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Pilgrims on the Way

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They've begun the journey to WYD as a team. From top left (Michele G., Fr. Andy, Rosa Espinosa (mom), Teresa Stawiarski (mom), Juana Morales (mom). Bottom left (Seymone G., Jenni M., Omar E., Martin M., Brenda M.).

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Father Andy's very excited to bring his young parishioners to WYD.

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The young folks are working hard with their families and friends to pay their way to WYD.

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Father Andy eating with parishioners (WYD Pancake Breakfast).

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The pilgrims feed the hungry and fundraise at the same time. From left: Martin M., Brenda M., Giovanna B., Genesis B. (Giovanna's sister)

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The pilgrims welcome their fellow parishioners and members of the community to their pancake breakfast. From the left: Jenni M., Martin M., Brenda M.

By Chris Sparks (Feb 2, 2016)

Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are — St. John Paul II.

They live in Illinois. They love their Catholic faith. And they need your help.

In July of 2016, Fr. Andrew ("Andy") Davy, MIC, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Plano, Illinois, will personally lead a band of pilgrims from St. Mary Parish and St. Patrick Parish in Yorkville, Illinois (both run by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception), on a pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day (WYD).

Sure, there have been a number of WYDs since St. John Paul founded the event in the 1980s, but this one will be unique.

"This will be the greatest Divine Mercy gathering of youth in history!" said Fr. Andy. There are a number of reasons why:

• Krakow is where St. Faustina received many of the private revelations that form the basis of the Divine Mercy message and devotion that she transmitted to the Church. Krakow is also where she died.
• It's the historic Polish city where St. John Paul II went to college, attended seminary, was ordained a priest, and served as an auxiliary bishop and cardinal archbishop.
• The current archbishop of Krakow is Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz, the former personal secretary to St. John Paul II.
• The theme of the WYD is one of the beatitudes: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."
• WYD 2016 is occurring in the first extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in recorded history.
• "There will probably be 3 to 5 million people at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Lagiewniki, Poland, with St. Faustina and St. John Paul II as major patrons of this WYD," said Fr. Andy.

These are some of the youths going from the two Marian parishes in Illinois:

• Giovanna Barajas (19), who says, "I am proud to be Catholic and enjoy spreading the Love of God wherever I go."
• Omar Espinosa (18), who says, "I am a strong believer of God ... World Youth Day ... will be an opportunity to discover God on another level."
• Seymone Gonzales (18), who says, "I hope ... that I will learn to know God in a deeper and more loving way and to take what I learn and spread it to others ... ."
• Terisa Hanna (20), who says, "St. Faustina is also my Confirmation saint, so this World Youth Day, in particular, would be very special to me."
• Daniel Kaczmarek (18), who says, "I want everything I do to reflect Christ and bring others to Him, ... and World Youth Day would be the perfect spiritual journey to prepare me ... !"
• Sophie Kramer (16), who says, "I hope to gain a closer relationship with God and be able to take what I experienced back to my church, school and youth group community."
• Lexi Lovetere (21), who says, "I feel that God is calling me to deepen my faith in a new way ... and I will be able to spread that throughout my community"
• Brenda Morales (16), who says, "I want to go because I want to grow; I want to grow closer to God, to those around me and to push myself to love more."
• Martin Morales (19), who says, "I am going on this pilgrimage to strengthen my faith and truly know what it means to be Catholic."
• Sean Nadeau (23), who says, "I am going on this pilgrimage to finally make a pilgrimage because of my love of our Church and, more importantly, our Lord."
• Sarah Stawiarski (16), who says, "I am going on this trip to have the opportunity to be part of something so big that will not only be fun but also bring me even closer to my faith."

Father Andy thinks it's important for the young people to go. "It will be an honor to walk with these amazing pilgrims as we come together with Pope Francis and millions of youth from every part of the world to cry out: 'God is Rich in Mercy!'" said Fr. Andy. "These young people are leaders among their peers. The graces given to them in the pilgrimage will equip them to share this message of mercy with the youth of our area. I see also a strong young adult ministry in the Midwest guided by the Marians as a probable fruit of this pilgrimage.

"This is a WYD focused on the message of Divine Mercy. The world has not seen such a large gathering of youth focused on Divine Mercy before. It will be so important for us as a Marian parish to bring youth to this encounter so that they might set their parishes on fire with mercy.

"This event will also help them to experience the catholicity of the Church, meeting people with one faith, one Lord, from every culture on the planet. Having them experience all of this will pay off dividends for the larger US church because of the quality of these handpicked young people, representing some of the finest youth of our Marian parishes. One is a youth minister; one wants to live out the spirituality of Mother Teresa; another is studying the New Evangelization at John Paul the Great University, where she is a member of the newly established household 'Daughters of the Divine Mercy'; one was the fruit of a heartfelt prayer to St. Faustina from a married couple trying to conceive. There are also future leaders of the Hispanic church in America."

These young adults will set out as parish ambassadors for this world wide celebration with Pope Francis in Poland. There, they will learn to "be not afraid" and "open wide the doors to Christ" as they hear the Pope's message for the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy: "Blessed are the Merciful."

Each one of these young people is committed to raising the money needed to embark on this pilgrimage. At $3,000 per pilgrim, however, the task of raising the funds isn't easy.

"The 2008 economic downturn hit Plano and Yorkville in a large way," explained Fr. Andy. "We have been rebounding, thankfully, but it still has left financial strain on several of the families. The teens are either paying for college or just about to go to college. Many have parents sacrificing to allow them to go to Catholic high schools. Many come from families with multiple kids in Catholic schools (college, high school, grade school). Some of their families have had unexpected medical costs (i.e., a sibling soccer injury, parent medical bills, etc.)."

And the young parishioners have not been idle. The pilgrims have been actively fundraising for some time now. "They have been doing doughnut sales every weekend all the way from October to January and reaching out to individual donors," said Fr. Andy. "Some have gotten jobs to help cover much of the cost. Even with all of this, there is still the uncertainty of where they will be able to find all the funds necessary. They are trusting that the money will come."

Will you support the cause of these youth and thus the future of some of our Marian parishes? It is the Catholic youth who are the future of Christ's Church. If anyone is interested in helping out, please visit or contact Fr. Andy at 630-552-3448 or by email at

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Linda D. from Chicago - Feb 4, 2016

My heart rejoices when I see our youth embrace the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I know that the Immaculate Heart of Mary has called her children to her Son and they followed the call. All of my hopes for the Catholic Church comes from these young, pure hearts. I do believe that these children are the Pro Life Generation. I hope and pray the Rosary constantly for an end to abortion. I pray for the laws to change, but one day I knew, it wasn't the laws that will stop this genocide, but the love in hearts of the new and next generation to stop this Evil. On Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have hope in thee. I hope I will be like Anna and Simon and live to see the end of abortion. On my sweet Jesus, watch over our youth and make them meek and humble of heart, just like you.

Richard C.. - Feb 3, 2016

May God's Will be done through you!