Newman students Kylie Werth and Anthony Hamersky recently returned from separate trips to attend World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, and though both ended their trip at the same destination they took different paths to get there.
World Youth Day is an encounter with the Pope for young people across the world, which is typically celebrated every three years in a different country. The event, which is actually a full week long, includes cultural events and activities in addition to the events with the Pope.
Werth’s two-week European excursion began in Gaming, Austria, where she and the other 85 members of her Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) mission group, the organization that led her trip, spent a couple days touring various holy sites and getting to know each other, Werth said.
“It was kind of like our own personal retreat before we went on,” she said.
From there, Werth said they moved on to Zory, Poland, where they attended Youth Arise, a pre-World Youth Day conference with outdoor concerts. Werth stayed with a host family in Zory who spoke no English.
“There was a lot of pantomiming,” said Werth, who had never left the United States prior to this trip. “I learned how to say ‘thank you’ in Polish and that is the only words I know.”
Hamersky, whose trip took him across Poland to see various Polish landmarks, said he had a similar experience with one of the host families he stayed with.
“We had nine Americans in there and the host family did not speak English,” he said. “They had Wi-Fi and they used Google Translate and there was a lot of pointing and a lot of repeating.”
Hamersky also spent two weeks abroad, and his trip was sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. He spent a week in Warsaw, Poland, saw various Polish historical sites like Auschwitz, and went to World Youth Day for the last two days of his trip.
“It was great. It was definitely worth it and I would definitely go back,” said Hamersky, who had also never left the U.S. prior to this trip.
Both students said the experience at World Youth Day, which this year drew roughly 3 million people from around the world, was one they won’t soon forget.
Werth and Hamersky said they got to attend multiple events during the conference, including Stations of the Cross and Mass held by Pope Francis.
Werth said her group was only 15 feet away from the Pope at one point.
“I also got a video of him stopping to kiss a baby, which was adorable,” she said.
“It was a sight to behold for sure,” Hamersky said.