World Youth Day memories
By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Register
A sea of humanity poured out onto the horizon, creating inlets along the streets of Rio de Janeiro and on Copacabana beach, a flood of human life seeking to get closer to God, and, if chance dictated, to the newest pontiff to grace the Catholic Church.
Among the thousands and thousands of people in Brazil for the 13th World Youth Day was Hector Rivera, Director of Religious Education for St. Mary Parish in Garden City, two other adult volunteers, and six local youth.
“The day Pope Francis arrived in Copacabana,” Rivera said, “we were within five feet of him. He waved and smiled and was giving blessings.”
It was an unexpected, face-to-face moment, after which Rivera said the youth “were very silent. I think this is a memory they will cherish for the rest of their lives.” Local youth participants included (pictured below) Esteban Gonzales, Pamela Hernandez, Kristy Ochoa, Andrea Rascon, Karina Velasquez, and Jacqueline Castillo. Adult team members included Dora Prieto and Veronica Martinez. The group, led by Rivera, stayed in Brazil for nine days.
Rivera and Esteban were housed at a Catholic school, while the five girls and two adult team members stayed in a local home hosted by Maria Teixeira, whose 20-year-old grandson, Victor Bessa “accompanied us wherever we needed to go. Maria was very nice; she provided everything, cooked meals for us…. They were wonderful, a real blessing to us. She sent Victor to be with us from day one so we didn’t get lost, and made sure we got where we needed to be when we needed to be there. He was with us day and night.”
“We made many friends from all nations,” Rivera added.
The national language of Brazil is Portuguese, which created a challenge for the group, most of whom speak both English and Spanish. They received a special treat, though, when the Holy Father celebrated the World Youth Day Mass in his native Spanish.
When asked about one of the highlights of the trip, 17-year-old Andrea Rascon of St. Mary Parish in Garden City described a catechesis “where we met a bunch of people from everywhere. They told us how they kept their faith strong ... how they helped their parish and got their churches involved. It was really cool. We prayed for each other and exchanged items.
“When we worshiped, they had people come in and sing. One man sang ‘Lean on Me’. He used hand gestures and so everyone got involved.”
And then came the day when they came nearly within reaching distance of Pope Francis.
“Oh, my gosh,” Rascon said enthusiastically “It was really cool. That day we didn’t expect to get close to him, and we got really close. He was going really slow and he turned and looked at us. Right in front of us there was a dad and a little girl and the dad lifted her up and the pope gave her a kiss on the cheek. It was really adorable. All my friends were crying.”
The Holcomb High School student said she felt changed by the experience. “He said he wanted us to go out and ‘make disciples of all nations.’ I want to share my happiness with others.”