This is WORLD YOUTH DAY: INSPIRING GENERATIONS Book Feature
A sample of the book can be found on Amazon
I’m Maria Bracken and I have the incredibly exciting task of coordinating the Pilgrimage to WYD RIO July 2013 for the Birmingham Diocese.
Together with our Diocesan WYD Chaplain Fr. Jan Nowotnik we ventured out to RIO for the site visit in September 2012.
We visited all the main WYD sites and had drinks on Copacabana beach with the Liverpool coordinators and the Director of Tour Design, the company who most diocese are travelling with. The beach was beautiful and there was not a moment when we did not feel safe. The hotel had everything we could have hoped for and we we saw that the pilgrims were to be based in a safe location. It is very clear where to go and where not to go at night in RIO.
We spent a morning with the WYD Director at the main offices in RIO and found the set up there to be larger than previous WYD’s and they made it clear they had learnt from the mistakes made in Madrid, Sydney and Cologne and answered all our questions with a great working knowledge of WYD and answers to nearly all the issues raised in the meeting.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer with the outstretched arms is a constant reminder of the risen Christ in RIO. This was reflected in the warmth of the people we met and the mission we encountered in Petropolis.
As a diocese we decided that if we were taking pilgrims to WYD in Brazil, we wanted young people to encounter a mission experience. We are therefore going to work for 5 days on a mission in Petropolis with the brothers of the Christian Life Movement. We will be staying with them and families known to them in the town and head out to the mission each day.
We meet pilgrims every month at St. Chads Cathedral for preparation for WYD. The theme has been broken down into 8 sessions and are led by different members of the planning team.
We are also running a residential at Soli House in February where the 50 pilgrims will meet Ada Collazus from the Christian Life Movement and learn all about working on a mission. We will then spend the afternoon on workshops to be led by our group during our time there. As a pilgrim group we will also be helping out practically in painting and gardening at the local church which overlooks the Christ the redeemer statue on the distant mountains.
To meet the Pope with 2 million young Catholics from 5 continents around the world after experiencing a mission working with the poor in the mountains of Brazil, will be a pilgrimage like no other! An encounter with Christ that will touch the hearts and minds of every young person brave enough to take this step in faith to WYD RIO 2013.
On Sunday I traveled into London for the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Papal Visit – an anniversary celebration to mark a year since the Holy Father’s state visit to Britain.
The Mass was a wonderful celebration of the busy year the Catholic Church has had following the visit of the Holy Father. It’s amazing that a year has passed since I was stood in Westminster Cathedral celebrating Mass with thousands of other pilgrims and Catholics along with the Pope. It was a great opportunity – and reminder of what we can achieve – to get together again and simply ‘be Catholic’. Hopefully everyone went away feeling that the Papal Visit is not just something we will mark each year as something that has passed, but something that we can act on, build on and live out. WYD made this possible, now we have to look for new ways to spread this spirit of faith.
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, who presided and preached at the Mass,provided suggestions in his Homily on how to act on our faith and ensure the message from the papal visit continues into the next year.
His homily drew on young people’s reflections on the papal visit and how we should life our lives following those four days last year.
In his Homily he said that the anniversary was “a moment of hope and confidence in the gifts that our Catholic faith offers to our world.”
Deepening a life of prayer
The Archbishop focused on the importance of prayer in our lives. He said that the message brought by Pope Benedict included an encouragement for Catholics to give witness to the beauty of holiness, to the splendour of the truth and to the joy and freedom born of a relationship with Jesus Christ. This witness, he said, would best grow through a deepening of a life of prayer.
“Only prayer roots us in Christ. Only prayer sustains the poise and purpose in life that becomes a witness to the reality of God’s presence. Only prayer produces the reverence we are to show to all things holy. Only prayer sustains the space and silence our spirits need if we are indeed to be guided and formed by God’s Holy Spirit. As Cardinal Newman said: without prayer we cannot “radiate Christ; we become just another ‘clashing symbol’ in a world filled with growing noise and confusion.”
