Just back from Krakow, I would like to provide you with news of our magnificent experience distributing the book Love is giving everything at the WYD.
The request of the WYD Management Committee had been to send the books to the Polish dioceses for the catechism which preceded the days in Krakow. We had received the list of the 41 dioceses which had accepted to welcome youngsters, with the number of inscriptions in each language. Furthermore, we were commissioned to distribute the book in Blonia Park, the meeting place for the first four days, and at the Saint Jean-Paul II Sanctuary, where all the pilgrims passed by during the week. Following months of negotiations, the WYD Management Committee had obtained exemption of VAT for the transport of the books, all addressed to the Archbishop of Krakow.
It was in this way we prepared one million books for Poland in twelve languages: about 550,000 for the dioceses and 450,000 for Krakow. The logistical work of consignment and transport was magnificently carried out by Schumacher Ltd, our bookbinder. Their logistician even went to the site twice before the WYD to resolve matters with the Polish transporter. On our side, we continued our campaign of collecting money and we made preparations for the 45 team members who were going to distribute the books: accommodation reservations, transport organization, allocation of tasks and places and links with the WYD Management Committee. And, we had regular calls from the Vatican asking us how things were progressing. Through his closest collaborators, Pope Francis followed the process closely and gave a hand when we found ourselves stuck in a dead end.
In my case, I left for Krakow on 20th July to put everything in place before the arrival of the group, planned for Monday 25th July. Worries there were: problems of material, transport, controversy about the distribution sites, loss of identity cards, etc. Finally, solutions were found to all these difficulties and I was ready to greet our collaborators: nuns, clergy, lay persons, young people, less young people, believers, people seeking God. This little crowd gathered together for a Eucharist at the hotel in order to be sent on a mission, a mission of joy and of service. Each person was summoned to spread the message of the joy of the Gospel, the joy of a consecrated life, with all of their being, all of their strength, all of their enthusiasm following what the Holy Spirit had told them. There were no precise instructions for the distribution, merely to follow the Spirit’s voice.
Dressed in costumes with T-shirts and orange baseball caps, we began the distribution of the book on the Tuesday morning, at the time announced. We had to find our feet, be jostled, and show a degree of flexibility following encounters, unforeseen events, waves of crowds and calm moments. We had to learn how to manage crowds, to organize ourselves, and to gradually recognize where the youngsters came from in order to offer them the book in the appropriate language. At the Saint Jean-II Sanctuary, we made the mistake of placing only books in Polish, thinking that the young Poles would all go there. But, in fact, the Poles let the youngsters from other countries go to the sanctuary as they reckoned they could visit the Sanctuary at other moments. Because of this, we distributed few editions there, but made excellent contacts with the young everywhere. For my part, I was deeply touched by an exchange with a Syrian novice, who was having to complete her novitiate in Lebanon, as her community had been driven from Damascus and Alep. All the Syrians wore white T-shirts on which it was written in black: “Peace is possible”.
At Blonia, more and more people converged as the hours and the days advanced. On the Tuesday evening, after the opening mass presided by Cardinal Dziwisz, I went up onto the podium with four other nuns and clergymen to present the book to the assembly. During all of this time, we often thought about the parable of the sower. We gave without knowing whether the ground would bear fruit to the message. Occasionally, we found copies of the book on the road, we took them back to redistribute, having confidence in the Holy Spirit who guides all hearts. Our mission was to “give everything” through love. We also received a great deal of recognition, of thanks, of questions and sharing of life experiences that we bore in prayer. There were young Romanians who took copies of the book for their compatriots who were unable to come, young people from countries at war or from dictatorial regimes who were there officially as tourists, yet in fact more like pilgrims than the others.
Sharing the WYD Experience
The last day, Friday, was a wonderful day. Everyone was at Blonia to distribute the book after the stations of the cross, which were so well led and commented on by Pope Francis. There was an enormous crowd, more than a million people. We had established ourselves and had widely spread the message of the joy of a consecrated life to young people who were joyful, sober, full of healthy enthusiasm, friendly and radiant.
On the Saturday evening, as we had decided not to go to the all-night celebration because it was too far to transport the books, we celebrated an end-of-mission Eucharist at the hotel – just ourselves. Each one shared with the others how he or she had experienced the week, describing what had moved him or her and how he or she had “loved and given everything”. It was a very moving, authentic moment, full of truth and reception of the others. We concluded our week in the paten and the chalice, confident in Jesus of the growth and ripening of our little contribution to His mission.
Back Home to the Sound of an Alpine Horn
On the Sunday morning, the coach was waiting for the distributors at 9 o’clock and to the sound of an Alpine horn provided by our logistician, the group took to the road again for the 23-hour journey home. The logistician and I remained behind until the following Tuesday to sort out various things and settle the accounts. The distribution of the books in the dioceses went well and in Krakow we gave out 225,000 books in 4 days. The stocks in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian and Italian were all used up. There were a few Russian copies left that we gave to the highly devoted Daughters of Charity for their communities in Russia, a small number in Romanian, which were sent to Romania via a priest who had come to Krakow; and a few in Croatian which are going to be sent to the Ingenbohl Sisters in Croatia with the rest of the German and Vietnamese copies. There were still some books in Polish but takers were easily found: at the Saint Jean-Paul II Sanctuary, where The Year of Mercy pilgrims continue to converge, and in various religious communities and parishes indicated by our two major collaborators in Krakow: Father Marek, a Jesuit, and Katarzyna, the Polish translator of the book.
And it All Begins…
Before leaving Poland, we went to say thank you and goodbye to Father Gregory, the General Secretary of the WYD organization. His work had been titanic and, overall, everything had gone well. Security was noteworthy, strict and friendly; movement management had been well thought out, almost entirely with the aim of avoiding crushes; the atmosphere was calm and serene, joyful and profound. The youngsters had heard words which made sense, words which spoke directly to them, concerned them and affected them.
Yet another phone call from the Vatican to Daniel to thank and congratulate him. And the real WYDs begin with everyday life where each of us is called to demonstrate the faith that he has been able to nourish and deepen. At Krakow airport, there was a young South American, with his bag of books on his shoulder, ready to fulfil his mission. On my return, a young French girl telephoned me to tell me she had lost her book which she had received at the WYD and asked how she could obtain another one. A bookshop ordered some copies for Latin America, a young Spaniard is trying to find a way to buy one in Spain.
The seed is sown. May the Holy Spirit enable it to grow and mature copiously.
Yes, really, as it was written on our T-shirts: “Love is giving everything”.
Sister Anne-Véronique Rossi