Diocesan groups heading to Poland for World Youth Day

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

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WAREHAM, Mass. — According to Maureen Lindquist, office manager of St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham, the 10-day adventure that six parish youth are about to embark on to attend World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland this weekend began nearly two years ago.

“We are actually the only group on Cape Cod who has been doing fund-raising to support the trip,” Lindquist recently told The Anchor. “The parishioners and even the wider community have been so supportive of them and their trip in the hope that they can see Pope Francis.”

The ongoing fund-raising campaign has included dinners, car washes, youth performances of Living Stations of the Cross, and collecting returnable cans for cash, which allowed older shut-ins to “participate and feel like they’re helping out,” Lindquist said.

“We’ve received a lot of cans from the Sacred Heart Retreat Center, too — so it’s been awesome,” she added. “It’s really turned into a fantastic community event.”

Lindquist said the effort has also helped to bring the parish together to rally around a group of kids who “have always been active in the Church.”

“They have all worked so hard for this trip and really made their presence known in our parish — I am so proud of them,” she said. “They’re all kids who have been active in the parish, but this has helped get their faces out there even more.”

Two of those faces were beaming from ear to ear this past Sunday as pastor Father John Sullivan imparted a special pilgrims’ blessing upon them during the 10 a.m. Mass. The pair — cousins Robert Giannelli and Michael Lindquist — will be joining Melissa Giannelli (Robert’s sister), Hal Schwarz, Wil Paling and Constance Chandler on the pilgrimage to Poland from July 23 to August 1.

“I am very excited about the trip — I just want to see the pope,” said 18-year-old Robert Giannelli, who is a cantor at the parish. “I think it will really be a great experience because we always go to Mass and pray, but to be at World Youth Day with (Pope Francis) is the culmination and you really get to be immersed in the faith.”

“I think it’s going to be kind of cool to be with the pope and to be there together with a group of friends — we’ve been friends for years and we’ve done a lot of things like this together,” said Michael Lindquist, 19, who teaches Faith Formation at the parish.

“All of us here really want them to see a glimpse of the pope — that would be beyond anything,” agreed Michael’s proud mom, Maureen. “I get goose bumps just thinking about it!”

She noted that the group from St. Patrick’s will be joined by a larger contingent from area parishes, led by former parochial vicar Father Ron Floyd, for the 4 p.m. Mass on July 23 after which a send-off pot luck dinner will be served in the parish hall.

“There are youth from St. John Paul II High School in Hyannis going, and there’s a group from Corpus Christi Parish in East Sandwich, I think there are others from Westport and St. Anthony’s Parish in Mattapoisett,” she said.

Knowing that Father Floyd is going to be serving as one of the trip’s chaperones and tour guides helps puts her mind at ease.

“We’re lucky to have Father Ron Floyd because his mother is from (Poland) and he’s been there many times and he knows all the best places to see,” she said. “I know they are planning to go to St. John Paul II’s house — that’s one of the stops.”

Another pilgrim excited about attending World Youth Day in St. John Paul II’s homeland is Deb Jezak, youth minister and Faith Formation director at St. John of God Parish in Somerset.

“To be in the homeland of the World Youth Day founder, St. John Paul II, and all the saints of mercy, is just incredible,” Jezak said. “It’s like the perfect song, of all good things coming together at one time. It’s really a blessed time for all of us. I can only imagine there’s going to be a positive, rippling effect from all of this because this is really centered in mercy.”

Jezak could be considered something of a World Youth Day expert, having now achieved a veritable hat trick by experiencing three different WYD events with three different Holy Fathers.

She was there in Toronto, Canada in 2002 with St. John Paul II — his final WYD appearance; she was in Sydney, Australia in 2008 with Pope Benedict XVI; and now she’s heading to Krakow, Poland to share WYD with Pope Francis.

“I feel really blessed about getting the opportunity to not only attend three WYDs in my lifetime, but also to experience them with three different popes,” Jezak said. “I’m getting up there, closer to retirement, so I’m excited about getting to see the third pope.”

This year Jezak will be traveling with two young women from her home parish of Good Shepherd in Fall River — two students enrolled at Durfee High School in the city.

“Both (of my previous) experiences were well beyond anything I could imagine and I know now after doing two of these that this third one will also be beyond anything I can imagine, so I’m not even going to try,” she said.

For example, she still remembers being within feet of St. John Paul II in Toronto after being urged on by bus captain Father Roger Landry to make her way closer to the fence near the side entrance.

“Father Landry knew a lot of things and gave us very good advice, so we were blessed to have him,” Jezak said. “He said ‘Don’t go to the center stage where the altar is, go to the fence,’ so we’d be closer and get a better view of the pope. It was a very narrow path for the pope mobile and we were within feet of him when he arrived. It was incredible and well beyond words. It was almost like you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Then she had the privilege of sharing her second World Youth Day experience with her daughter and son in Australia. Her daughter, Christin, was invited to perform her renowned “Person-to-Person: A Mother Teresa Project” one-woman show at WYD 2008 and her son, Nathaniel, was also there to provide music.

“We went as a family and traveled with the Archdiocese of Boston but we stayed with a host family in Australia and that was a unique experience in itself,” Jezak said. “It was very different from our experience in Toronto because we were staying and living with this family in Australia.”

But the one thing that remains Jezak’s most treasured memory from past World Youth Days is when a fellow pilgrim with muscular dystrophy, Val Monteiro, got a wave and a smile from St. John Paul II in 2002.

It was during that first trip — when the diocesan group got close to the pope mobile near the fence — that Monteiro’s wish came true.

“This really was his dream: to be able to go to a World Youth Day and see the Holy Father,” Jezak said. “And because we were traveling by bus, it was possible for him to join us. He was on the bus with us and his wheelchair was put in the storage area below.

“When the day came for us to see the pope, he was right up against the gate and as the Holy Father was coming along he was waving to the left and to the right and it just happened — I think it was Divine intervention — that the Holy Father turned and had a direct view of Val in the wheelchair and he waved at him. So the tears started coming down his eyes — it was everything he had hoped for. We all got a little emotional because we knew what it meant to him.”

As for this year’s pilgrimage, Jezak is excited about the slate of speakers and presenters and is confident that the theme of mercy will be prominent throughout.

“I’m sure many of the speeches and homilies will be about that,” she said. “They’re actually calling this a ‘School of Mercy,’ and I think that’s pretty cool. Given this pope, I think the effect of this will trickle down and it is really going to be a powerful message for the entire world.”

First-time WYD attendee Michael Lindquist said he couldn’t even begin to express “how much it means to us” and how appreciative he’s been for the parish’s support.

“We really want to thank everyone,” he said. “They’ve all stepped forward to help us.”

“I was just looking around at all the faces as they were receiving the blessing from Father Sullivan and everyone was smiling,” Maureen Lindquist added. “It’s been great to see so many people support this trip — and it’s great to see the parish rally around the youth, since they are our future. I just had a woman come up to me and give me a donation. It’s all about sharing their faith and belief with them, and that’s huge.”

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