Rio, here we come

| Caroline Rode | July 17, 2013 | 0 Comments
Young people carry the World Youth Day cross to city hall in Rio de Janeiro July 10 as Brazilians make final preparations for World Youth Day and the visit by Pope Francis. Young people from around the globe will join the pontiff for the celebration in Rio July 23-28. CNS photo/Pilar Olivares, Reuters

Young people carry the World Youth Day cross to city hall in Rio de Janeiro July 10 as Brazilians make final preparations for World Youth Day and the visit by Pope Francis. Young people from around the globe will join the pontiff for the celebration in Rio July 23-28. CNS photo/Pilar Olivares, Reuters

Nearly 2.5 million youth from all corners of the world will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 23 to 28 for World Youth Day.

Started by Blessed John Paul II in 1984 and happening every two or three years since, the international, week-long encounter with Christ and millions of other Catholics includes catechetical sessions in many different languages and will culminate with Mass with Pope Francis.

More than 1 million youth attended World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, last year to see and hear from Pope Benedict XVI. This will be Pope Francis’ first time at the event.

Many Minnesotans will be joining the other pilgrims, including groups from Hamel, Minneapolis, Stillwater and another from the St. Cloud area.

Pedaling to prepare

To prepare physically for World Youth Day, most members of the group from St. Anne in Hamel went on a 56-mile pilgrimage on their bikes from St. Joseph to Melrose and back in one day.

St. Anne’s youth minister, Travis Nelson, said the group stopped at different parishes along the way, participating in Mass, praying the rosary or spending time in eucharistic adoration.

“You’ve got to ride together just as when we’re walking together at World Youth Day, getting to know each other and getting to know more than just the friends that [we’re] going with,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes the struggles they encountered on their biking pilgrimage will help them overcome any potential challenges in Rio.

“I’m hoping that with all of the struggle and pain, we as a group will stay focused on the goal that Christ is the one leading us and that the Holy Spirit is guiding us,” Nelson said.

This will be the first World Youth Day for 16-year-old Josephine von Dohlen, and her first time traveling outside of the United States. She is traveling with St. Anne’s and said she’s excited to join with millions of youth from around the world.

“I think it will be a great experience and kind of the rejuvenation in our faith, just knowing that there are so many other kids around the world struggling with the same things that you are: living out a strong Catholic life,” she said.

Nelson’s first World Youth Day experience was in Toronto in 2002. He said he hopes he’ll be able to help give the youth a variety of experiences that will show them how blessed they are to be members of the greater Church.

“I just really want the youth to experience what I experienced when I went to Toronto. And that is that the Church is alive,” Nelson said.

Von Dohlen said her group focused on not only physical aspects of the pilgrimage, but learning that prayer is needed for spiritual preparation.

“We’ll be walking many, many miles every day, and it’s definitely going to be in a different atmosphere than we’re used to. So I think a lot of prayer is very helpful,” she said.

Young people carry the World Youth Day cross to city hall in Rio de Janeiro July 10 as Brazilians make final preparations for World Youth Day and the visit by Pope Francis. Young people from around the globe will join the pontiff for the celebration in Rio July 23-28. CNS photo/Ricardo Moraes, Reuters

Young people carry the World Youth Day cross to city hall in Rio de Janeiro July 10 as Brazilians make final preparations for World Youth Day and the visit by Pope Francis. Young people from around the globe will join the pontiff for the celebration in Rio July 23-28. CNS photo/Ricardo Moraes, Reuters

Local priest to lead group

Father Larry Hubbard, who previously served at the archdiocese’s Venezuela mission in the Diocese of Ciudad Guayana, will be traveling with a group from St. Cloud and will serve as spiritual director. Youth from the St. Cloud area are joining together to travel to World Youth Day, including five brothers from Holy Cross in North Prairie.

“I’m really excited to see all the people there for the same reason: to celebrate our faith,” said Ben Borash, the youngest of the five brothers.

Rob Schumer is the youth director for parishes in Bowlus, Elmdale, North Prairie, St. Francis and Upsala. He said he, along with the nine others in his group, are excited to see their new pope.

With Pope Francis being from South America, “I’m really looking forward to seeing how much more elevated the energy level is going to be in the pilgrims that are going to be there,” Schumer said.

A tradition at World Youth Day is for groups to bring different items from their home country to share and trade with pilgrims from all over the world. Schumer and his pilgrims are taking 1,500 homemade red, white and blue rosaries to trade with other pilgrims in Rio.

Schumer hopes to be able to have daily Mass during the pilgrimage. In years past, Schumer said other pilgrims from different countries have joined in the Mass.

“Whether that Mass is going to be on the sidewalk, in a city park, in a bus terminal, in a hotel room, wherever, I like that opportunity to be able to have Mass together as a group,” Schumer said.

Schumer said his group will be traveling in simplicity, with minimal items for travel. For example, the teens are each packing only two pairs of pants and three T-shirts.

“One thought I’ve always put into the pilgrims’ heads is, ‘We’re not going on vacation, we’re on a pilgrimage’” he said.

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