Being young and Catholic in the globally-connected era of 2016 poses unique everyday challenges, both big and small, 18-year-old Christian Leon recently mused.

“Being a young Catholic myself in a world which seeks to separate us from our faith, I stay close to my faith through prayer, constantly assisting within my parish and trying to emulate God’s love and understanding to all those who I meet,” explained Leon. “In our modern times of great conflict I believe it is key that we — the youth and future of the world — get together to help build understanding among our communities [to] further Christ’s mission … on earth.”

Leon, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Downey, hopes to create connections with diverse communities of like-minded young adult Catholics like himself during his long-planned first trip to World Youth Day.

“I am looking forward to an assortment of experiences, but the experience I am most anxious about is the opportunity to meet with other young Catholics from around the world,” he said. “I hope to learn [about] the cultures that they are from, how their traditions tie into the Catholic faith, and about their countr[ies].”

On July 17, Archbishop José H. Gomez blessed scores of pilgrims who likely harbored similar goals and aspirations as they prepared to embark on the journey of a lifetime to World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, where they will join millions of Catholics from around the world July 25 through 31.

The blessing was held during the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown L.A., which was filled with hundreds from across the tri-county Archdiocese of Los Angeles who were slated to make the journey to Krakow — including WYD veteran Julie Bosdachin, who is leading Leon and 33 other youth and young adults from Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Bosdachin first attended WYD in Germany in 2005, when she took her then 16-year-old daughter. She has since led youth to Spain and Rio, and is currently in Krakow with her largest group yet, hoping the experience further cements their faith.

“When you get a youth who hasn’t had this experience at all and you put them together with 3 million other Catholic youth, they feel that they are the Church,” Bosdachin told Angelus News. “That’s the first major thing that impacts them — to see so many other Catholic youth all coming together in one place.”

She reminds them to pray through the experience — “for the people in that local diocese, and to pray for [their] needs and the needs of the greater Church.”

Before leaving for Krakow, Chelsea Chavarria, 17, said she was hoping to do just that and more. Most notably she looked forward to “meeting other youth that share common principles” and experiencing “a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.”

“Coming back from this trip, I hope to have a better relationship with God and [a better] understanding of my faith,” said Chavarria, noting that she tries to live out her Catholic faith by doing volunteer work in her church and community. 

For 21-year-old Amber Cavazos, a recent college graduate, Krakow will be her second WYD — an experience she’s eager to share with her younger brother and mother, who are both first timers, she said just days before traveling to Poland.

In her day-to-day life, “it can definitely be challenging to maintain my Catholic faith,” she admitted, “especially with all of the distractions in the world.”

“But I make sure that I remain involved in church activities and that I continue to live a life that does not seek to achieve material possessions and superficial statuses,” said Cavazos, who teaches confirmation and helps in both Life Teen and young adult programs. “These things not only keep me grounded to what is important, but also propel me to learn more about my Catholic faith, to help others grow and change their lives for the better.”

The theme of the 2016 World Youth Day is “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). St. John Paul II launched WYD — which is celebrated every two or three years — 30 years ago for Catholics ages 16 to 35.

To learn more about WYD, go to