World Youth Day 2016

Our last day in Poland! An optional mass was given to us all this morning after the late night last night. However, I decided to go and I am honestly so happy that I did as it was such a lovely way to end the pilgrimage, the same way that we started it in Dover. In Mass, I read the responsorial psalm and the gospel acclamation. It was great to be able to do so as I was able to have input on the last Mass we would be having with one another.

After Mass, we were able to go into town to get all of the last bits of shopping we needed to get before our 30 hour journey back home. We headed straight into town from mass where we were able to experience Kraków in a different way as it wasn’t half as busy as what we had been experiencing for the past week. We collected a few things before heading back in the direction we came in and stopped off at an Italian for some food before heading back to the hotel to depart. We got taxis back so that we had more time in town and as we arrived back we saw lots of our group already loading bags onto the coaches. We shot upstairs to our rooms to finish the last bit of packing we had to do before heading downstairs and putting our bags on the coaches. We departed the hotel and said goodbye to those who are flying back, which was upsetting considering we’ve all spent the past 2 weeks with one another. The journey’s actually going really well as I write this, we’ve watched some films, stopped at service stations and travelled throughout the night. With it also bring James’ birthday, a selection of party games had been done for the journey home, such as pass the parcel and of course, a good game of bingo.

As the day past, we headed to bed and I had a surprisingly had a good sleep and woke up to being not too far away from Calais. We made it in good timing so was able to get on an earlier ferry back to Dover. Saying goodbye to everybody on the ferry was lovely, but no doubt we’ll all see each other soon, so it didn’t get emotional as we all depart for different destinations. Now, we’re about 3 hours away from St Chads cathedral although there is a bit of traffic, but I’ve honestly had 2 of the best weeks ever! I couldn’t be happier and more excited for the next world youth day! This has been a breathe taking experience for me and I’ve loved meeting every single person on the journey! Bring on Panama 2019!

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This morning I woke up, slightly tired and a little bit wet due to the dew. Although it was great to look around and still see the hundreds of thousands of people camping out for the popes arrival and closing mass. Before anything, we needed to get to the toilets and have a clean up as it wasn’t the nicest feeling having been in the same place for the past 24 hours, especially with the heat! The line took around 45 minutes to get into the toilets which I suppose wasn’t actually too bad considering the amount of people who needed to go in.

After getting in, we beaded back to where we had set up and decided that it would be a good idea to pack away everything so that we could leave as soon as mass was over to try and beat all of the crowds.  We realised that this was going to be the last opportunity we were going to be able to see the polish team so myself and a few others, went to their sector to see them and say our final goodbyes! It was really sad but knowing that we will hopefully be seeing some of them again in October made it all much better! Once we said bye we headed back just before mass started and experienced a beautiful mass, despite the very hot weather.

Straight after communion, myself and a few other small groups decided to head back so that we could beat the rush, even though it was still very busy. We set off with all of our belongings and headed back to the junior krakus. Along the journey, we stopped just before leaving the main park to find out that the next World Youth Day will be in Panama, in 2019! This got us all excited about the next journey but also got us thinking about how hot it is going to be there if it is this hot here! With absolutely no transport running, we did the whole journey by foot which was really difficult at times as the heat was right over us. With encouragement we managed to get back to the hotel and just as we arrived back, a massive rain storm hit us and it was beautiful the fact that it had hit us just as we were back.

When we arrived, all we wanted to do was shower and put some fresh clothes on, so for a long while we stayed at the hotel and cleaned ourselves up. We were also lucky as we set off before some other small groups so we had dibs on the showers! Once we had freshened up, we thought it would be a good idea to head into town to do some last minute shopping. Although, we didn’t realise that the trams still wouldn’t be running and that no taxis were able to get to us as all of the roads were shut. So we all decided to stay in the hotel and have a gathering as the archdiocese of Birmingham and spend some time with one another.

