400 pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn will head to Krakow Poland from July 25th to the 31st for a once-in-a lifetime chance to encounter and pray with Pope Francis during World Youth Day 2016. They will join nearly a million young people from around the globe during the 7 day event of prayer, teaching sessions with bishops, cultural exchanges, and music. The crowd is expected to grow to 2.5 million on the event’s final day when the Holy Father celebrates Mass.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes186 parishes in Brooklyn and Queens, is sending the country’s largest diocesan group to World Youth Day.  Preparations for the journey, which began 3 years ago, have included fundraisers, community service, meditation, and prayer.

Paying for the trip was not easy for many of Brooklyn and Queens’ young faithful.  A youth group from Shrine Church of St. Gerard Majella in Hollis was able to pay for the journey with the help of a 6 month long “pedomathon,” in which they took thousands of steps every day in exchange for donations.  The diverse group of teenagers and young adults, of Haitian, Filipino, Dominican, and Grenadian backgrounds, engaged in a full year of discernment to spiritually prepare for World Youth Day.  In videos posted to the parish website, they explain what the journey means to them.

“World Youth Day is very often life changing,” said Father Gerard Sauer the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Director of Pilgrimages. “Teenagers and young adults who are struggling with their faith or who feel they may be the only one who goes to church, come home reinvigorated.  Being surrounded by others who share a common foundation of a belief in Christ is very powerful in deepening a young person’s faith and in strengthening their convictions.”

Other parish youth groups have also been preparing their hearts and minds for the powerful encounter in Poland. 16 pilgrims from St. Bartholomew Church in Elmhurst spent a weekend in Philadelphia praying and rehabilitating decaying homes for those in need.

“We scraped floors and and picked up a carpet for a couple.  Both of them were handicapped,” said Jason Gllindo, 22.

“We learned to look out for each other and stand up for what we believe in and not be afraid to let others help out, said Kimberly Ortiz, 21.

Teenagers and young adults from the Diocese of Brooklyn will be accompanied on their journey to World Youth Day by chaperones, parish priests, and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio himself.  The young pilgrims will meet with Bishop DiMarzio, at 3pm on July 17th at the Immaculate Conception Center at 7200 Douglaston Pkwy, Douglaston, NY 11362. The group will make final preparations for the upcoming trip during and attend a 5:00pm send-off Mass celebrated by the bishop. Parish priests participating in World Youth Day will con-celebrate.