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Bishop Paul Sirba: World Youth Day promises to be an overflowing of mercy

Saint Paul tells us: “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

Three years ago in Rio de Janeiro, the site of this year’s Olympics, Pope Francis offered the world’s youth something bigger than sports. He said Jesus “offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, ‘to get in shape,’ so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith.”

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

I write today in anticipation of World Youth Day in Krakow Poland. I will catch a flight this evening with pilgrims from our diocese, and we will join more than 40,000 youth from the United States. When we reach Poland, we will add our number to the millions of young people from around the world striving to do what the Pope has asked, “getting in shape,” as we build up our faith in Jesus!

I’m not sure our group includes any elite athletes, but we carry in our bodies and in our hearts a precious treasure — Jesus. To symbolize this, since 1984 the World Youth Day Cross and an icon of the Blessed Virgin are entrusted to the youth from host country to host country.

The cross is the symbol of the love of Jesus Christ for humanity. We are called to announce to everyone our love of Jesus, and that only in His death and resurrection can we find salvation and redemption. The icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary teaches us that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and accompanied by His Mother in history. Mary is ever close to us.

I was privileged to be present at World Youth Day in Rio when the Cross and icon were entrusted to the youth from Poland. Along with Father Tony Wroblewski, our seminarians, Heather Serena and some extraordinary youth leaders and youths from our diocese, we will be present when the next World Youth Day will be announced and the Cross and icon entrusted to the next host country’s youth and to us.

I hope you have had an opportunity to follow us on our blog site or the World Youth Day website. We will also strive to tell the story of our experiences in Krakow and share our faith in Jesus when we return.

This year’s World Youth Day takes place within the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the city where St. John Paul conceived the idea of World Youth Day. God’s mercy, I believe, will be overflowing. Our group will be holding you and all of your intentions as we are on pilgrimage. I pray God’s abundant mercy upon our beloved Diocese. Jesus I trust in you!

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth. Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.