At 07:30pm, the archbishop came to our hotel for our last meal together which was a great time to exchange presents to group leaders and organisers and say an overall thank you to everybody who had put in so much effort for us to experience all that we did.

After the meal, it was time for us to have a chilled evening and get everything ready for our departure tomorrow. I thought now would also be a good time to be writing this as I imagine tomorrow I’ll be very tired and a very busy, as we have some free time before we head off and I think that’s when we will have to go souvenir shopping.

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Well, this morning we expected to get a lift to where the night vigil will be taking place, but we didn’t quite realise how many people were going to turn up and with that, all of the roads were closed so we didn’t actually get that much closer.

We left the hotel at 7:30am this morning to get to the park to set up early before the crowds really do start and what a good plan that was! It wasn’t very busy at all but we were defiantly not the only people who had the same idea. It wasn’t even the peak of the day but the heat was tremendous, and with all of our bags some of us found it harder than others. We had several stops, and it was great to see the Polish army handing out the meal bags for us all! Within them we had a selection of things to keep us going for the next 24 hours!

When we got to the park, we had to go through security which was difficult as by this time it was around mid day and the sun was right over us and the line wasn’t moving the quickest! However, we got through and I was especially great fun at the fact that I had brought a water fan with me for the journey so that I didn’t find it as hard. We found our section and we were pretty early so we could get a good spot before everybody else turned up! We set up our camp for the night and before I knew it, our priests were getting ready to celebrate mass with us in our section, using a crate of water bottles as the alter. This was so special as even though there were thousands of other people around us, we could still celebrate mass as the archdiocese of Birmingham in this incredible position. People from all around the world were looking at us all wondering what was going on, and some other English speaking pilgrims from around the world actually joined us in mass which was also a beautiful hitting to experience.

After mass, we had some time to explore the sight and see what it had to offer, and shortly after this, the pope arrived to begin our night vigil in prayer. When Pope Francis spoke, he said “our time doesn’t need anymore young people who are coach potatoes” and this has really stuck with me. Even though I have listened to Pope Francis on many occasions, this felt different, like he was speaking directly to me. I took this onboard as though he was telling me that to make a difference in this world, the only thing we can do is go out and do good. This has really got me thinking into what I really want to do in the future!

Not long after, we had a time to reflect and I remember looking around to seeing everybody in every section of the park holding candles and praying! This honestly did bring me to tears as it gave me such a warm feeling! Knowing that I am not alone on this journey was all that I needed, as in myself I often have doubts and questions but none of them mattered when looking around and seeing millions of young people all believing in Jesus’ name. When this period of time finished, we all hung out with one another and some of us decided to pray with one another! Some of the polish team came and said hello before many of us went to sleep. Now I am here, ready to go to sleep under the stars, waiting for the Pope to arrive tomorrow and celebrate mass, and find out where the next world youth day is going to be!

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I really don’t want this pilgrimage to end, I’m having such a good time! Today was a bit of a chilled day! We had our last day of catechesis’. We headed up to the church which yet again looked beautiful and some English speaking pilgrims joined us to celebrate Mass and hear the catechesis led by Bishop Terry Drainey of Middlesborough! The music was fantastic and really got to involve all of those that were not from the archdiocese of Birmingham! Actions were shown and it was great looking around the church to see everybody having so much fun, worshiping the Lord. Shortly after this we took place in the celebration of Mass which was great as per usual and gave me a time to fully pray to the Lord and tell him about why I am so thankful to have him in my life. During Mass, I was asked to do the offertory which was a beautiful way for me to end the three days at this church! After Mass, we had free time and an option to go to the way of the cross which I decided to do.

Myself and a few others headed into town to get something to eat and enjoy the fantastic city of Kraków. We decided we were going to go to the way of the cross so we headed into the park where we experienced an outstanding version. This was incredible and honestly touched my heart to see what Jesus went through. When this was finished, we headed back into town where we had some more free time, but as the way of the cross had just finished, everything was totally packed with pilgrims so we opted for the decision of coming back to the hotel and ordering a pizza which we have just done! Tomorrow we have a seriously long day ahead but it should be brilliant!

