Woman Featured in Viral WYD Photo Speaks-Out

The most recent World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, wrapped up a week ago. Although Pope Francis has touted the event as the best-organized World Youth Day to date, it was not without controversy. Most notably, a photo went viral on social media depicting several young Catholics kneeling before stacks of plastic storage bins in a small World Youth Day tent. Inside those bins was the Holy Eucharist. That which Catholics know to be the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ Himself was being displayed in plastic storage boxes, the sort in which one might keep off-season sweaters or an old Lego collection.

One of those young kneeling Catholics was pro-life speaker and podcaster Savannah Dudzik. The American Spectator had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Dudzik and discuss the controversial housing of the Blessed Sacrament, what Catholic youth really want, and whether Catholic leaders deliver.


The American Spectator: Savannah, thanks for making the time to talk. First of all, can you maybe just tell us a little bit about yourself: Who you are, what you do, and what your faith means to you?

Savannah Dudzik: Yes, so my name is Savannah; I live in Tampa, Florida, in the Tampa Bay area, and I work full time in the pro-life movement. I went to World Youth Day with — there were six of us total, so five of my friends from across America — and we went a few days early. We went about a week early to explore different sites like Fatima, Avila, different places where the saints walked. And then the last part of our trip was World Youth Day. I’ve been Catholic my whole life. When I was in high school, my parents started taking us to the Traditional Latin Mass. And I didn’t like it at first, you know, as is a lot of people’s experience. But the older I get, the more I realize that 1) young people are drawn to the Traditional Latin Mass when there’s a good community created in the parish. And when it’s explained to them, you know, when you know what’s going on, it’s the most appealing. 2) I think that it’s very important for us to continue to have this tradition in the Catholic Church that’s been around for thousands of years. I go to both English [Novus Ordo] and [Traditional] Latin Mass, so I’m not — you know, there’s a lot of people who’ve been saying that I was a plant from the traditional movement that they put there, which doesn’t really make any sense. I went to the whole World Youth Day. I loved World Youth Day. And yeah, I think World Youth Day as a whole was a wonderful experience because I was able to meet people of different cultures who were Catholic. It shows the universality of the Catholic Church. But I think that this event in particular, it wasn’t just a small thing. It’s an enormous disgrace. It’s disrespect for our Lord and God Jesus, and we need to be treating it as such.

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The American Spectator: That brings me to my second question. There’s a photo that’s gone viral on social media showing you and your friends kneeling in front of what seems to be stacks of plastic storage containers in a tent at World Youth Day, which, as you just explained, you attended with some friends. Can you tell us the story behind this photo?

Savannah Dudzik: Yes. This was Saturday night. We were at Campo de Greco and it was the vigil night. So there was worship and praise music, everybody was dancing, praying, singing. And we were headed back to our campsite. And on the way back to our campsite, we saw people kneeling next to — it looked like people were kneeling and praying to these plastic boxes. At first I thought people were praying to this plant because there was this plant on top of the plastic boxes. And obviously it’s not like this. That doesn’t make any sense. You know, Catholics don’t pray to plastic boxes or plants or Mary, unlike what some people might think. But when I went past that, I asked one of the people praying what they were doing and they said, “Jesus is in there.” And I realized at that point — and we got it confirmed later — that, um, that it was Adoration. That was how they were displaying, that was how they were displaying Jesus for Adoration. I was very upset, but we decided to go back and instead of, as some people might decide to do, instead of protest or cause a big fit, we decided to just pray. Because it is Jesus, even though He’s displayed in this terrible way. Anyway, that was the end of that. And we kind of thought that was the end of that. We went back to what we were doing afterwards. Obviously, I was disturbed and I actually took one picture, but I wasn’t going to, I didn’t want to post it anywhere. I didn’t want to, because I was sad that this was how they were displaying Adoration at World Youth Day. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that way, because that picture started going viral. And I realized that this is an opportunity, you know, this is an opportunity for us to talk about a few things, to talk about the fact that young people do have their Christian Catholic faith; it’s still alive. Young people do still want to be praying. We do still want to have a relationship with God. But also the fact that in the Catholic Church, there’s a need for a return to tradition. There’s a lot of liturgical abuses going on. This is not the only one, but this is an example of a liturgical abuse that, when shown to the whole world, people are like, “What the heck was going on?” So many. I’ve gotten messages from dozens of priests saying: “Thank you, thank you for praying. This is a disgrace. I can’t believe they did that at World Youth Day.” So I think that this is a message, and I did email the bishops and the organizers of World Youth Day and even the Vatican, and I have gotten zero response about this. So I hope that they reach out and make some sort of a statement apologizing. But until then, I’m going to continue to talk about it and talk about how wrong it was.

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