Women religious pray as the Blessed Sacrament is processed through the Knights of Columbus Mercy Centre during World Youth Day events July 27. CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

Documentary captures spirit of World Youth Day in Krakow

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  • March 1, 2017

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is over, but the call to mercy lives on.

Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, executive director of the Mercy Centre at World Youth Day 2016, said this is the message the Knights of Columbus want to bring to young people with the premiere of a new documentary, World Youth Day Krakow: A Pilgrimage of Mercy.

The documentary premiered on Salt + Light Television Feb. 26 with additional airings March 1 at 8 p.m. (EST) and April 9 at 8 p.m. (EST). The 40-minute film captures the unique spirit of the Catholic Church’s largest international gathering.

“It’s a beautiful way for those who were there. It’s also a beautiful way for those who couldn’t come to Krakow to be able to watch and listen to the content,” said Kalisch, who was also executive producer of the documentary.

As Christians, Kalisch said the first part of the pilgrimage is about going on a journey to verify what God calls us to do with our lives. The second part is then to return home and share their testimony to the community.

“So having verified what you went to see, now, each one of us is called to give testimony. How did this change my life and what is the Lord asking now of me?” said Kalisch.

The film is meant to be a tool for pilgrims to share the best moments of the English-speaking gatherings hosted by the Knights of Columbus in Krakow’s Tauron Arena last July.

For Kalisch, one of the standout moments of the film and of WYD week was a surprising one for all who were involved in organizing the Mercy Centre events.

“On the Wednesday (July 27), in the afternoon, we had a beautiful panel on religious freedom,” said Kalisch. “And when (the moderator) introduced Archbishop Bashar Warda (of Erbil, Iraq), literally, the whole stadium stood up and I was stunned…. They gave Archbishop Warda this long, rousing, standing ovation.”

Kalisch said many had warned that young people would not be interested in attending a panel discussion on religious freedom, but more than 15,000 English-speaking pilgrims attended.

The World Youth Day week itself took place at a time when terrorism and Christian persecution was in the forefront of the pilgrims’ minds.

Days before the celebrations began, on July 22, a gunman opened fire at a Munich shopping mall.

On July 26, a San Diego pilgrim group shared their story at the Mercy Centre of being caught in the middle of the attack. That same day, French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel was killed while celebrating Mass by two supporters of the Islamic State.

Kalisch said the events that took place in the middle of the WYD celebrations brought a focus to the power of the Cross.

Most of the attendees of the English-speaking events at the Mercy Centre were pilgrims from Western countries, like Canada, the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia. But there were also representatives from countries like Germany, Denmark and even countries in Africa.

“(Warda) said this means something to us, but I know that most of you are from the West and you are persecuted too,” said Kalisch. “Maybe not as we are, but when you stand strong in the faith, that also gives us courage to go on.

“And it was so moving and in those ways... to also show that we stand united, we stand together.”

Kalisch said the lessons learned from coming together as one Body of Christ must continue to be a part of young people’s ministry at home. He hopes WYD will be a reminder for youth ministers and parishes to do merciful works not as islands, but in community with the whole Church.

“At (the Pope’s) last meeting with the volunteers, he said there are two conditions for you to meet (St.) Peter in Panama,” said Kalisch. “He said one is to remember where you’ve come from and where your faith has come from…. And then the second is be courageous.”

The next international WYD will take place in Panama City, Panama Jan. 22-27, 2019.

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