“In the words of Pope Benedict, prayer is simply being in silent inward communion with God at the heart of our thinking, our meditating, and our being. Prayer is letting the Lord have the right of free speech.”
Archbishop Nichols also recalled Pope Benedict’s call during his State Visit for clearer moral values, needed for a peaceful and harmonious society.
He particularly drew attention to the recent riots. He said: “Scandals in the world of the media and the violence and looting on the streets of some English cities in mid-August revealed how profoundly true his observations were. He said, “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident.”
He reminded us of the Holy Father’s ability to challenge us with questions by asking: “Where is the ethical foundation for (political) choices to be found?”
He told us that “Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation.”
He added: “Our Catholic faith, illuminating reason, gives us that gift. We see life whole when we recognise the true nature of the unborn child. We see life whole when we see in every pupil not only a future contributor to our economic prosperity, not only a future parent and leader, but also a spiritual being whose deepest needs and surest happiness can be answered only in the mystery of God and in a personal relationship with Him. We see life whole when we recognise the limited value of our personal experience as the criterion of moral truth. We see life whole when we recognise that the well-being of every human person has to be at the centre of our economic life, the ultimate purpose of our striving and the measure by which we are to judge success. We see life whole when, in sickness and terminal illness, we both treasure life as it is and do not fear death when it comes, so that we neither deny the dignity of life at its endings, nor fail to welcome our journey to God when He calls.”
The full Homily and audio are on the www.rcdow.org.uk website.
On the anniversary of the Papal Visit I’ve dug our my reflections from the time – this appeared in the Catholic Herald at the time.
As I stood waiting for the Holy Father I remembered my friend’s advice, “Don’t cry,” he said. “You know what you’re like.”
I was preparing to greet the Pope, scrambling among the others for a place. There was nervous laughter and excited chatter, then deafening silence.
Last Saturday and Sunday Nicole and I stood up in our parish church to share our experiences in World Youth Day. We also put up a board with pictures which you can see in the slide show. We invited all to attend next WYD Rio 2013 aswell as the Flame concert in Wembley in March 2012. We hope this post will inspire others to do the same!
and this is what Nicole said:
Helooo, I just wanted to share with my experiences from World Youth Day.
I’ll be honest, before I went to WYD I didn’t really know what to expect. I had many expectations of what it would be like, for example, I knew I would get the chance to meet many new people from across the globe but I never expected to make such close bonds with them and to get to know them as well as I have. At first, I thought WYD would just be about going to 20 different masses a day and having to listen to priest after priest, but it turned out to be so much more. Instead, we had the chance to visit different parishes and share mass with them, and attend masses in football stadiums full of thousands of young people. One of the main events I enjoyed was the catechesis as they were the most inspiring. We got to listen to American nuns and hear religious stories that not only showed the depth of our religion but the power.
One story I remember well was about a lady who was staying in a convent with nuns. She had just had a child and was leaving the hospital in an elevator when she saw another woman crying. She asked the woman what was wrong and she explained that she’d just found out she was pregnant and how she wasn’t ready for children. The lady then said ‘having children is one of the most beautiful things in life and you will regret aborting it. This time next year I’ll see you here, you will have had a baby girl and you will have called her Mary Rose after me.’ The lady then left her. The following year when the lady was in the hospital she met the same woman in the elevator. She had had twins, two girls, one named Mary, one named Rose; she was overwhelmed with gratitude to the lady who had convinced her to keep her child. This story really moved me and I could tell from the atmosphere in the stadium that it had had the same effect on us all ; it’s amazing to see how one lady’s words can have changed another person’s life so much.
In the first week we had Days in the Dioceses, where we stayed in San-Sebastian, this was essentially the warm up for Madrid. Here we attended prayer vigils in cathedrals; we visited the birth place of St. Ignatius of Loyola and celebrated our religion through festivals with people from all over the world. The festivals in particular were breath taking; every country went on stage and performed their culture through song and dance. It was so inspiring as you could see how different all the cultures were, yet they were still able to unite through faith.