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Today was the first day we led the catechesis in the lovely ‘Sacred heart of Jesus’ church which is located not too far away from us! We had people come from Scotland and Canada joining in which was great seeing other people from around the world joining in with songs that they haven’t heard before! My role this morning was to be on welcoming so myself, my school group and one another waited on the steps of the church where we sang, danced and chanted, allowing people to feel excited going into church. Cardinal Soane Mafi led us in the catechesis which was incredible hearing his story, especially the experiences he’s had when meeting the Pope. Then we celebrated Mass, and Archbishop Longley came for the celebration.

After this, we headed back to our hotel, before getting on the coaches and heading to an Italian restaurant where we all could use our tokens that we were given! The food was actually quite nice considering that there was so many of us and the food was free! After this we headed into our town with our small groups! We joined with another group so that we had more people to go around with which was good! We arrived in town and had around an hour to ourselves to do what we wanted to do! When we met back up in our combined group, we headed to the JPII centre on some seriously cramped trams which didn’t stop at the correct stops, so it turns out we actually missed our slot there but we continued anyway and headed to the ‘Devine mercy shrine!’ It was so busy but was amazing knowing that so many people were so interested in seeing the beautiful shrine.

After this, some people decided to head back to the hotel but a group of us headed into town to make the most of Kraków! We had a meal at a restaurant which was lovely right on the side of the main square so we could experience the lively hood, but we were back at our hotel before we knew it. Definitely time for bed now, but extremely excited for the upcoming days, especially as the Pope is arriving tomorrow!

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Brits abroad!!:

Brits abroad!

 

 

 

 

Opening Mass:
Opening Mass

Today was a late start! We met in our bus groups at 10am and were told we had to have breakfast before hand. We all travelled into Kraków by tram, and on the journey to the tram stop, we visited the church where we will be leading the catechesis for the new for a few mornings; which was lovely! We then got on the air conditioned tram and headed into Kraków town.

When we arrived, I couldn’t get over the amount of people there were, despite being told on so many occasions. We were given meal tickets that we can only use in certain places. It was so busy that we decided to go somewhere where we had to pay and even then, we had to wait 45 minutes for our food as it was so busy! We met back up as the Birmingham Archdiocese and headed for the welcoming Mass. We sang and chanted so many different songs that some other countries joined in with us. We definitely made an impression on everybody else that was around us!!

When we headed for Mass, the weather decided it was going to change and despite it being seriously hot all day. It was a beautiful Mass and the rain had cleared by the time it started. Luckily there was plenty of us that have radios so that we can translate the Mass into English, otherwise it would be pretty difficult to concentrate.  The music was a highlight for many of us as we recognised a lot of it from the previous week. The Polish team had introduced us to some new songs that will be played many times through out the next week. When Mass was over, we headed to the food quarter to get some well needed food. We all ate in our small groups and finally got back to the hotel after a very busy tram journey – it had been the last tram before they shut the station! Luckily we’re back now and ready for tomorrow, where we will be leading the first catechesis.

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Today was so emotional, I cannot even begin to explain! We had to get up at 6am which was a struggle as I didn’t get to sleep until 2am, but we managed it. Saying goodbye to our hosts was really difficult as they had done so much for all of us and we had bonded so much in the short amount of time we had spent with them. Our family led us in a goodbye prayer which was so amazing before the tears started rolling and the tissues came out.

We arrived at the park and loaded up before being waved off by our families. The journey to Kraków began and I slept for a while on the journey. We stopped off for some lunch at a rather posh restaurant, where Pope St John Paul II was born, and had chicken with chips and a desert which was enjoyable. Then we went on to see more about where he lived and also where he served as an altar boy, where he was baptised, made his first holy communion and confirmation. The short journey to Auschwitz then took place which was mind blowing. Both Auschwitz and Birkineau really stood out for me and hit me hard. Everything that I’ve been told about all of a sudden came into perspective and I really didn’t understand the scale of it until I experienced walking around the camps.

