Among the many young Australians who travelled to Poland for this year’s World Youth Day was a group from the Society of the Divine Saviour – also known as Salvatorians – who travelled to several holy sites in Greece before joining their fellow pilgrims in Krakow.
Perth’s Tomas Kenny-Simpson was one of 32 Salvatorian pilgrims who journeyed to Athens and the Greek Islands to walk in the footsteps of Saint Paul as part of his WYD experience, and he affirmed that it was life-changing.
“We prepared for months – some of us years – but I think none of us knew just quite what to expect… or how important this journey would become for us,” Mr Kenny-Simpson told The eRecord.
“On Patmos beside the Cave of St John (where Revelation was written) we celebrated Mass under the branches of a tree looking out into the most beautiful Cathedral I have ever seen: God’s Cathedral of nature.
“Later we stood where St Paul was persecuted for his faith in Corinth – we held Mass there in the ruins on a 2000 year old rock. Nearby church bells began chiming during the consecration.”
Soon after, the pilgrims travelled to the town of Bagno in Poland, where they spent three days in fellowship with other members of the Salvatorian order.
“We met with a thousand or so Salvatorian youth from around the world, competing in a Salvatorian mini Olympics, celebrating Mass, listening to the Polish Salvatorian Superior General speak and continuing to exchange dance routines with the seminarians,” Mr Kenny-Simpson said.
“And it was here that a young seminarian ЕВГЕНИЙ (pronounced Jenya) taught us the dance ‘Such a Happy Day’, which caught on like wildfire.
“Bagno was also a time of personal reflection and preparation for our catechesis sessions we later hosted in Krakow – for me, it was very special to be present with young people devoting their lives to God.”
He added that one important aspect of his experience living in Bagno was his devotion to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, particularly when he ventured out with a friend to a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes to pray.
Moving on to Krakow – the host city for WYD – Mr Kenny-Simpson said people’s enthusiasm for the arrival of Pope Francis was infectious.
“In Krakow, the streets were filled with the chants of ‘Papa Francesco!’ and ‘Esta es la juventud del Papa!’” he said.
“It was here that we were lucky enough to lead catechesis with around 5000 young people. This opportunity was such an amazing experience for us, and we grew so much closer because of it.”
“At the vigil, Papa Francesco spoke to us of the importance of being protagonists of history, of not getting roped into the trap of couch happiness. He said that ‘we came not to sit on a couch… but to make a mark.’”
He added that an adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was another highlight.