For those of you who were not aware, before arriving to Belo-Horizonte, I decided to go to World Youth Day and was given the opportunity to lead a group of Badger pilgrims (Shout to Sara, Morgan, and Stephi!!!!) with a priest who lived in Brasil for two years. World Youth Day is an international event where millions of young Catholics ranging from 16 to 31 meet to celebrate the Catholic Church and see the Pope! It occurs every other year and its location changes. This past WYD’s host city was Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Because of its perfect timing, I knew I had to go. I have to say I am SO HAPPY I chose to go, not just because it was so beautiful to witness the universal Church, but also because it was a great way to transition to my time abroad.
I’m not really sure as to how to explain the beauty and joy of WYD because so much happened in those six days (yes WYD is actually 6 days, not just one). I mean one minute you’re so frustrated because you can not get on a bus to return to your host family after a large gathering, and then the next minute you’re so overjoyed and #overit because everyone around you is singing, clapping, and just so joyful. I’ll first give you a brief overview of how WYD works, and then share one narrative that best expresses what WYD is like.
Because WYD was in Rio de Janeiro, everything is in Portuguese. For example, instead of World Youth Day, it was called “Jornada Mundial da Juventude” or JMJ for short. If you ever get a chance, ask a Brazilian how to say World Youth Day, and they will really struggle because there is no “th” sound in Portuguese… Anyway, JMJ, works like this: Day one, you arrive at your assigned parish to find out where you are staying for the next five days. Since JMJ was in Brasil, everything was a little unorganized, so we had to wait a while to find out who our host family was. It turns out, the girl who helped me said she and her family could host us for the week! Shout out to the Pignaton family if you ever read this :). They were so marvelous and sacrificed so much for us. We absolutely adored them and will be forever grateful for their loving hospitality.
After we arrived to our host family’s home, the next three days had a pattern. You spend the morning at your English Catechesis Session where you get breakfast and an archbishop comes, gives a talk, you discuss it with other pilgrims, then we have Mass. After Mass, we head downtown to Copacabana Beach via bus system (this is where I experienced one of the quirks in my previous blog). An hour and half to two hours later, we arrive to Copacabana Beach, get something to eat, and then try to participate in one of the larger gatherings. Some of those included the arrival of the pope, see Christ the Redeemer, and the pilgrimage site. You know, this explanation is probably the worst way to describe JMJ there was so much more, SO MUCH MORE.
I said I would share at least one narrative that really emulates the wonderfulness of World Youth Day. First thing’s first: if you ever go to JMJ, learn Portuguese, ESPECIALLY if it is in Brasil. Right away, you will make so many Brazilian friends. For example, on the train down Corcovado (where Christ the Redeemer is), we were the only Americans on the train and the rest were Brazilians. After much singing and chanting in Portuguese, the Brazilians asked our group, WHERE ARE YOU FROM???? I responded in Portuguese: “Estados Unidos” (US). And then I asked, because #whynot “Todos brasileiros nesse trem: Alguem é universitário da UFMG em Belo-Horizonte, Minas Gerais???” (To all the Brazilians on this train: does anybody go to UFMG in Belo-Horizonte, Minas Gerais?). Unfortunately, nobody did, but from that point on they were thrilled I knew portuguese. They asked us to sing a song for them, and we did Boom Chick a Boom (camp song) because Stephi lead it on the way up to Corcovado on the train and the Brazilians on that train were obsessed with it too. SO, we did Boom Chick a Boom, then they did Boom Chick a Boom, before you know it, I lose my voice from all of the shouting. Then, suddenly, one of the Brazilians is asking my hand in marriage (don’t worry ma, I said no, it’s all a brincadeira). After more chanting, singing, and conversation, we return to the train station.
That is just one story. There were many interactions similar to this, and I am forever grateful I decided to study abroad in Brasil. Seriously, Brazilians are so fun. Apart from these interactions, we did a 9 km (I think about 5 mi??) pilgrimage from the Centro of the city to Copacabana Beach. Did I mention we slept overnight on Copacabana Beach and then celebrated Mass with Pope Francis? I mean the joy and beauty of it all was never-ending. It was “muito legal” (so cool) to be surrounded by three million youth that believe the same thing you believe.
Not only was it a beautiful experience, it really helped me transition to Belo-Horizonte. After spending two weeks in the country speaking Portuguese and participating in a faith based event, I feel ready. Granted, I have some mounting frustrations, like I still don’t know where I’m living-anyone know of anything ;)- and the university’s website is so confusing, so I can’t find what classes are offered. But who cares? I just spent the last week with three million young Catholics affirming and reconfirming my faith. TO TOP THAT ALL OFF I was just awarded the FLAS Scholarship. Shout out to LACIS, because you have no idea how grateful I am to be alleviated of financial burden, it will help so much. If you’re interested in hearing more about my JMJ=NBD experience, please email me or FB message, I would be happy to talk about it. Now, I feel like I can take on my next challenge: studying at UFMG.
Here are some pictures with the many pilgrims we interacted: