Local youth return from World Youth Day 2013 Print
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Written by Lindsay Becher, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Aug. 08, 2013 -- 12:00 AM
Four teens from the Diocese of Madison wait on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the arrival of Pope Francis at World Youth Day.

Four teens from the Diocese of Madison wait on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the arrival of Pope Francis at World Youth Day. The teens waited about three hours and were about 150 yards away from the stage where the Holy Father appeared. At the top, pictured from left are: Noah teDuits and Bibiana Snyder. At the bottom, pictured from left are: Mariah Koehler and Cassidy Wegner. (Contributed photo/Lindsay Becher)

After a long, 25-hour adventure of traveling that got us to Rio de Janeiro for the beginning of World Youth Day, the Madison pilgrims, having joined with our new friends from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, were finally en route to the church we would be able to call home for the week.

On the bus, we travelled across the entire city all the way to a far west suburb, Recreio dos Bandeirantes. As we passed through famous areas of Rio, Copacabana, and Ipanema, I craned my neck to try to find the statue of Christ the Redeemer towering above the city, welcoming us to town.

Getting prepared

For this World Youth Day, I had mentally prepared myself for the pilgrimage much more intently than in 2011 when I went in Madrid. I knew that the week in Rio would be one of sacrifice, accepting what came my way, and becoming closer to the Lord in the way He had prepared.

Pilgrims are not supposed to have a long list of expectations and preferences. So, I came with very few. In fact, one of the only things I thought I would do in town was see that very famous statue towering over the city at a height of 127 feet tall.

On that bus ride, I caught one tiny glimpse of the statue through the fog, the size of a deer tick, or to be fair, probably a wood tick.

Within a couple hours of that sighting, the women in our group found out that we were staying with host families who spoke no English, while we spoke no Portuguese. Of course, I had expected that we were staying together on a classroom floor, in the comfort of new friends who spoke my language.

As morning came on the first full day of the trip, I was able to thank the Lord for reminding me that the spirit of pilgrimage was not about having things my way. This pilgrimage was going to be about trusting in the Lord and having things His way.

Finding Christ’s presence

I had expected to see a large statue of Christ; honestly, I was disappointed that first day when we didn't. Instead, I found that Christ’s presence and love was very, very large in the hearts of the Brazilian people -- our hosts, our tour guide, and our fellow pilgrims. The joy we found in this experience is hard to describe, but it may be enough to say that it was way more epic than seeing Jesus made out of concrete and soapstone.

I had expected to stay with friends on the floor of a school. Instead, I found myself in my host parents' bed, being given so much, while they had relatively little. I found myself learning more about what real love and sacrifice looks like from Deise and Sergio.

I was not sure if I should expect to see the Holy Father. In Madrid, my group did not see Pope Benedict XVI. This time around, we were blessed by being within 15 feet of our dear Holy Father, Pope Francis, as he passed through the crowds and being, relatively speaking, very close to the stage during the his welcoming ceremony.

I was not sure if I should expect to be moved by the experience, the teaching, or for those I was pilgrimaging with to have their lives transformed.

My perspective was changed, as I learned about following the will of God, trust, and living simply. And, the Lord had great things in store for the 31 fellow pilgrims I was experiencing the trip with. On the way home, I heard stories of people’s fear being replace with faith, being inspired by the witness of others' deep faith, understanding that we are not alone, and being changed by the words of our Holy Father.

When the pilgrimage began, I was not sure if I would look forward to going to the next World Youth Day, no matter how great the location to be announced would be. On the way home, I found myself making plans and getting excited for Krakow in 2016.

If you would like to learn more about WYD2016 or be placed on an email list to receive more information, email Lindsay at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Lindsay Becher is the Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Formation in the Diocese of Madison Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

 
 

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