Celebrating faith


Journal Entry No. 5

Cardinal Dolan makes appearance

KRAKOW, Poland (Sunday, July 31) – Friday morning we traveled across town on the tram to go to catechesis in English. The speaker that day was Cardinal Dolan from New York. I love him, so it was really exciting to see him in person.

He gave a great talk about kindness to others. He said that Americans really like to re-gift so we should start re-gifting our mercy. That really stuck with me. Then we celebrated Mass. It was really nice to have everything in English. 

We ate lunch at the arena, and then we split into groups. Most went back to the hostel and on to Błonia Park for evening Way of the Cross. A small group of us stayed back for small group sessions.

I went to "Biology of Theology of the Body." It was incredible.

Then our little group got lost on the tram going to the park because I'm totally directionally challenged, but we made new friends who helped us. The blessing was that we walked right up where the Pope was driving by -- very quickly, I might add.

But the kids were excited to be that close to him. 

Stations were all in various languages, but they had provided us books with English to follow along. The crowd at that event was even larger than the night before. The street was lined with locals who didn't have tickets but wanted to pray with the Pope. The Holy Spirit was definitely at work. Where two or three are gathered...

- Mrs. Dena Kinsey

Journal Entry No. 4

Putting it all in perspective

KRAKOW, Poland (Friday, July 29) – We returned this morning to Schindler's Factory Museum, which covered all of Krakow's struggles during both the World Wars.

World War II, I thought, destroyed the city. But the five-year Nazi occupation in Krakow only destroyed the insides of churches and homes. It is really so sad and yet so amazing that God could pull St. Pope John Paul II from that devastation. He definitely is a beloved saint here.

Many saints have come from here, and that just touches my soul. This country has always had God.

There is an unbelievable amount of people here! I have people in my space constantly. I'm not a fan of people in my bubble, but it is what it is.

We went to the welcoming ceremony with the Pope. He didn't drive by where we were sitting, but a few of our kids managed to get close to his Pope mobile. They were beside themselves.

In the struggles of a difficult flight situation, tired people away from home, schedule changes, no air conditioning (this is big), the moment I saw these young people tremble and cry because they were so excited to be with the man who joyfully leads our Church, I knew it was all worth it.

It was in that moment that I felt the Holy Spirit working. The path to God is never easy, but the rewards are great. I'm blessed to be able to do this with them.

Part of World Youth Day tradition is to exchange symbols of your country with people from other countries. We brought U.S.A. and red, white, and blue bracelets, flag bandanas and the favorite "hater shades" (cheap plastic sunglasses).

There has been more fun talking and trading than I could imagine. The country relic collection hunt was fierce, and they loved every minute of it. My sophomores are already asking me when and where the next one is and when we’ll start planning on it. Like I could turn them down right after I saw the Pope. They knew what they were doing.

- Mrs. Dena Kinsey 


Journal Entry No. 3

Oskar Schindler made a difference

KRAKOW (Wednesday, July 27, 2016) – Today was a fabulous day.

We slept in a little, and then we had a wonderful tour guide who took us around the Jewish sector and out by Oskar Schindler's factory. Schindler, of “Schindler’s List” fame, was a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party credited with saving the lives of about 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

At the beginning of the war, 75,000 Jewish people lived in that area. 65,000 were murdered in some horrific form or fashion by the Nazis. A monument has been established in the Jewish Ghetto with 65 chairs. They stand in the area where the survivors of the ghetto were sent to Plaszow, which was the concentration camp Shindler's factory used for free labor.

Those were also the people who ended up on his most famous list. 

There was one pharmacy in the ghetto run by a Catholic man. He helped the Jews in many ways despite his instructions not to. He documented what went on, and he wrote a book called "Pharmacy in the Ghetto." I understand the book tells of unspeakable horrors in the torture of those people whose only crime was to be a person of faith and heritage.

Poland at that time had the second largest population of Jews in the world. Now only 600 remain. 

The kids have been total troopers. They have bent when necessary, even with lost luggage, and they've not complained. They keep moving.

We went to the youth concert tonight, but it was so crowded that we weren't able to get in. At first, we were a bit disturbed. But we found a lovely restaurant near the hostel where it was only locals. We sat at tables and were waited on in a lovely quiet place.

Divine intervention. It was just what we needed. 

The weather here is hot, much like Mississippi. I miss air conditioning, ice in my tea, and bathrooms that I don't have to share with five other people. But I have found new friends to laugh with. And I've met some very interesting people from Poland who stop me and ask questions about where we're from, etc. I love that they do that!

Remembering France again in our prayers along with all our family and friends. The Holy Spirit is strong here, and I'm grateful.

- Mrs. Dena Kinsey


Journal Entry No. 2

Auschwitz: A sobering experience

KRAKOW, Poland (Tuesday, July 26, 2016) - Auschwitz was sobering. Right now there are only buildings, but the stories of the people who suffered there are heart wrenching.

One man said that each person had a bowl that was used for soup, washing, and the restroom. The disease there was horrendous, and now I fully understand why. If a bowl was broken, then there was no food for that person. To lose your bowl was to lose your life.

We also toured Birkenau. It was much larger than the first camp. And the barracks were made of wood instead of concrete, so the living conditions were significantly more brutal. The crematory also was 50 percent more productive. 

Opening Mass for the World Youth Day was uplifting and beautiful. It rained heavily right until Mass began. The rain stopped and a small opening formed to let the sun shine on the altar. I still have chills thinking about it.

How awesome to be in the midst of around 500,000 people from all around the world who believe the exact same thing that we did. Our God is an awesome God. 

- Mrs. Dena Kinsey


Journal Entry No. 1

Travel to Europe leaves everyone exhausted

KRAKOW, Poland (Tuesday, July 26, 2016) - We're exhausted. The travel has been brutal.

Our flight to Amsterdam was canceled, so we were rerouted to Paris. But we couldn't all get on the same flight to Prague, where we met the bus that drove us 8 hours to Kraków. Six of our group were forced to spend the night in Paris and flew directly to Kraków. Eight people didn't have their luggage arrive with them.

But this is a pilgrimage. The right path is always full of obstacles. 

We missed our tour of the JPII museum, but we got some much needed rest. We embarked on a walking tour of Kraków yesterday afternoon. That was fun. Lots of shops and the beautiful Saint Mary's, where JPII used to say mass and hear confessions.

In another church, we saw one of the nails used on Christ's cross. Incredible! 

This is a beautiful city in a beautiful country, and I'm glad to be able to be here. Today, we head to Auschwitz -- where no matter what struggles we experience here, nothing compares to the suffering of those poor souls. 

- Mrs. Dena Kinsey

Mrs. Kinsey is accompanying Jackson Catholic youth, including a group of students from Saint Joseph Catholic School, to World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland.