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Millions gather in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day PDF Print E-mail
Written by Becca Brandt   
Prior to World Youth Day July 23-28, Pope Francis urged, “Prepare well—prepare spiritually above all—in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world.”

On Sunday, July 28, an estimated 3 million people answered the Holy Father’s request as they attended Mass on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Among those who attended World Youth Day were Briar Bergner, Diana and Daniela Baeza and Paul, Laura, Diana and Teresa Krogmeier.

A group from Holyoke prepares to see Iguaçu Falls as they travel around Brazil as a part of their World Youth Day trip. Pictured from left are Laura Krogmeier, Teresa Krogmeier, Daniela Baeza, Diana Baeza and Diana Krogmeier. Not pictured are Briar Bergner and Paul Krogmeier.

As they approached the beach for an evening prayer vigil with the pope on Saturday, July 27, the group was stopped. The number of people in attendance was too great to be contained on the beach and pilgrims were overflowing onto the nearby streets.

The group joined the masses on the streets for the prayer vigil, and like hundreds of thousands of others, they camped in the same location in anticipation of Mass the following morning.

The trip began several days earlier for the Holyokites on Thursday, July 18 in Denver where they met up with 117 other members of the Neocatchumenal Way to travel to Paraguay.

Their time in Paraguay was devoted to popular missions where the group joined with the youth in Paraguay as they took to the streets, singing and dancing and sharing stories about God’s impact on their lives.

The impoverished people in Paraguay were incredibly generous and welcoming to all the visitors. They were very humble, noted Diana and Daniela Baeza.

The group was pleasantly surprised with many potluck meals throughout the trip. On multiple occasions, they were invited to join the church members for a potluck after celebrating Holy Eucharist.

A stop at the Chapel of the Martyrs in Asunción, Paraguay was a highlight for Laura. This is where the group learned the story of Saint Roque.

Saint Roque was murdered by natives in the 1600s while he was doing mission work, and his heart was thrown into a fire. His heart was burned by the flames but not destroyed. The heart of Saint Roque along with the weapon used to kill him is now on display in the chapel.

The travelers then ventured on to Brazil. One highlight for all of the members was their visit to Foz do Iguaçu to see the Iguaçu Falls. The falls are a spectacular sight and are recognized as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. “It was amazing seeing all the beautiful places God has created,” said Diana Baeza. “I’m nothing without him, and being closer to him is what makes me most happy.”

Iguaçu Falls was an amazing sight for the Holyoke travelers as the huge waterfalls separate the upper and lower portions of the Iguaçu River.

The mission work of the travelers took them to many churches but most notably the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. The location is one of the greatest pilgrimage centers in the world as Our Lady of Aparecida is the Patroness of Brazil.

The group celebrated Mass there and took time to worship and pray. Special intentions prayers were said during this time, focusing on the success of World Youth Day.

Another fun experience for the pilgrims was seeing the pope, or at least the top of his head. Their placement in Copacabana made it so they could see him riding down the street in an open-topped car.

Unlike past popes, Pope Francis doesn’t travel around in the bulletproof popemobile but instead opts for a vehicle that allows him to better interact with the people.

They were pretty close to him, considering there were over 3 million people in the area, said Laura.

After the conclusion of World Youth Day, a meeting was held for members of the Neocatchumenal Way on Monday. Around 50,000 young people gathered to hear from an initiator of the organization, Kiko Argüello. The meeting was a powerful time as 3,000 young men were called to the priesthood and 2,000 young women were called to join a convent.

Catching a flight from Saõ Paulo to Miami, the local group spent the last portion of their trip on the beach during a long layover.

The overall feeling following the trip was one of great joy and humility.

Seeing the poorer people on the trip and the impact God has made in her life, Daniela has learned how to be humble.

Laura noted it was inspiring to see the kids’ faith. “If your heart is open, you receive so many graces it’s hard to refuse it.”

This year marks the 14th celebration of World Youth Day since it began in 1984. The celebration will continue in Kraków, Poland in 2016.

Holyoke Enterprise August 8, 2013