Huge banners of Polish saints — St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska — hung in the massive Mercy Center at the Tauron Arena where nearly 20,000 pilgrims gathered for English-language Mass, talks, catechesis and adoration.

Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley kicked off the day by addressing pilgrims about personal vocation and celebrating Mass. Of the thousands of pilgrims attending the Mass, the group from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels received communion from Cardinal O’Malley.

Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Mercy Center offered pilgrims 15 breakout sessions following the Mass about a range of topics from religious freedom, theology of the body and vocations.  

“Being yourself and being who God is calling you to be is in itself holy and can lead to sainthood,” said Jeffrey Roxas, 19, a second-year seminarian at Juan Diego House, about his favorite talk of the day called, Friendship with a Saint. “A couple shared about their lifelong friendship with St. John Paul II and spoke of him as a regular person who loved telling jokes and hiking. They said that St. John Paul II never changed even as he became a priest, bishop and pope.”

The arena roared as thousands of pilgrims from the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia cheered while watching the livestream as Pope Francis touching down in Krakow, marking his first time on Polish soil.

The day’s events culminated with a night of adoration, prayer, teaching and song. XLT by Life Teen featured Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles serving the Santa Barbara Pastoral Region, Life Teen’s Joel Stepanek and music by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad.

“I saw the youth in my group transform before my very eyes — it was like seeing hope and life being fed into their souls,” said Sandra Lopez, youth leader at Mary Immaculate Church in Pacoima. “Our group experienced a lot of challenges and hardships to get to WYD and this moment during adoration at the XLT event made all of our hard work worth it.” 

Adrian Marquez is the Director of Media Relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a WYD 2016 pilgrim.