, a campus minister at Ithaca College, said this age group is one that often loses touch with the Catholic Church. He said World Youth Day is an event that brings the younger crowd back into the Church.

“I think they wanted to start having this event… to get young people reignited about their faith and to get young people talking about it,” said Holmes, “because it’s not always a conversation that you hear everyday.

Holmes said they expect to bring about ten students to the event. Those who plan to attend World Youth Day will have to pay for the cost of their flight. In the past, students have written letters to family, friends and churches to raise money for different mission trips and pilgrimages.

They do not have any official fundraising plans at the moment, but Holmes said this will change when the group of attendees is confirmed.

“Every time we do fundraising, it’s based on what the students are interested in who are participating, so we like to get their feedback on it,” Holmes said.

Pamela Meyerhofer, a graduate student at Cornell, is covering the trip expenses on her own. At 23 years old, she said attending World Youth Day this year was something she had a “now or never” mentality towards.

“We just kind of figured that you only get so many opportunities, because it is for young adults and when your life can accommodate that kind of a trip,” Meyerhofer said. “We decided this was probably our last chance where it would be really feasible.”

This year’s World Youth Day will feature many of the similar amenities as before — mass, pre-packaged meals, a sleeping facility and pins or bracelets representing each country in attendance. Dolly said countries usually trade these “trinkets” to meet each other.

“This is a great way for people to interact in a non-awkward way, because you just want to get as many trinkets as you can,” Dolly said.

Anna O’Connell is the leader of the campus trip to WYD. While in Krakow, she wants to take students to take in part of its rich holy history. Cultural sites they are looking to visit include the Shrine of the Black Madonna and possibly Auschwitz-Birkenau for meditation — an experience O’Connell said is important for young Catholics.

“I don’t have any Jewish ancestry,” said O’Connell, “but I think the understanding in a real and physical way the horrors of the Holocaust is something as a Christian I feel very important to understand and recognize.”

When it comes to setting World Youth Day apart, Holmes said the events create a certain energy that few other religious group experiences offer.

“You get literally millions of people together to celebrate who they are — celebrate something that’s important to them,” Holmes said. “There’s no way to have it not get you more excited about your faith and get you more excited about life in general.”

Dolly said the atmosphere of the day contributes to a larger feeling of community building that is unique to World Youth Day and it’s celebration of faith.

“This is an experience of joy and celebration, and I guess this must be sort of what heaven might be like.”

Those interested in attending World Youth Day through Ithaca College should contact Anna O’Connell at [email protected].

*NOTE: Natalie Dolly requested to alter her name in this piece for privacy reasons.*

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