Before we knew it, it was really late, and we still had to drive to the hotel and have dinner. When we arrived we were greeted by Archbishop Bernard who led us in grace and said hello to us all before leaving. We ate and then unloaded our bags, got our rooms sorted and were given a brief plan of tomorrow.

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Today, we woke up early with our host family, excited for the opening Mass of the new church! The Mass was beautiful in an amazing church! The music sounded like angels were calling. I heard people describing it as sounding like heaven and wanting to enter! I had the privilege of reading the second reading, and despite having nerves running all through my body, I got through it which was so special for me; I felt honoured. The whole parish community came together for this Mass including my host family, whom despite having young children, still made the effort.  After Mass, everybody congregated outside where Fr Chris planted an apple tree and was left there on our behalf. We then had the opportunity to go back to our host families for lunch and some quality ‘family’ time. We had some typical Polish foods which I surprisingly enjoyed and it was lovely to chat without being overly tired or being rushed! We also exchanged presents which got emotional as we were all just so thankful for each other’s presence! A variety of chocolates and Union-Jack-related things were given. The chocolate definitely went down a treat! Next, we headed back to the park to travel to both gardens we had previously been working on. Blessings took place of the new ‘sensory garden’ and a further ‘rosary garden’ which was made with a large image of Pope Francis on. It looks fantastic!

After the blessings we headed back to the park for our family bbq and social before we leave tomorrow! It’s safe to say that we stayed rather late as it’s currently 1:30am as I’m writing this, but I couldn’t have asked for a better evening! Some great food, great people and a great laugh! We all danced together and at the end of the night, the Polish team put on a great performance for us which was breath taking and they seemed to have so much fun doing it! Then it was back to the host family for our last night. I’ve just finished packing and ready to leave for Kraków tomorrow!

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An early start, but a great breakfast! A selection of meats and cheeses were on offer as well as some polish traditional food that was…, let’s say, interesting! A Mass  took place to really set the day off which was beautiful, with music led by the Polish team. They were singing songs in English, which felt magical as it was as though they had gone to the effort of learning the songs just for us! After Mass, and a short walk to the park, we were all on coaches and on our way to our mission activities.

We arrived at Sadowa and were greeted by all of the residents! We had a couple of translators who definitely helped when it came to communicating and it made it that bit more special! We started by painting plant pots which we all enjoyed and which will be filled tomorrow when they’re all dried! We also started creating a world youth day flag but didn’t get to finish that; which is also what we plan on doing tomorrow. We moved onto the garden this afternoon as more help was needed; it was a great opportunity to get mucky and really get stuck in! The garden is being re-vamped into a sensory garden for all of the residents to use. The difference is already amazing!

At the end of the day we went to the local park for pizza which gave us a chance to speak with all of the polish team after having spent the whole day with them. A pizza was shared between two of us and a selection of drinks were on offer which was  a beautiful way to round off the day. We then walked back to the church where we had night prayer! A lovely end to such a beautiful day! I  had a smile on my face all day as I felt, whilst having the time of my life, that we were making other people smile too. I cannot wait to get stuck in again tomorrow!

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It’s not everyday you wake up to being on a moving vehicle, but today was one of them days!

With still another 14 hours to go, we had traveled through France, Berlin, Netherlands and Germany all whilst being asleep. Morning prayer was designed by Alton Castle, and it was a great way to get everybody going with it being practical! We were all given an envelope with several objects that related to one of the corporal works of mercy, and with them we had to create a bracelet which we could keep with us to remember all of those in need. As mine was rather large, I decided to wear it as an anklet which soon got irritating, but I decided to keep it on as I thought it looked great, and I was always aware of it being there so this gave me several moments throughout my journey where I stopped for a moment and appreciated all that I have and thanked the Lord for giving me this opportunity.

