Jeff Jakubowski arrived home from World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, on Aug. 24. His luggage did not, however, and was still in London the next day. Even lost luggage and a few other traveling setbacks didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Jakubowski and his 11 traveling companions, most of whom belong to the Newman Catholic Community at the University of Rochester.
The 12 local World Youth Day pilgrims left the Rochester International Airport Aug. 13 and arrived in Germany 27 hours and four flights later, said Holly Chesebrough, a member of the Newman Catholic Community. Part of the delay was due to a two-day strike by ground workers at British Airways, the airline the pilgrims were originally scheduled to take, she said.
These sacrifices were but a small price to pay for the privilege of being a part of World Youth Day 2005 and being near Pope Benedict XVI, she noted.
“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” she said.
Pope John Paul II began World Youth Day in Rome in the mid-1980s, and since then hundreds of thousands of young people have gathered at each event to mingle with other Catholics from around the globe, to be near the pope and to hear his message.
Both Chesebrough and Jakubowski had heard good things about previous World Youth Day trips and wanted to experience it for themselves this year, they said. Chesebrough had been excited about being in the presence of Pope John Paul II when she first began planning for her trip, but was just as excited about being a part of Pope Benedict’s first World Youth Day, she said.
The pope told the young people he was glad they’d come together for the event and spoke at length about peace, she said. Jakubowski was also curious to find out what Pope Benedict “is all about.” After listening to the pope speak, he returned to Rochester with a changed set of priorities.
“The main message that I could see was … to kind of refocus our lives around the truths of the church and the beliefs of the church as a whole,” Jakubowski said.
Pope Benedict spoke about how the church is often viewed as a consumer product in today’s society. Catholics sometimes pick and choose which parts of church teaching fit their lifestyles instead of molding their lifestyles to fit church teachings, Jakubowski said. The pope said that if young adults prioritize religion and making a difference over money and careers, the latter two will most likely fall into place, he said.
One of the trip’s high points for Chesebrough was watching the pope’s car pass by her group as he entered Cologne.
“His car was going quite fast, but he saw our group and he waved to us,” she said.
Chesebrough was also impressed by the friendly, family atmosphere of the event, and Jakubowski noted that the pilgrims in general seemed more good-natured and patient than he’d expected.
“The train system there was absolutely crowded with people and packed, and in any situation other than that I believe there would have been a lot more problems,” he said.
In particular, pilgrims within the Rochester contingent seemed to quickly form close friendships, Chesebrough said.
“I’d say by the end of the 27 hours of traveling we were all pretty tight, and that just strengthened during the trip,” she said.