The second week we travelled to Madrid where we were welcomed with an open air mass with all the participating countries, there were people there from countries such as Australia, new Zealand and even china. I can’t even put into words how incredible the atmosphere was there; wherever you went there were floods of pilgrims in the streets all eager to meet and get to know you, even those from countries who struggled with our language; everyone was so friendly, it was actually amazing.
However, I would have to say the best part of World Youth Day had to be the mass with Pope Benedict, its estimated that 1.5 million pilgrims turned up at the airfield for the mass, it was so full that they had to start turning groups away! After hours of walking to get there, in temperatures around 40 degrees, pilgrims were still sociable and the atmosphere was still buzzing- despite the torrential thunderstorm we experienced during the welcoming papal mass. Maybe it was God’s way of trying to join in?!
Anyways I could go on all day telling you about World Youth Day, all I can say is it was a fantastic experience and if any of you are considering attending world youth day in Rio de Janeiro, 2013 I would encourage you to do so, to truly appreciate how good it is you have to go and experience it yourself.
If anyone wants to know anything else about Madrid then we are more than happy to tell you all about it, so feel free to come and talk to us
Finally I would like to thank you all once more for your generosity in making this experience possible for us.
and this is what Paula said:
Thank you Nicole. Instead of going through my pilgrim experience now, there is a print out that I will be handing after mass which Fr Giles has named World Youth Day ‘Report’.
Now, I would like to tell you about two upcoming events, which I think will be important for the young people of the parish to attend.
The first event is called Flame, and will be similar to the Hyde Park Vigil that we had when Pope Benedict visited the UK last year, to include great Catholic ministry such as national and international speakers, music and dancing as well as time for worship and prayer.
This will happen at Wembley Arena on Saturday 24th March 2012, and it will be a great opportunity for us all to experience the Church in a national context. Furthermore, if you are thinking about going to a WYD this is a great way to get a bit of the flavor of what it would be like to attend one.
So everyone who is in Year 10 and above is invited, but I would especially make a call for anyone who is between 18-40, as I will personally lead a group to the event but will need extra young leaders to help out with the journey to and from London.
For more information, there are posters around the church or you can visit the website. There will be also a list at the back of church so you can put your name down. Any questions pls feel free to ask me.
The second event is, of course, the next World Youth Day, which was announced at the final mass in Madrid and will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in July 2013. The theme has already been announced: Go out and make disciples (Mt 28:19).
WYD Madrid was one the the best weeks of my life and I promise you that I am not exaggerating. There were so many incredible experiences that if I had to tell you, I would not know where to begin.
However, if I had to say one thing, I would say that WYD is still – and I say still because I am still going through it in my head and in my heart – a hugely important experience which has strengthened my faith and has re-affirmed that the Catholic Church is alive, active and that it is indeed all of us. For this I am very happy that I attended and I feel very proud to be a catholic.
So following the huge success and amazing experience that was Madrid, I can’t help but invite all of you aged 16 or over to come to Rio.
And please let me tell you that age is not an obstacle. As you can see from the photos at the back, in our group we had a varied range of ages from 16 to 60, we had families, siblings, newly married couples, seminarians, older and younger priests, everything, WYD is really an inclusive event.
If you are interested do come and talk to me or Nicole for more details.
Once again, thank you all for all your support and for listening.
Suddenly, my time at World Youth Day has drawn to a close. A week of my teenage life, spent in a country I hadn’t been to before, with food I hadn’t eaten before, and people I hadn’t met before, and yet it was the most enjoyable experience I ever had. I will remember it forever – the memories, the experiences, and the strengthening of my faith.
