By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
Participating in World Youth Day was like being on a retreat, Bishop McManus said last week after returning from his July 25-Aug. 1 trip to Poland.
“I was just so impressed by the quality of the faith of the young people, their exuberance, their joy,” and there were “no arrests, no fights, no destruction of people’s property,” he said.
“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “For me one of the highlights was the opportunity to serve as a bishop catechist.”
There were 800 bishops there and 300 were chosen to be catechists, 13 of them American bishops, Bishop McManus said. He said he found out about two weeks before World Youth Day that he was to be a catechist; he received a letter from Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko in Rome, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which oversees World Youth Day.
Bishop McManus said he found out the location of each day’s catechesis a day ahead of time.
The overall theme was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, (Mt 5:7)” and each day there was a specific theme, he said.
On July 27 the theme was: “Now is the time for mercy,” he said. About 500 Nigerians came to his catechesis at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in a suburb of Krakow, a parish with 10 priests and 26,000 parishioners. His group met in the basement and two bishops from Belarus gave catecheses upstairs.
After they prayed the rosary, Bishop McManus did a half hour of teaching, there was a half-hour question-and-answer period, then a break and confessions. He was main celebrant for the Mass, which included two Nigerian archbishops, 50 Nigerian priests and a Nigerian choir. Many people also wanted their photo taken with the bishop.
Bishop McManus marveled at the hospitality of the Polish people. He and the other clergy were given lunch with the priests of the parish at which they were teaching.
The July 28 theme was: “Let us allow ourselves to be touched by God’s mercy,” Bishop McManus said. A Polish seminarian drove him to the mountains. He gave catechesis to 150 people from California and some English-speaking Polish young people in the 250-year-old Holy Trinity church, with a crucifix people said was from the 14th century. (A photo is posted on www.facebook.com/woopope.)
They began with “animation” (singing), then catechesis, questions and answers, confessions and Mass.
Again, he was amazed by the hospitality. The one priest stationed at the parish invited him and the young people – about 160 in all – to lunch.
July 29, Bishop McManus said, he gave catechesis to young people involved with the lay association Juventutem, who are “attached to the extraordinary form Mass.” They met in a Baroque church in downtown Krakow (the old city).
“The place was jammed,” Bishop McManus said. Anyone who spoke English could come.
Archbishop Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C., auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, celebrated the solemn high pontifical Mass. Bishop McManus said he had not seen a Mass like that since 1967, when he was in seminary in Providence.
Bishop McManus got to see a contingent from the Worcester Diocese briefly at a prayer service for Americans held July 27. He said he told them he was proud of them for coming, that it was a great experience for them to see the universality of the Church and the fire of faith in those present.
On July 30 Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Ky., president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the main celebrant of a Mass for Americans, Bishop McManus said. Pilgrims from the Worcester Diocese attended.
Bishop McManus said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, of Bridgeport, Conn., liaison between the USCCB and the World Youth Day Committee in Poland, gave one of the best homilies he’s heard. He said Bishop Caggiano told the youth they had had a mountaintop experience like the Transfigura-tion of Christ, but just as important would be when they returned home; they should share the experience of faith they had at World Youth Day. He told them everyone is called to be a saint, and used as examples Pope John Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe and Mother Teresa.
At World Youth Day opening and closing Masses there was an 80-piece orchestra and a several-hundred-voice choir, Bishop McManus said, praising the music.
At the closing Mass he looked out from staging for Pope Francis and the bishops and saw the vast crowd of people and the Door of Mercy, he said. He said the Pope gave a magnificent homily about Zacchaeus and announced that the next World Youth Day – in 2019 – will be in Panama. (The Pope’s homily was published in the Aug. 5 edition of The Catholic Free Press.)
There had been speculation about where the next World Youth Day would be held; Korea and Atlanta were two rumors, he said. Some Panamanians apparently knew ahead of time, because they were seated in a section below the bishops. When the Pope announced that their country had been chosen, there was “pandemonium,” Bishop McManus said.