The World Youth Day (WYD) Nova Vicosa and Rio de Janeiro 2013
On the 16th of July, 10 Vermonters traveled to World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. WYD draws millions of people from all over the world, including the Pope, to come together and celebrate their faith. It takes place every three years.
On the flight to Brazil, I saw the most amazing sunset in the clouds. A myriad of yellows, pinks, oranges, and purples lit up the sky. Just ahead, I could see lightning flashing in a storm of darkness, yet just beyond that lay what looked like a calm, creamy lake. It’s amazing what you can see in the sky--beauty, anger, peace… It seems to me that life is similar. One minute we experience beauty and are in awe. Another, we feel fear or see devastation. This brings a different type of awe and a whole new set of emotions. But no matter the pain or pleasure we feel, there is a larger plan calling for our attention and an everlasting peace waiting; we just can’t always see it from the ground.
Our pilgrimage experience mirrored this vision in the clouds. WYD was a journey of unexpected turns and surprising occurrences. Even going in with all sorts of preconceptions and plans, we were given the journey and hardships we needed to grow in our relationship with God.
For our first week in Brazil, we went on a mission to a small town, Nova Viçosa. We were bringing food and clothing donations to many families. However, we needed to meet them as much as they needed the food, if not more. The people were happy, genuine, and generous despite their economic need. They lived in a small town without a local priest, endured an insect-infested school, muddy roads, and small houses lacking running water. However, they welcomed us warmly into their town, providing lunch and company. We have much to learn from such a simple, happy, faithful way of life. Unfortunately for us, it is hard to live this way with worldly possessions distracting us. The Gospel of Luke that we heard upon our return home reinforced this message. “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed...your true life is not made up of the things you own” (Luke 12.15).
Our second week we traveled to Rio de Janeiro, which was eye-opening, too. WYD details such as transportation, lodging, and crowd control were complete chaos. We were housed hours from all the main events and near dangerous areas. However, despite inadequate efforts to keep pilgrims safe and healthy, we found a reprieve from our stress when hanging out with the Brazilian people. Many were, again, the kindest, most generous and faith-filled people we had ever met. They helped us through many problems created by the poor organization and 3.7 million people trying to attend events. A host family in a small apartment even took us all into their home more than once - often feeding us full-sized meals. We all came to love the Brazilian people and the enthusiastic joy with which they approach life. We also experienced what they deal with daily. They have a government that doesn’t appear to care about them, yet the Brazilian people care so much. We spent just a week there, yet their government’s lack of dedication to the millions of pilgrims and their own people was made clear to us.
That week in Rio was filled with joy, fear, and frustration, and through the Brazilian people, we discovered more about God and our faith. Upon leaving Brazil the WYD motto, “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations,” couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Brazilian people took a large role in inspiring us and many others to make a change, whether it is a small change at home in the way we greet God and others, a larger change in our parishes, or more mission work to share our possessions and learn from Brazilians rich in faith and love. The Brazilian family that helped us so much also got something out of the experience. We gave them a renewal of hope that they are not alone in their faith.
As we flew home, I thought of the simple vision given to me before the journey began. We experienced faith-filled joy and many hardships, too. Yet our last few days were filled with love and peace. We don’t always understand, as things are happening, the good that can blossom from life’s events. However, God turns our “mess to message” and our “test to testimony.” The best can come from the worst of times (WYD Pilgrim). If we ask for God’s guidance, the clouds will clear, and we will see what we need to continue.
by Audrey Dawson – Freshmen Essex High School
(1) Gospel of Luke 12.15
(2) Darryl G. Grandison - WYD Pilgrim - Trinidad and Tobago
Another Testimony: The theme of World Youth Day was “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations.” Our personal theme was the story of Job. Pretty much all that could go wrong did. The weather turned nasty, the police dropped the ball with crowd control so all the events were unsafe, and almost all of the pilgrims got sick. We couldn't make it to the Pope’s welcome, the Stations of the Cross or the Vigil. The spot of the Vigil was moved to the Copacabana Beach, which was the worst possible place to host 3.7 million people. All in all it was sucky… or that's how it seemed. However, underneath all this there were little revelations and blessings. We learned that nothing happens by accident; God always plays a part and always has a plan. And if you suffer willingly, God loves you and will bring you joy.
Each morning we would go to a Catechesis and then Mass afterward. The first was the most powerful. One of the responses was, “Those who sow in tears will reap rejoicing.” This was something to hold onto during the tough parts. Like when it was really cold and rainy and you couldn't feel your toes. When all we wanted was a hot shower and a bed, but we got a freezing cold shower and a room full of cockroaches. When the food was questionable, the street smelled like urine, and we had to fall asleep to gunshots in the night.
Despite all that, we managed to have some fun and learn from our new friends. The people we met in Brazil were so amazing. They were filled with joy and energy and a crazy faith in God. Even though they had very little, they found something to give us. They taught us to praise God through silly songs and the samba. A group of pilgrims from Colorado became our close friends and comedic relief. Even though they weren't from another country, their ways seemed foreign. Here in Vermont, we don't talk about God with our close friends. We don't have conversations about our faith, or the awesome new Pope. We barely scratch the surface of what we really think, but these people did.
So, the days smelled like rotten meat and urine, and the nights were downright scary. We had about had enough. But then the morning of the Final Mass came. We woke up at two in the morning and arrived at the beach at five thirty. We were bundled up in coats and pants and utterly exhausted. Then the sun came out. It got warm. We saw the Pope go by and were really close. I couldn't stop screaming and jumping up and down. The unexpected joy that I felt wasn't like that of seeing any old celebrity. It was much more than that.
We listened to his homily in English through the radio, but we could also hear Pope Francis's voice through the speakers. He had a beautiful, calming voice. He talked about shaking things up and lighting up the world around us. He told us to spread our experiences and not waste them.
After the mass we milled around and found a quiet street corner, in a nice part of town. There were trees to give us shade and a little food shop nearby. We sat and talked about the Mass and our vocations. The most magnificent gift God gave us that day was a reunion with our friend Rosano. We had met him in the small Brazilian town of Nova Vicosa, and even though we knew he was going to Rio for World Youth Day, we thought we would never see him again. But he found us. At that moment, we knew God was looking out for us.
We had some really amazing experiences, and we owe them all to our sponsors. Thank you for your generosity. We will continue to keep you in our prayers.
by Sophia Seman – Junior Essex High School