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Nineteen Frassati Catholic students became the first in the school’s history to attend a World Youth Day, traveling to Krakow, Poland for a 12-day pilgrimage July 23 – August 3.
The pilgrimage began with a visit to the Jasna Gora monastery in Czestochowa, which houses the miraculous image of the Black Madonna, the most important Marian shrine in Poland.
Pilgrims then toured Krakow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, including a visit to St. Mary’s Basilica, a 14
century church, and Market Square, one of the largest medieval town squares in Europe.
The group also visited the Dominican Monastery in Krakow and had the opportunity to venerate the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the school’s patron and a patron of World Youth Day. Pilgrims also met Wanda Gawronska, the niece of Blessed Pier Giorgio.
“Venerating Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's relics was a unique experience for the pioneer students of Frassati Catholic High School,” said junior Madeline Hill. “We wore our Frassati t-shirts to the shrine and we knelt at the front of Jesus and the relics. This experience was made extra special because we entered the church at the hour of mercy and were able to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet while Jesus was exposed. It was an experience of pure adoration and awe as we prayed for all of our students, faculty and benefactors.”
Visiting the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio was also a highlight for faculty member, Mark Pertuso: “[It] was a great opportunity for myself, our students, and the school community as a whole. Praying before his relics was a moment I'll never forget. We even got to meet his niece, Wanda, who engaged many of our students in conversation because she knew about our high school.”
Official World Youth Day events began on July 27 with catechesis, Mass, and prayer, including an address by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from the Phillippines.
"One of the most memorable speakers was [Cardinal Tagle] who explained how the Mercy of God extends farther than our human minds can fathom," said junior Reymundo Pena. "The realization of that completely made me change my attitude in my life. Now I am not able to see everything I have or am without thinking and immediately connecting it to God's Mercy."
The events concluded with a Mass on July 31 with Pope Francis and nearly two million people gathered in
– the “Field of Mercy” – just outside of Krakow.
“The most inspiring part of World Youth Day was that language did not create a barrier between the pilgrims,” said Hill. “Being able to celebrate mass in different languages showed us the universal church and how we are part of something so much bigger! It was a grace of perspective. During the closing mass, Pope Francis told us to build bridges. The pilgrims all reached out and held hands. We were all physically united, but also spiritually as over two million people were all gathered in one place for our God and His endless mercy.”
Pope Francis offered a challenge to all present to not fear suffering or pain. “Pope Francis commented on how many youth "are retired at 20" because they have no motivation or expect entitlements,” said Pertuso. “He challenged all to not be afraid to work hard and suffer. He emphasized that there can be no true happiness without suffering.”
The group took a day trip to Auschwitz on August 1, where over one million people perished including St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein. The visit was followed by a journey into the mind of Marian Kolodziej, a Polish Catholic artist, at a nearby Franciscan monastery, before ending the day at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow.
On August 2, the pilgrims took a day trip to Wadowice, the birth place of St. John Paul II, who began the tradition of World Youth Day in 1988 and who said, “We need the enthusiasm of the young. We need their joie de vivre. In it is reflected something of the original joy God made in creating man. The young experience this same joy within themselves. This joy is the same everywhere, but it is also every new and original. The young know how to express this joy in their own special way.”
World Youth Day will be held next in Panama in 2019.
About Frassati Catholic High School: Founded in 2013, Frassati Catholic High School serves the families and parishes in the north Houston area of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Administered by the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation from Nashville, TN, Frassati Catholic High School prepares students to walk on the path of true happiness through a robust college-preparatory curriculum rooted in the Catholic faith. The school currently serves students in grades 9-12. For more information about Frassati Catholic High School, contact Kyle Smith, director of communications, at 832-616-3227.