World Youth Days - by Tatiyana Onderstal
Tatiyana Onderstal joined the World Youth Days in Brazil and shares with us her experience.
Last month I joined in what may be the most beautiful World Youth Day ever! Though it was only my second WYD, I’m not sure if any future one can top the Rio edition. The Brazilian people were great, very hospitable and full of joy! Brazil, like the statue of Christ the Redeemer, has really welcomed us pilgrims with open arms!
We started off with the missionary week in Fortaleza, where we stayed in housing of the Shalom community. A great, sunny place, with clear lakes, palm trees and stuff like that. The five Shalom members of our parish joined the trip and introduced us to the city of Fortaleza and some Shalom locations. One of these was a snack bar where, in order to teach youth about the Gospel, all dishes were given Biblical names. At this location we also had a Mass with about 2,000 people attending. We were surprised by the way Brazilians really live their faith! While throwing their hands in the air, they sang along loudly, the Gospel was received with a standing ovation and finally they also prayed in tongues. Quite a shocker for us Dutchies!
Later the same week we visited São Pio, a rehab centre for surprisingly young boys. Our group was really touched by the teenagers’ personal and emotional stories. It was great to see the boys were now able to create a better future for themselves, thanks to the loving and caring people of the Shalom community. After experiencing the immense 5 day Festival Halleluya, it was finally time to go to Rio!
Copacabana beach was the place to be for the main WYD events. Because our temporary home was located at the other end of the city, we had to commute a few hours daily. But this was no problem, since everywhere we went, we met great pilgrims from all over the world! Before we knew it, we would be at our stop again, and had to rush to rapidly exchange some souvenirs.
While in Rio, of course we had to visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer. By accident, our group was only able to visit it on a rainy, foggy night. But this only made it even more special. Not only did we Dutchies have the area (almost) to ourselves, the misty clouds around the statue and its surrounding bushes created a marvelous atmosphere!
Then there was the final weekend. All of us joined for the 9 km pilgrimage to Copacabana beach. Though it was quite warm and we were all packed with our gear for the weekend, the walk seemed like a simple stroll. But of course we were happy to finally reach the beach. We set up our camp for the Vigil and after that, there was the once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a night on Copacabana. But the next morning, we did have to wake up early again in order to witness the highlight of this World Youth Day: the closing Mass with Pope Francis! When afterwards he told us next WYD will be held in Cracow (Poland, in 2016), most were thrilled! Closer to home and hopefully many of us are able to join again!
- Tatiyana Onderstal