Maciej Szymon Cieśla, a graphic designer for World Youth Day, died before getting to meet Pope Francis.

Maciej Szymon Cieśla, a graphic designer for World Youth Day, died before getting to meet Pope Francis.

You may not know his name, but you probably have seen his work.

If you’re at World Youth Day in Poland this week, or have been following the coverage, you’ve probably seen the blue, red and yellow graphic designs of saints like John Paul II and St. Faustina lining the streets of Krakow.

The designer of many of the World Youth Day graphics was Maciej Szymon Ciesla, who was a visual media designer at the Krakow Fine Arts Academy.


Father Grzegorz Suchodolski, Secretary General of the World Youth Day (WYD) Krakow 2016 organizing committee, told Maciej’s story in Ecclesia magazine. 

An expert graphic designer, but not particularly devout, Maciej came to a WYD organizing committee in September 2014 after seeing an advertisement for it at his university. 

The committee loved his work so much that he soon quit his job and started working full time for World Youth Day as a graphic designer, even though he was still having doubts about the Church.

Some banners at World Youth Day with Maciek's designs. Credit: Jeff Bruno

Some banners at World Youth Day with Maciej’s designs. Credit: Jeff Bruno

Monika Rybczyńska, who worked with Maciej, said he once told her: “Did you know, Monika? I ‘m here because I want to believe that there is still some good in the Church,” she recalled.

In the process of designing the saint images, the pilgrim’s kit and the chasubles, the young man rediscovered his faith.

He also discovered he had an aggressive form of cancer during that time, which spread to his lungs and forced him to work from home. His fellow WYD volunteers fasted and prayed for him daily. 

On the 100th day after his diagnosis, he filmed a video, thanking his colleagues for their friendship and prayers, and explaining what he had learned about God.


“What Maciej gave to the organizing committee, besides his very beautiful design work, was the confidence that God was more powerful than any disease or human weakness. He could transform all that. During his work on the committee he began to believe again and trust in God; he was thus able to face suffering and accept the Cross and he became an example to us,” Father Suchodolski told Ecclesia magazine. 

In May of this year, Maciej posted on Facebook: “How quickly life and priorities change! And such different dreams we have! Some people dream of having a career and fame, getting promoted, a new job, wealth or even that the biggest event this year in Krakow will be a success…I, for 150 days, am dreaming of just one thing..I would simply like to live.”

In June his leg was amputated, but it was not enough to stop the spread of the cancer. He died earlier this month, just shy of World Youth Day.

The funeral was held on July 5 at the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Church in Katowice. He was buried in that city’s Józefowska Street Cemetery. His family asked for donations to Saint Lazarus Hospital instead of wreaths and flowers.

In his first chat with youth on the balcony of the Bishop’s Palace in Krakow, Pope Francis recalled the young man’s dedication to his craft and the amazing faith he had so recently rediscovered.

This young man had “wanted to live through the Pope’s visit,” Francis said, and had even reserved a place on the Krakow tram that the Pope will take later in the week with sick and disabled youth as his special passengers.

“He did a lot of good for everyone,” the Holy Father said, leading the youth below in a moment of silent prayer for the young man who died.

“We must get used to the good things and the bad things. Life is like this, dear young people,” he said, while stressing that “there is something we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of our friend, who worked so much for this WYD.”

After leading the youth in a round of applause for the example of the young man, the Pope urged them to give thanks to the Lord “because he gives us examples of courage, of courageous youth who help us to go forward in life.”

“Don’t be afraid, God is great, God is good, and all of us have something good.”