Note … if you see this post twice, my apologies – wifi is spotty and unpredictable!
One of the most important parts of the World Youth Day experience is three mornings of catechesis with bishops from around the world. These catechesis sessions showcase the primary role of the bishop, which is to be a teacher of the faith. But on a more practical level, they also make the WYD experience more intimate – with a few hundred people in each group rather than several hundred thousand. The catechesis sessions are separated by language, but with some locations hosting multiple groups in different languages on the same campus. Our location – the School of Our Lady of the Resurrection – is hosting two catechesis sessions – in English and Dutch. For our English session, the other priest in our group – Fr. Jonathan Meyer – is serving as the animator or coordinator of the catechesis sessions. Among other things, this means that our pilgrimage group has the privilege of serving as hosts, greeters, and liturgical ministers for the three days of catechesis at our site. Today, we welcomed Bishop Moses Costa, CSC, from Bangledesh to lead our catechesis session and preside at Mass. He spoke on the hungers young people have for meaning and for God. Pilgrims gathered for the session came from the US, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, Qatar, Kenya, Malaysia, and several other countries. At one point during Mass, I looked around and reflected on the big picture of our communal prayer – here we were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Mass celebrated by a bishop from Bangledesh, about 15 priests concelebrating from all of the world, with two transitional deacons from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and servers, readers, and gift bearers from our Archdiocese as well. How blessed we were! Yet, once again, the Mass is the same everywhere in the world, no matter who is presiding, who is serving, and who is attending – another living expression of the universality of our faith.
The catechesis and Mass ended early afternoon, so we went to the food court at a local mall for lunch before making the long trek by bus back to downtown Rio. Traffic slowed us down, so we didn’t have as much time as we had hoped for some sightseeing, but we did stop at the Church of Our Lady of the Candles (Calandaria). It is one of the oldest churches in Rio, built and decorated in a beautiful Baroque style that is reminiscent of European churches. We were there during a Taize prayer service, so we also were able to join in that prayer. We then made our way to Vivo Rio, a concert venture which was
hosting the US national gathering. There was music, Eucharistic Adoration, witness talks, and a chance to visit with other pilgrims from the US. I participated in the Vocations Veranda area of the event, where a variety of diocesan and religious order vocation directors were available for one-on-one conversations with anyone who wanted to talk about God’s call in their lives. It was a great experience speaking with young people from around the country who are seriously listening to God’s voice.
Late dinners seem to be the norm around here, so around 10 pm we stopped at a buffet restaurant, where most of us got an unlimited pizza, pasta, and soup dinner. Then it was back to our accommodations to rest up for another day of catechesis. And then, we will head back to Copacabana Beach to welcome Pope Francis for the first official time to World Youth Day.
Despite a pretty steady drizzle to solid rain, and being the coldest day of the year so far in Rio (highs today were in the mid-60s), our group continues to be in good spirits and encountering many blessings along our journey. And we remember all of you daily in our prayers.