We (myself and my 20 year old brother) were greeted with quite a shock after flying out from a damp and dreary Gatwick on the morning of Monday 15th August, to high-30s heat reflecting off the runway at Madrid airport. Heading through the airport, it was apparent that we were about to take part in something huge. There were banners and posters up everywhere advertising ‘JMJ2011’ (JMJ are the initials of the Spanish for ‘World Youth Day’), but these were hidden from view by the hundreds of pilgrims picking up their luggage from the carousels. There were Brazilians, Americans, Canadians, Chileans, French and many others. I had never seen such a diverse mix of people, and we hadn’t even made it out of the airport terminal.
After travelling on the metro filled with excited Brazilians for half an hour, we arrived at our destination. We alighted and, after consulting my printed road map, we arrived at our accommodation, and found our room. Deciding to then walk into Madrid at 3pm was a mistake, as the temperature had reached about 38 degrees. We swiftly concluded the best course of action was to sleep under a tree in a large park in the centre of Madrid.
Meeting up with the rest of our 130-strong group of young people from the Portsmouth Diocese that evening, we went out to get dinner. Despite the fact there are hundreds and hundreds of cafes and restaurants in Madrid, we ended up in Burger King. One positive outcome of this was the pint of ice cold Coca Cola for 1 euro.
On Tuesday, our group travelled back to the park in the centre of Madrid, and met many hundreds of other pilgrims. There were various stands and marquees in which different groups of people from across the world, for example nuns and missionaries, were talking about their lives and other things. That evening our group travelled to the centre of Madrid, to watch the opening celebration hosted by the Holy Father. We ended up sitting on a large roundabout (the traffic in the city centre had mostly been stopped), and watched the celebration on a large screen. The heat in the large crowds was immense, reaching up to 40 degrees. Several ambulances were constantly passing, picking up people suffering from the heat.
The next morning, Wednesday, we travelled to a 12,000 seat arena for the first of three catechesis sessions we would be having during our time in Madrid. It was preceded by a Catholic rock concert, in which everyone sang along to the songs. The speeches in the catechesis session were extremely enlightening, as well as moving. Throughout the morning, there were priests dotted around the stairways of the stadium, to which people could go for confession. There was also an area in the basement of the stadium which had been converted to provide an area for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After the catechesis session came a mass, concelebrated by the hundreds of priests that had come from all over the world. That afternoon we had free time in Madrid, and we returned to the arena (again!) for another Catholic concert.
Thursday began with another catechesis session in the arena. The talks again were very interesting, and it was, once again, followed by a mass. That afternoon we travelled to the site outside Madrid’s town hall where all the pilgrims would be welcoming the Pope again. There was a party atmosphere, with people of all nations dancing and talking to each other. We sat waiting for about four hours, and when the Pope arrived the pilgrims erupted shouting chants. The Holy Father hosted a small celebration, and then left back to his accommodation. As we were walking out, we came up to a closed road with a few people lining it. People started running, and we realised the Popemobile was just seconds away. We ran to the road, and saw the Pope pass just a few feet in front of us.
On Friday we had the last of our catechesis sessions. It involved talks about love and relationships, and then we had our final mass in the arena. Myself and a press officer from our group then travelled towards the area of Madrid where the Stations of the Cross were being displayed. They were dotted along a major road, and finished at the Town Hall, where the Pope would, once again, be presiding. We managed to get just a couple of rows back from the very front, and were within 40 metres of the stage. As a pilgrim, the time spent waiting for events to start is as enjoyable and exciting as the event itself. This wait was no different. Despite language barriers, we managed to say evening prayers with two Swiss ladies, an Italian priest and a nun from the Democratic Republic of Congo – the prayers were in a mixture of Italian, English and Latin. As the Way of the Cross neared the Town Hall, the Pope said a few prayers and gave a Homily, regarding the hardships that young people across the world face, and telling us not to give up hope.
