Editor’s note: What follows are impressions and observations from Diocese of Charleston seminarian Rhett Williams from his group’s first day in Krakow for World Youth Day 2016.
KRAKOW—Today was the first day that most of the foreign contingents were actually all present in Krakow. It was also our day to do a walking tour of Krakow with Carolina, our tour guide. Walking around exposed us immediately to the fact that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other groups of young people just like ours out and about from different countries. All day, the streets were packed with groups doing everything from singing national anthems and Marian hymns to having fun doing their local dances on the side of the street for everyone to see. We spent the morning learning the history of the royalty of Poland and the Polish Church, while participating in numerous USA chants throughout the streets as we made our way through the city.
Despite the rain that was on and off throughout the afternoon, the group seemed extremely excited about gathering with all the other World Youth Day groups for the opening Mass. I recognized this immediately when I stepped into the lobby to the singing of “God Bless America” by over half of our group, who were all swinging American flags. I myself even had an American bandana on my head with an American flag sticking out of my book bag.
Many were also very excited about participating in the tradition of exchanging articles with other WYD groups. For example, we had one girl who exchanged flags with someone from an Italian group, another exchanged a mini American flag for a Polish necklace, and another a red white and blue rosary for a bracelet from France.
Overall, I think the young group from Charleston was amazed at just how universal the Church actually is, and I think this helped them understand their place in it a little more. The opportunity for inter-national dialogue is one that helps them understand our place as Americans in the world as well. There were numerous times today where our group would respond to another country’s “USA USA USA” chant with a chant of their country. This happened with France, Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico and Canada, all within a couple hours today. This is community building at its best!
The Church is a loving Mother to us all, and today I think our young people got to see just how unified and beautiful she can be.
From Rhett Williams, diocesan seminarian