WYD 2013, Rio de Janeiro Experience

World Youth Day 2013 (WYD13), where to begin?! WYD13 was held this year from July 24-29 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was a wonderful experience. One I will never forget. People always ask me, “What was your highlight?” but for me, it is hard to just choose one. I had many highlights, both from completing mission work in the Shanty Towns in Lima, Peru, to the actual WYD week.

Unfinished church in Pamplona

For starters, my first highlight in Peru was when we had mass one day in an unfinished church in Pamplona, which had no roof. It was during the day, so we had the sun shining on us as we all sat on the concrete floor. The special thing, to me, was that we had many local children sitting with us during mass. Now these children do not know that much English, nor had they ever met us yet when we would do the sign of the cross, or say the Our Father, they would join us as well, in Spanish. They probably did not know what was happening throughout, but they still looked at us, and copied our actions and movements. It brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was sad, but because I was humbled and amazed. These children do not know us, nor the language, yet they stayed with us and attended mass. It opened my eyes to the fact that even though we are in another country and do not know the language, we are all still united in one Body, and that is with Jesus Christ and His Church. As Jesus said in Matthew 19:14 “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” We all came together that day as brothers and sisters in Christ. After mass, we played with the children, did face painting and the hokey pokey dance. They loved it and did not want us to leave. It was such a sad thing, to have to part with them, because we grew so attached to them. But they will always have a special place in my friends and my heart!

Face painting and hokey pokey dance with local children.

On Monday, the day before WYD ‘s first event started, some of us from the Notre Dame group decided to visit some Churches in Rio. The one Church that took my breath away was Candelári. From afar it looked old and big. But upon entry into the church, it was simply beautiful. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed for the many people to come and Adore, and the architecture of the church was amazing. There were these two big sculpted statues of angels on either side of the sanctuary, just bellow the steps to the podium. The paintings on the celling were intrinsically painted, highlighting the life of Jesus. It was truly the elaborate style of the 18th Century. Being able to enter a church like this, and praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament was enriching. It made me wonder how the people of that century were able to build such a beautiful church, with such intrinsic detail (both in painting, sculptures and the architecture) without any form of technology that we have today. God works wonders. We might not see it happening, but he gave His people the strength and courage to build this Church.

The angel of of Candelária Church

When we were in Brazil, the atmosphere was very different to that in Peru. The locals were happy, and there were so many youth from around the world, all gathered in the one country. The highlight for me of the WYD week would have to be the sleep out at Copacabana Beach.

The interior of Candelária Church

On Saturday morning, we all packed our things for the sleep out, and started to walk to Copacabana (it was a 9-10km walk from where we were staying in Aussie Central). It was a long walk, and took the entire SYD05 group about 5 hours (with breaks) to get to the beach. We were not walking alone however. Hundreds of other pilgrims from different countries were walking on the same path we were. People were cheering and doing chants in their own language. One that almost any pilgrim knew was a Portuguese chant that went “ESTA ES LA JUVENTUD DEL PAPA!” which means, “THIS IS THE YOUTH OF THE POPE”. It was such a simple chant, but a powerful and energetic one!

Hundreds of other pilgrims from different countries were walking on the same path we were

The night vigil was special. We all united in singing and praising our Lord, Jesus Christ. When Pope Francis began Holy Adoration, everyone went silent. All the people around us were kneeling or standing in reverence, and silently praying to our Lord. It was a significant moment in the lives of many pilgrims that were there that night, and truly an emotional one as well!

Never be afraid to live your faith because you are never alone!

Not only was it special to have Adoration with the Pope but also the next day, we had mass with him! Even though it was not in English, it was still wonderful and honouring to be able to have seen the Pope and listen to him celebrate mass. And not just any mass, but WYD mass on a beach!! It’s not everyday that you can attend mass with the Pope, on Copacabana Beach with more than 3.2 million people! It was the second largest gathering of people in one place ever, and they had all come together to celebrate the RESURRECTION OF CHRIST! Now that’s saying something about us Catholics! It was a big eye opener after attending the final mass at WYD, to see the amount of faithful people there. It made me realise that I am not the only catholic in the world who still holds a firm faith. There are millions out there like me, believing in the one God, and believing in Jesus Christ His only Son. I am not the only one who abides by Jesus’ teachings in a secular world. I am not the only one who doesn’t conform to society and their ways, just to please others. I am surrounded by millions of Catholics who all practice what they preach. Yes, I might not see them everyday and know they exist, but after going to WYD, I realised that no matter where in the world you are, there will always be people who believe in Jesus Christ, and all follow the Catholic Church!

Never be afraid to live your faith because you are never alone! Go out there and make disciples of all nations, as Jesus said (Matt 28:19), and baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!

By: Jessica Machaalani, God Bless!