As millions of Catholics from all over the world gathered in
Kraków, Poland, for the vigil Mass with Pope Francis,
halfway around the world more than 1,200 Catholic youths
arrived at Catholic University to participate in the second
World Youth Day in DC event July 30. Organizers provided
guests with a full day of prayer, inspirational talks and
sacraments, not to mention pierogis, paczki and Polish music
The event, called Kraków in the Capital, was started
in 2013 after unforeseen circumstances left the Archdiocese
of Washington Youth Office without tickets to World Youth Day
"We decided to host an event locally for those who did not
have the resources or capability to travel abroad," said
Jonathan Lewis, Director of Young Adult Ministry and
Evangelization Initiatives for the Archdiocese of Washington.
"We called it Rio in DC and had 500 people show up, speaking
to the need and desire of young people to celebrate World
Youth Day in solidarity with the Holy Father."
Three years later the Archdiocese started planning the event
a year in advance and worked closely with a number of
catholic groups to the area to host the event. Co-hosts
included the Arlington Diocese, Archdiocese of Baltimore,
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception,
Catholic University of America, Saint John Paul II National
Shrine and Dominican House of Studies.
The Kraków in the Capital event started in the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
for opening prayer. During the service, Auxiliary Bishop of
the Archdiocese of Washington Mario E. Dorsonville joined the
pilgrims praying the Divine Mercy chaplet, parts of which
were recited in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese and
Following the service, attendees made their way to breakout
sessions offered at Catholic University and the St. John Paul
II Shrine. Topics ranged from how to form community as young
adults to encountering Christ through the corporal and
spiritual works of mercy. There were tracks available for
Spanish-speaking pilgrims, as well as sessions for deaf
pilgrims and those with disabilities.
A large group gathered in the Great Room in the Pryzbyla
Center to hear a panel discussion about growing in holiness
where God calls you in your vocation. One of the panelists
was Sister Clare Hunter, director of Arlington's Respect Life
"St. Francis looked where he was and he started with the rock
in front of him," said Sister Clare. "During this time of
violence and crime, see yourself as an agent of
reconciliation. Listen to others."
Throughout the event, pilgrims were invited to peruse the
vendor tables in the Pryzbyla Center. Rachel Wiener, who came
with a group from Christendom College in Front Royal led by
Father Stephen F. McGraw, spoke with several vendors.
"There was one for the St. Francis Xavier Lay Missionary
Society that I was excited about because I have been called
to the missionary field," said Wiener. The rising senior
hopes to do missionary work in China after graduation.
One of the big draws of World Youth Day is the opportunity to
meet Catholics from all over the world and experience the
global universality of the church. While World Youth Day in
DC could not provide that experience on as large a scale, it
was successful in bringing young Catholics together from all
over the country while also reconnecting old friends.
Having the Pope John Paul II Shrine within walking distance
held special meaning for Elizabeth Leader who was baptized by
the saint in Rome.
"I was really impressed," she said. "It helps you get into
the moments of his life before and after being pope and helps
to provide a historical and biographical context. Then you
are able to go and pray in the chapel and appreciate the
shrine as a whole."
For the closing of Kraków in the Capital, Washington
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington led
the pilgrims in the Stations of the Cross and Mass. Cardinal
Wuerl encouraged the pilgrims to reach out with the love of
Christ to their peers saying, "You will be more successful at
reaching (them) than the older generation. They are not
looking at me. They are looking at you."
World Youth Day 2019 will be held in Panama.