Saturday was the eve of the World Youth Day itself. After having a small mass in our accommodation, we began our journey to Cuatro Vientos (Four Winds), an airfield on the outskirts of Madrid. We travelled by metro and then had an hour walk, all the time being joined by hundreds and thousands more pilgrims. It was at least 42 degrees, and there were people on their balconies throwing water onto us all to cool us down. By the time we reached the airfield there were literally hundreds of thousands of people heading through security. We arrived at our designated area and set up ‘camp’, as that was where we were staying for the next 24 hours. The heat was reaching unbearable levels, and as we were on an airfield there was no shade apart from umbrellas and other sun protection that we had brought with us. There were at least four fire engines driving round spraying water over the hot pilgrims. Like on Tuesday, ambulances were constantly travelling around with their sirens blaring, picking up people severely suffering from the heat.
As evening drew near, clouds started gathering. At first these were a blessing, as they provided shade, and thousands of people cheered when they covered the sun. However, it soon became apparent that a storm was brewing. The Pope arrived and began his welcoming celebration, but in the distance we could see thunder and lightning. As the Pope began his homily, the heavens opened. The winds also picked up and blew his skullcap off. The Pope had to retire to an area behind the stage while the storm raged. People were sheltering under plastic sheeting that had been used earlier in the day for shade. Everyone’s sleeping bags and other things were soaked through. However, after ten minutes or so, as suddenly as the rains had started, they stopped. Thanks to the constant heat, even during the night, everyone dried off quickly. The Pope came back out and finished his Homily, and then explained how he would return to his accommodation that night, and celebrate mass with us in the morning. Throughout the night, there were areas around the airfield where people could worship the Blessed Sacrament, and groups of people were walking round singing and dancing all night. I had heard that so many people had tried to come to the airfield that they had had to turn many people away due to capacity issues – there was in excess of 1.8 million people at the airfield.
The morning of the actual World Youth Day, Sunday, we awoke to a clear blue sky. The Pope returned at about 9 o’clock, and mass followed. In it he explained how he had not stopped thinking about us all night, and he was truly grateful for us all coming to Madrid. After mass, another speech followed, and during this he announced the venue of the next World Youth Day: Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2013. Following this, all the pilgrims began filtering out of the airfield, and we began our 26 hour coach journey back to Reading. This was a perfect time to reflect on the week’s events – as well as catch up on sleep!
I would strongly recommend all young people to participate in World Youth Day. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and, despite what major news networks would lead you to believe, we saw no protestors. All the Spanish people were very welcoming, and the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world were very friendly. It was a remarkable journey in faith united with so many others from around the world, and we are grateful to the people of St Francis Parish for making it possible for us to experience it.
Here is the link for the outstanding and inspirational talk by Archbishop Timothy Dolan about Mission and Evangelisation, given to ukpilgrims and another 16,000 pilgrims at the Love and Life centre.
And since it has been a few weeks from WYD and life is swimming back into normality for many of us, it is important to ask ourselves: will I let WYD become part of history? Or am I ready to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and share my experiences lived at World Youth Day with my friends, family and parish?
There is lots that can be done but personally, I will start this weekend by telling my parish congregation (in all 3 masses) about what a wonderful experience World Youth Day was – a life experience not to be missed by anyone! And I will formally invite anyone who is interested in WYD Rio 2013 to join me and start fundraising. All I had to do was approach my parish priest and ask to do this – I don’t particularly like to speak in public but I figure that if I want to spread the good news of Jesus and WYD, I really have to get out of my comfort zone as well as give a little of my time for it.
However WYD Madrid is not the only thing I want to speak about as I will be making the most of the opportunity and inviting young people to attend the Flame Congress to be held in March – this will be a great opportunity to re-unite all of us ukpilgrims for a catch up as well as a spiritual warm up for the next WYD.
As you can see, there is lots that can be done! Madrid wasn’t a dream, the dream starts now in our homes and parishes, now that we’ve been ‘planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith‘ (St Paul) it’s time to ‘go out and make disciples‘ (Mt 28:19) with those around us.
Let’s do it! By getting our inspiration by praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – who are the everlasting source of energy – listen to the talk by archbishop Dolan again, remind yourself of Madrid and the wonderful experience it was, reflect how it touched your heart and build up your faith with other Catholics like you.