With their Elmira Maple Syrup Festival flag in tow, a group from St. Teresa of Avila Church left for Poland this week for World Youth Day, where, if they’re lucky, they’ll meet the Pope.
Morgan Glofcheskie, Alex Glofcheskie, Vanessa Diemert, Louis Ditner, Yo Wang, Anthony Vollmer and Laura Runstedler are the seven youth, along with “chaperones” Sandi Hutchinson and Iris Miltenburg who were equally excited to go. Voller and Runstedler joined the group from the St. Clements Roman Catholic Church.
They travelled with about 100 others from the Hamilton diocese on Wednesday to Krakow, Poland and won’t be back for two weeks.
“I think we’re just excited about seeing so many Catholics come together and I just can’t wait to feed off the energy of the young people. We’ve met our group a few times and they’re exceptional,” Hutchinson said on Tuesday night after mass.
The last time World Youth Day was held was in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. The event is a way to bring together young people who want to celebrate their faith.
It’s been about a year and a half of preparation and fundraising leading up to this week’s departure.
Morgan Glofcheskie says they did basically everything you can think of to raise funds for the trip.
“The most unique stuff that we did was we sold oranges through Orange Barn. We sold chocolate smoothies, we sold statues by Timothy Schmalz, we did lots of dinners. We did spaghetti dinners, breakfasts, we did a cake walk at the very beginning,” Glofcheski said.
They also held a concert fundraiser. They’re bringing lots of Canadian items to trade with people from other countries like shirts and pins. And they’ll be waving their Elmira Maple Syrup Festival flag with pride while the cameras are rolling.
Hutchinson notes all of the local youth going are very involved with their church from helping with vacation bible school to singing in choir to acting as an altar server.
“Not every parish could do something like this. Not every parish is full of young people who are interested enough in helping out in the church that it would be noticeable enough to send them to an event like this. Really it was honour to be selected,” Glofcheskie said.
When they land in Poland the group will be split in two and local priests will lead them. Their bus is going to Mszana, a five-hour drive into to mountains. They’ll be there for the days of the diocese and they’ve got quite the agenda.
“They have tours planned for us. We have a walking tour of the city, we’re going into the salt mines, we’re going to Auschwitz, we’re going to the castle where all the kings were,” Miltenburg said.
They’re also going to see the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, St. Mary’s Church which is world renowned for its blue ceiling, the church where Pope John Paul II was the bishop and Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory.
“That part’s going to be very powerful,” Hutchinson said.
They’ll be staying with host families and experience life in small-town Poland.
Then they’ll meet up again in Krakow and stay at the Congregation of the Resurrection Seminary for the rest of the trip. Pope Francis will be present for various prayer services and Holy Mass.
“His words are amazing. In the short time that he’s been our Pope, one person has moved so many. And he’s really got the youth on board,” Hutchinson said.
Glofcheskie notes the support from their priest, Father David Lewis has kept them motivated, along with the church’s generosity.
“Our parish has been very gracious and we’re very thankful for all of the support,” Hutchinson said.
They’ve all got different aspects of the trip they’re most looking forward to. Miltenburg says for her it will be watching the excitement of the youth.
Vollmer’s is simple, and one shared by many.
“To see the Pope in person,” he said.
Hutchinson agrees and says even if she can only see him from far away due to the number of people attending World Youth Day, it will be worth it.
“I think going to a different place but also connecting with like-minded people in our faith because it’s nice to know that there’s not just people here in Canada that are like-minded in their faith, but also all around the world, like in Europe and Africa and Asia. So meeting all the young people who are just like me, I think that’s really something I’m looking forward to,” Glofcheskie said.
Parts of World Youth Day will be broadcast on television. The group advises those people watching along to look for them waving the maple syrup fest flag.
“We’re going to put Elmira on the map,” Hutchinson said.