Another pit stop off at McDonald’s went down a treat for many, although I think we were all faced with our first challenge of ordering our food in Polish, (which nobody could do!). The journey continued, films were watched and ‘Friar Tuck’s tuck-shop’ continued… Everybody had massive smiles on their faces and genuinely were enjoying the company of those around us.

For me, arriving in Warsaw was one of the most humbling and satisfying things I have ever experienced. As we arrived at our drop off point, we were greeted by all of our host families in mass numbers, with banners and flyers, the cheer was also so welcoming it was unreal! The energy was fantastic and put a smile on everybody’s face despite being on a coach for the past 29 hours. I collected my luggage, and after a prayer of welcome, a song, and an overall hello, we were on our way to our host families’ homes to meet the remaining members.

I’m in a house with 4 girls, 1 boy, the mother and father, and it’s safe to say that they’re just as happy to see us as we are to see them. After having a shower and freshening up, the mother of the family ‘Blanka’ prepared some food for us which we ate together and which gave us a chance to get to know a little bit more about each other. Now I am ready to go to bed after a long journey here and looking forward to the early start tomorrow. A great beginning to a great experience!

26 hour coach journey they say?

Well… 5 hours in and here I sit on the ferry looking back on our day. We started heading to Dover on our fabulously led coaches ‘Faustina,’ ‘JPII’ and ‘St Francis.’ We were soon on the road, and what better way to begin than in prayer? A prayer card was given to every member on our coach so that we were able to pray as one, but also have something to look back on and remember the first moments of our pilgrimage.

With a pit stop at Oxford services, everybody had a chance to stretch their legs and dip into the delights of the refreshments that it offers (by that we all mean Starbucks! Or potentially even a KFC…) After another 3 hour journey, we arrived at ‘Our Lady of Dover’ where we celebrated a beautiful mass together led by Fr. Michael and (the new) Fr. Chris! In the homily, Fr. Michael spoke about us as brothers and sisters being bold in our prayer. This allowed me to think about the upcoming journey I am going to be faced with in the next two weeks. By being bold in my prayer it may allow me to be a witness to the Gospel and grow within my own faith. This really allowed me to realise what an amazing experience I am going to have, with so many people around me that I now call friends, after bonding with them at our monthly World Youth Day meeting’s we’ve been having for nearly one year! Overall, a great way to begin my World Youth Day journey! Speaking of some of our clergy, I have the pleasure of being on both Fr. Michael’s and Fr. Chris’ coach where they’re running the ‘Friar Tucks tuck-shop.’ A wonderful selection of goodies for us all, at a price that is cheap but cheerful which goes without saying! So… here I am, looking forward to the upcoming weeks that I have ahead of me, but for now it is to try and get some sleep, with another 23 hours left to travel!
Day 1 Prayer Day 1 Chapel Day 1 Arrival

 

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

After a lovely meal and time of sharing memories last night, we had some precious free time this morning before the coach arrived at 4pm to take us to the airport. Some of the group went to the beautiful Sugarloaf Mountain to take in the breath taking views of Rio! They didn’t disappoint and I think it was only when we were up there did it dawn on us that we had been in this beautiful country for 2 weeks!  Others did last minute shopping for presents and reminders of our trip and most of the diocese group could be found in the Haviania Shop at some point in the day! The journey home was LONG but gave everyone a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep! A very tired coach full of people were met at Holy Family in Coventry and St Chad’s Cathedral by family glad to have us home safe and desperate to hear all about it!

So thats the end of the Pilgrimage and I can’t quite believe that the trip we have all been waiting for, preparing for, fundraising for and getting excited, nervous and excited again about has been and gone! As a teacher at Cardinal Newman School in Coventry and Youth Leader at Christ The King I find myself on numerous school trips and youth trips and never seem to be amazed at watching the young people get so much out of what they are experiencing, but I know I speak for Maria Bracken aswell when I say that this was the trip of all trips! Every single person, clergy included, has come back from Brazil changed! When we responded to Pope Benedict’s invitation to join him for World Youth Day we also said yes to becoming the GMD generation….the GO MAKE DISCIPLES generation. The young people of the Birmingham Diocese truly opened their hearts to this challenge and went and nade a huge difference to not only the lives of the people we worked with on the mission but to their own lives. We have learnt lessons in love, humility, compassion and giving and I sincerely hope that these lessons will last a lifetime because if these young people are the future of our diocese imagine the difference they can make!

