The Story behind the Student Coordinator for the World Youth Day Pilgrimage

I first moved to Saint Mary's in August of 2013. I met my roommate online and after the two hours we chatted together in a Starbucks after my orientation, I was excited to live with her. We both went by Maddi(e), loved the color purple and Disney, and kept a coin jar on our desks, so to me it was pretty much destiny. After we were fully moved in together, I asked her if she was saving up for anything with her coin jar. She then excitedly revealed to me that after seeing the media for Pope Frances and Rio for the 2013 World Youth Day the month before, she wanted to experience it for herself in Krakow, Poland for the 2016 World Youth Day.

In the fall of 2014, Vince Nims, the Assistant Director of Liturgy, Prayer and Faith Formation at Saint Mary's asked then-sophomore Madison Chastain what she wanted to do to leave a legacy at Saint Mary’s before she graduated. Chastain, a Theology and Religious Studies (TRS) and English double major replied immediately, “I want to do World Youth Day.” Nims, who has previously been to five World Youth Days, agreed to help.

World Youth Day is an international gathering of Catholics aged 18 to 35 that is typically held every three years in a different country. It is seen as an event that will help young Catholics grow closer to Christ and their worldwide church community. The event offers Catholics the opportunity to “get together with the Pope to celebrate the church and vitality and spirit, and in this year, in particular, mercy,” Chastain explained.

Chastain has devoted the past two years of her life to working with Saint Mary’s to get this pilgrimage off the ground. “World Youth Day has been kind of my first big project, the first thing I can really look at and say ‘That, that thing is mine.’ Obviously World Youth Day as an institution is not mine, but the little seed that sprouted all this stuff, that was my idea,” she said.

The Saint Mary’s World Youth Day pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland is scheduled for July 17 to August 2. A group of 14 students and four faculty and staff will go. It is the first time that a Saint Mary’s group will attend World Youth Day. Over the spring semester, the pilgrims fundraised, including hosting a banquet on February 13, and they took a class with "the absolutely incredible Dr. Anne Carpenter," Chastain said. “Christian Pilgrimage” is a seminar-style class that focuses on why people go on pilgrimages, and how it connects to their current experience.

Chastain's proudest moment so far was the first day she walked into the class. "I was the last one in the room, and looked at everyone and was like, 'We're all here! This is us!' It was a really cool moment and in that moment I felt really, really proud because regardless of all the fundraising and everything that we are doing for Poland, there are 18 people who are going on this incredible spiritual journey and we get to do it together as an SMC community. And I made that happen."

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