“What makes a volunteer dedicate his/her life to others? First of all, the innate movement of the heart that inspires every human being to help his fellow man… A volunteer experiences a joy that goes far beyond what he has done when he succeeds in giving himself freely to others.
Through volunteer work the Christian becomes a witness of this divine charity; he proclaims it and makes it tangible with courageous and prophetic contributions.” Thus wrote Saint John Paul II in his message on the occasion of the International Year of Volunteer Work (December 2001). His words are put into practice by twenty-four-year-old Marzena Wójcicka from Poland , a licentiate in theology and an Erasmus in Malta, coordinator of the group of international volunteers for the World Youth Day in Krakow (25 to 31 July 2016). A population of young people from all over the world has chosen to dedicate themselves to the pilgrims – two million expected in Poland – in order to enable them to fully enjoy the WYD.
“Indeed”, she said determinedly, “the WYD can also be lived inside a warehouse, behind a desk or in the middle of a street by providing assistance to those who need it, maybe glancing at the screens set up near us, trying to capture Pope Francis’ words and gestures.”
“Where there are pilgrims there will be volunteers”, underlined Marzena with a big smile, seemingly concealing her just concerns in view of a demanding commitment. In fact, as many as 25 thousand volunteers will be present for the WYD in Krakow, 3 thousand of whom will be arriving from world countries. For them the WYD program envisages a meeting with Pope Francis, which I’m sure will compensate them for their efforts.”
Nothing is left to improvisation. For this reason international volunteers must meet specific requirements: they must be of age, know foreign languages – there are 9 official WYD languages, including Russian and Ukrainian – be “open and communicative”, and possibly have already done volunteer work in previous WYDs or other organizations, movements or communities. But all of them must “be guided by the deep desire to serve God, and their fellow men and women.” This has also been the experience of Marzena: “I was a pilgrim in Madrid, a volunteer in Rio and now in Krakow I will put my experience at the service of others.” International volunteers will follow a one-week training course during which, in addition to being informed on their responsibilities, they will visit, just like the pilgrims arriving in July, the key-sites of the upcoming WYD, that include the shrine of the Divine Mercy, the Marian shrine of Częstochowa and the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Special relevance is given to spiritual formation, which already involves selected volunteers arriving from Europe, Vietnam, New Zealand and South America. Themes for monthly reflections are sent to the youths who then share them on social networks. “The group of long-term volunteers who have been actively engaged in the organizing Committee for the past year – the coordinator said – gather daily for the Angelus prayer and for the Eucharistic adoration.” One of the aspects that are most dear to Marzena is
“the welcome and assistance to pilgrims with disabilities. We still don’t know their exact numbers, but we’re determined to offer them our full support and assistance.”
We intend to provide also the young disabled with the possibility of participating as volunteers.”
Fruits of joy. “Those will be challenging days for everyone”, Marzena pointed out.
“However, the WYD won’t finish at the end of the week. It will continue also after our return home.
I don’t know whether I will be returning to Malta to pursue further the study of English or if I will decide to stay in Poland. The WYD will also serve this purpose, to better understand which future paths we want to undertake. I believe it will be the same for the millions of young people attending the event.”
Also Krakow “will no longer be the same.”
“There is some concern in the city for the arrival of the pilgrims”, added the young coordinator. “Krakow is not as big as Rio de Janeiro. However, we are working in parishes to inform the local population on the WYD, on the program and the scheduled events, in order to be better prepared for the reception of pilgrims and to overcome inevitable hurdles that might arise. Those will be days of celebrations for everyone, also thanks to Pope Francis.” “A volunteer worker experiences a joy that goes far beyond what he has done when he succeeds in giving himself freely to others”, wrote Saint John Paul II. It is the same joy that Marzena hopes the WYD will instil throughout Krakow and Poland. “Young people will be arriving from all over the world. Many of them live their faith with suffering, strength and with joy. I hope that joy will be felt by everyone and that it will spread across Poland and through the whole of Europe, we are in such need of it.”