I can’t finish without some official thank yous!

To our leader…. Maria Bracken. There wasn’t a stone unturned in the preparation for this trip. Thank you for hours that you put into this trip.  Thank you for knowing every single person before we left. Thank you for making sure we were safe. Thank you for taking the risk! Thank you for always making us laugh and most of all thank you for being the inspiration you are just by being you!

Behind every good woman there’s a JACKIE CRAIG! What can we say! The hours of paper work, shopping, planning, chasing us for passport photos and details and still being able to love us and make us laugh! You became people’s mum while we were in Brazil and showed us so much care! Thank you!

The Clergy Team! It was a real privilage to have been joined by Bishop William and Archbishop Bernard for this trip. We felt very proud to have them at the Catechesis sessions and I know that they enjoyed seeing what our young people had achieved. There are some thoughts from Archbishop Bernard on this page but I know that the young people were delighted to be with him and we were so touched by his approach to make sure that he spoke to everyone and thanked them for what hey had done and he soon became affectionately known as ‘ARCHIE B’!

A HUGE thank you must go to the four priests that walked beside us on this journey. Fr Jan, Fr Michael, Fr Des and Fr Paul….THANK YOU! Thank you for the neverending pastoral care, for knowing when people needed you and what they needed, for listening to us, for rolling your sleeves up, for your incredible dance moves, for having fun with us and for touching every persons heart.

The final thanks must then go to all those that supported us on the journey!  To our family and friends, to the Parishes that sent young people, to the parishes that supported young people, to the schools of our diocese that did so much to help, to anyone that went to fundraising events, bought cakes, raffle tickets or made donations and a special thank you to Catholic Today for their support.

So I’m signing off from the blog now, it’s been a pleasure to write it as it has helped me to truly capture all that we did and I hope that you enjoyed reading it! Look out for reports on all our follow up work and reunions as we are determined to continue to be the GMD generation!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

7 am and the Birmingham group were awoken (well those that weren’t already awake and not those hardcore sleepers) to the sounds of the official WYD song and they were up dancing away!! Everyone was in great spirits as we knew we were coming to the end of this pilgrimage and about to end it in the best way possible…..Mass with our Holy Father! And he didn’t disappoint with yet another fantastic homily in which he again gave us three messages:
Go
Do not be afraid
Serve
He reminded us that this was our calling and Jesus didn’t ask us to follow him if we had time, or if we wanted to, but to follow him unconditionally. He said that we were ALL called to go and make disciples, don’t worry about not being prepared or ready, God  wouldn’t ask us to do anything he didn’t think we could do and to be ready to serve. He ended by saying this:
‘Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world. Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. ‘
At the end of the mass the Polish Pilgrims and Fr. Jan went wild as their country was announced as host of WYD 2016!
After the final blessing we stayed on the beach for an hour and partied Brazilian style.
After showers and naps and visits to the beach over the road we had a lovely farewell meal with the Archbishop and Bishop William and Bishop Alan Hopes.  So many stories and memories are being shared by all and some lovely thank you speeches were made for our wonderful clergy. The biggest thanks of course went to Maria and Jackie for their unending hard work, love and support, without which none of this would have been possible!

There will be a final update on my return to the UK with some of the thoughts of our fantastic Archbishop Bernard and news from our last day in Rio!

God is certainly good!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

Nobody can quite believe that the official WYD overnight vigil and Papal Mass is finally here! We feel God looking down on so much as so many things are making our journey easier!

