700 Youth and Adults See #PopeinPhilly, Return Contemplating Joy, Mercy, Family

This week, we reflect on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the United States through the eyes of our diocesan family.

By: Kevin Bohli, Director of the Office of Youth Ministry

This past weekend, I had the privilege of leading 700 teens and adult leaders on a pilgrimage to Philadelphia. A spiritual pilgrimage is not about a destination. It is an ancient tradition of taking a journey with the goal to return home deeper in your faith.

I watched teens make significant sacrifices before and during this pilgrimage. Many got little sleep in cold cabins, waited in long lines and walked many miles to participate in Mass. I did not hear any of them complain.

At one point as I impatiently waited for our bus to arrive, I was convicted by a teen who spontaneously gathered his friends to pray a rosary. Young people have a funny way of challenging adults in their faith lives.

I watched Coordinators of Youth Ministry spend significant time building relationships with teens and sharing their faith lives with them. This is what youth ministry is all about.

I witnessed an adult leader giving away her parish’s 40 (priceless) tickets to the Papal Mass to other groups who had not yet had the chance to get close to the Pope. When I asked her why she would give up her tickets she said, “I want all the teens here to have the same experience that mine did.”

Not everybody in our group got close to the Pope and not everybody was able to get in to the Mass. You would never have guessed it from the joy that I witnessed by the teens as we returned home. The graces and joy of a pilgrimage are not in the destination; They are in the sacrifices made in the journey there and back again.

Most in our group were blessed with the opportunity to get close to Pope Francis at least once during the weekend. I know many adults who point to similar past experiences as the moment that their faith became “real.” The moment that everything that they had learned about their Catholic faith from their parents now became something that they would commit to for the rest of their lives. The graces are not in watching the Pope drive by for five seconds. The graces are in the many sacrifices made to and from that brief moment.

Thank you to Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington for allowing the Office of Youth Ministry to sponsor such pilgrimages. Thank you to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for all of your hard work in providing a wonderful opportunity for the teens of our diocese to get close to the Pope. And, more importantly, to grow closer to Christ!

Find Kevin on Twitter @KevinBohli

Follow @Bishop_Loverde on Twitter

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