By Dennis Sadowski
KRAKOW, Poland — If it wasn’t Michel Zak’s smile that World Youth Day pilgrims noticed as they arrived at Krakow’s John Paul II Airport, they were sure to see the enormous baby blue foam hand he was waving.
Zak, 25, who lives in France, wanted to make sure the first impression the pilgrims had was positive, and if it took waving a strange looking hand, so be it.
One of a crew of 70 young adult volunteers welcoming people from around the world to World Youth Day, Zak said he had been helping French-speaking people communicate with their Polish hosts. He said it was a way to live out his faith in a diverse world.
Volunteers were easy to spot and not just for their smiles. They wore bright blue polo shirts with a large “V” emblazoned on the back in white; a small World Youth Day logo was on the front.
Jacinta Ching of Sydney was handing out single-decade rosaries made of bright red and gold rings and a reproduction of the cross St. John Paul II carried throughout his priesthood.
“Seeing all the people coming in sure gives a lot of excitement,” said Ching, 26, who works in the treasury department for New South Wales. “It’s really cool to be here as the world is coming here. Coming here from a secular country and every couple of blocks you have a Catholic church in a country that is unapologetically Catholic is inspiring.”
The volunteers included young adults from Belgium, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, New Zealand and elsewhere. Several said they wanted to step up because World Youth Day doesn’t happen every year.
Paulina Tempinska, 20, of Krakow, who is studying law at Jagiellonian University, said she found the time volunteering — 10 hours and counting July 24 — worthwhile.
“I love helping people. I love to see how they react. I love to see their emotions. I feel so blessed when I help them. I also want to meet people who believe in God,” she said before returning to the information booth to answer questions from pilgrims.
Jeanne Danson, 29, of Switzerland explained that her reason for volunteering focused on her faith and returning something to the church, especially when her life is filled with work requirements.
Danson, a pilgrim to World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero in 2013, said she wanted to see what it was like working “from the inside” to see what was going on. What she said she found was God working on the inside.
“That’s the mystery of these days. There’s so many individuals really. We’re all here for Jesus. God is so big. God is so vast. When you listen to people and even if they live so far away, God lives in their lives. God is everywhere.”
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