Our four wonderful priests Fr. Jan, Fr. Des, Fr. Paul and Fr. Michael started their day that the Cathedral where they stood inches away from Pope Francis to concelebrate Mass.

The rest of the group traveled to Copacabana to set up our little camp for the next 24 hours and when we were all reunited there were excited takes on both sides! I think that this is one of the comfiest WYD vigils ever with the sand being much better than a field or concrete!  The only downside was the toilets which were particularly disgusting (I feel like I’ve shared everything else in this blog that I should share that too) the only way to get through was to stick a baby wipe up your nose! But if that was the only thing to contend with we were feeling lucky and blessed!

Pope Francis arrived at 7pm to begin the vigil in reflection and prayer.  He never fails to inspire us and as Fr. Jan and Fr. Michael are able to speak Spanish and so was the Pope, we were lucky that we could have it translated for us at the time!

The Pope inspired us with his talk ‘Field of Faith’ (as the vigil and mass were originally planned to be in a field) and gave us three aspects to think about:

“First, a field is a place for sowing, a field is a training ground and a field is a construction site.” He explained that we were the soil of this field and how important it is to have good soil! He asked us to imagine the field as a playing filed and like in any game, you have to train to become good. He told us a major part of our training was through prayer, through the sacraments and through loving one another. He told us that we have to be the builders, we have to take an active role in building a better future! He quoted Mother Teresa when he told us that the only way to build and make changes was ‘through you and me’.

At the end of his talk he reminded us that we should never forget we are the field of faith – “you are Christ’s Athletes”

Following his talk every single person took to their knees as he led us in adoration and as Laura said this morning, ‘there is something quite amazing about hearing 3 million people being silent’.

After the Pope had departed music blared our across the beach and people were dancing and singing before tucking themselves up in sleeping bags and survival bags as we lay down to sleep with the sound of the ocean just meters away!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

This morning was our final Catechesis at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church.  It has been a real pleasure to be here this week and to serve the many pilgrims that have come for the sessions each day.  The talk this morning was from Bishop Charles from Chilli and he focused on the theme ‘Mission’ and helped us the reflect on how we become missionaries from the calling of discipleship. It became clear that we don’t have to travel very far, the people around us in our daily lives are in need of our profession just as much. The Holy Spirit is calling to set us apart from others with the work that God wants us to carry out. He told us to spend time getting to know Jesus as it’s when we know Jesus fully we can share it fully with others. He ended by telling us that we might never know the effect that we could have on someone’s life and we need to ‘stop moaning and start spreading the good news’!

After the talk Mitchel gave a testimony for all to hear of his faith journey and experience from the night before. This went down a storm and the whole Birmingham group were so proud of him! Click here to see a Video

After lunch 19 of the group headed to Stations of the Cross at Copacabana beach while the rest headed back to the beach opposite the hotel for a reflection on the stations and confessions with Fr. Des.  Both groups had a brilliant experience with the stations being acted out on the beach and time for reflection on them with the Holy Father and the others found themselves running into the sea fully clothed after going to confession with Fr. Des (although I’m not entirely sure that was the penance being dished out!)

Early nights were needed all round as we prepared for the day we had all been waiting for!

By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

Some very tired Pilgrims gathered in the hotel reception this morning at 7.30 am to travel to our Catechesis site. Like yesterday our group were in charge of welcoming pilgrims from America, Canada, Jamaica and we were especially glad that the diocese of East Anglia were able to join us today and to animate the session. The talk today was from Bishop Frank Caggiano from Brooklyn New York and he was a fantastic speaker on the theme ‘To be Christ’s Disciples’.  He reminded us that God chooses each one of us by name and that we are worth being chosen because we are loved by God. He talked about those three powerful words that Jesus said but have been repeated throughout history ‘Come, follow me’.  When we are willing to say yes to God, our lives will be complete. We have already responded YES to that call by being here in Rio, by standing in the rain, getting pushed in queues and being tired and hungry we are saying to God that we are here and that we want to follow him.

