Trip has Roanoke man thinking direction change

Trey Sorg, of Roanoke, stands in front of a cathedral that was built in the 1300s in the town of Częstochowa, one of the places he visited during his pilgrimage to Poland for Catholic World Youth Day.
Trey Sorg, of Roanoke, stands in front of a cathedral that was built in the 1300s in the town of Częstochowa, one of the places he visited during his pilgrimage to Poland for Catholic World Youth Day. Photo provided.

Originally published Aug. 14, 2016.

A once-in-a-lifetime trip abroad that fostered a life-changing experience for a young Roanoke man this summer may also result in a change in his life’s occupation — working full time for God.

Trey Sorg is playing soccer this week, participating in pre-season games for his college, Holy Cross in South Bend. The incoming freshman left straight for college after he returned from a trip to Poland, where he participated in the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day.

He joined about 135 pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who traveled to Krakow, Poland, to participate in the event with Pope Francis July 26 through 31. More than two million people worldwide were expected to attend, including 40,000 Americans.

Sorg says he will forever be changed by the experience.

“The trip was the best thing that’s happened in my life so far,” he explains. “I got to go to a bunch of different churches, cathedrals and just holy places where I could really witness God on earth. It was really great. I got to meet so many wonderful people.”

After landing in Warsaw, Sorg visited several landmarks and religious sites during his pilgrimage to Poland, including St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, the church of martyred Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko; Wadowice, the birthplace of St. John Paul II; and German concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where millions lost their lives during World War II.

“It was really hard for me to deal with it at first, because I didn’t know how to feel because there was just so much hate and anger and evil that took place there,” he says of Auschwitz. “But at the same time, I was very interested in history, so I had really mixed feelings.

“It was very hard to wrap my head around how evil people can be, and see this place where these people were just slaughtered. … It was a very somber place, and it really makes you change your perspective on how you live and how things can change in an instant.”

Sorg says one of his favorite experiences was hearing the address from Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, of Boston, delivered after the group visited the concentration camp.

“He gave a Mass going from the darkest of evil to just light on earth, and it was just a pretty amazing thing,” he remembers.

Sorg heard Pope Francis speak three times during World Youth Day events, calling him a wonderful speaker. He says the pope impressed upon him how important young people are to the church.

“We need to reinvigorate the world with mercy and love, because, as the Catholic Church, he wants the youth to not be, as he said, ‘couch potatoes,’” Sorg says. “He just wanted us to go out there and be the face of mercy for the world, and show people God’s love and mercy on earth through our actions.”

The spiritual experience of the trip has changed his life drastically, Sorg says. Before he went to Poland, he would attend church every Sunday with his family, and it was good. Since coming back from his trip, however, his faith and relationship with God has deepened dramatically. He has taken to heart the exhortation to live a more holy life.

“Now I have such a greater appreciation for the little things of my faith,” he says. “Now I go to the Church at Holy Cross every day for like an hour and a half and I pray, and I just sit there in God’s presence.

“Once school starts and soccer slows down a bit, I’m going to go to daily Mass as much as I can.”

Sorg’s career goal has been to attend Notre Dame’s law school after he graduates from Holy Cross College. However, he says he is now drawn to the priesthood, giving him a distinctive choice of what to do with his life.

“I’m praying on it right now,” he adds.

In the meantime, Sorg plans to continue playing on the men’s soccer team, attending classes and being a college student, but with a new outlook on life.

“If people haven’t heard of (World Youth Day), I think they should definitely look into it, because it will definitely change your life for the better, I think,” he says.

The next World Youth Day pilgrimage is planned for 2019 in Panama. Official dates have not yet been announced. More information on the event can be found online at wyd.catholicpilgrimoffice.com/.