St. Pope John Paul II has been an important figure in my life for as long as I can recall. I remember Saturday mornings at Polish school, where my teacher would proudly talk about the influence John Paul II had on the world and the Catholic community. After he passed, he remained a beloved presence in my home, and my parents often spoke of his humility, selflessness and holiness.
This will be my first World Youth Day ever, and I am thrilled that I will be experiencing it in Poland, my homeland. Although I was born and live in Canada, I am Polish at heart. I can not wait to experience the unity of many cultures coming together in one place and celebrate with Pope Francis, while also commemorating the memory of St. John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day, in his homeland.
Walking the streets of Kraków shortly before World Youth Day begins, I am overjoyed in the presence of thousands of others who share my faith and are here to celebrate it. The city is packed with youth from all over the world, and everywhere I look I notice banners, shirts and signs asking “Are you ready?” I feel the legacy of a great pope, St. John Paul II, in his native country where it all started. It is here in Poland, sharing my faith with my brothers and sisters in Christ, that I feel at home. I am ready!
(Chelmecki, 16, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)