Bishop Frank talked about Jesus being our best friend and just like any best friend, he has seen us at our ugliest and still loves us!  He ended by telling us that everything God asks us to ‘Come follow me’, we should respond with YES even if its 100 times a day!

After lunch we made our journey to Copacabana beech for the opening ceremony for the Pope! This was the  first glimpse we had of him this week and we were so excited. He came past where we were standing and we all waved at him, took photos and videos! There is a sense of happiness and joy that the Pope has officially welcomed pilgrims here to Rio.

One pilgrim got a much better view that everyone else!  Mitchel Howe from Christ The King Coventry was nominated by Maria to represent us on the stage with the Pope! This was such a proud moment for home, for us and for the Diocese! Telling us of his experience in the bar afterwards his joy was overflowing and he said that it still hadn’t sunk in that he had been within an arm stretch of our Holy Father. He will be giving a testimony at Catechesis this morning which will hopefully make it easier to put it into words for this blog!

In his welcoming speech the Pope expressed how proud he is that the so many youth have gathered together with Christ in their hearts. He told us that before he came to Rio he was with Pope Benedict who is praying for us while we are here.

Pictures and videos to follow!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

This morning we gathered at 7:30am to leave for Catechesis. The Birmingham group have been asked to work with Edwin Fawcett and help animate the session. Despite being a little bit chaotic, it is a real privilege to be doing this and serving 1000 other pilgrims from the UK, USA, Canada and Jamaica in this way. Our musicians did a brilliant job leading the music and Amy joined Edwin to help MC the morning.

Bishop Anthony Fisher from Sydney gave an inspiring talk based in the theme ‘Thirsting’. He explained that young people are thirsting for God and God is searching for us. Jesus shares in this human thirst and and as Jesus and God are one, God is also sharing in that thirst…..for our love. He encouraged us not to be dehydrated by the world and let Christ quench our thirst so that we can be the ‘GMD Generation – the ‘Go make disciples of all nations’ generation.

Pilgrims were given time to reflect on this before hearing the testimonies of some of the Birmingham group on their experience in Petropolis. Bishop Anthony took questions from the congregation before we celebrated mass altogether. We were thrilled to see Archbishop Bernard joining us for this part of our journey.

We have had free time today and some people took the chance to rest whilst others could be found in the shopping mall and we are looking forward to joining Archbishop Bernard this evening for night prayer and drinks in the hotel bar!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

We had an early start this morning as we headed to Corcovada Mountain and the statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’. Despite the bad weather every one of us were touched with the personal experience we had of standing at the foot of Jesus. After posing for the usual photographs small groups gathered together to pray, for ourselves, for one another and for everyone back home.

We were then taken to a BBQ Steak House where we were able to taste the local meats, some of us were far more adventurous than others! After lunch we were dropped off at Copacabana Beach for the opening ceremony and mass with the Archbishop of Rio.

The atmosphere was incredible on the beach and chants and mantras managed to break down language barriers between all of the pilgrims as the WYD cross and Icon were brought onto the beach before Mass started.
In his sermon, the Archbishop offered words of encouragement and asked us to focus on the theme of ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. Reports are suggesting that there were 400,000, but trying to get back to the hotel in the crowds, it definitely felt like much much more!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

Gathering this morning as one community we realised just how close we had become to our new friends as speeches and presentations were made whilst fighting back tears. The Christian Life Movement community sang a hymn to us to pray for us as we continue on our journey. It really is hard to understand just what a life changing experience this has been for all of us.

And so we went onto Rio to start the next chapter! Arriving at the hotel people were so very grateful to see beds and hot showers and after gathering our thoughts and bearings we headed to mass at ‘Our Lady of Copacabana’ church with all of the UK pilgrims. Mass was lovely and it was great to feel a sense of belonging to our country. After mass we went to a lovely restaurant in Impanema to have a meal together and toast the news of the Royal Baby!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

Emotions were very high yesterday and last night as the mission part of our journey comes to end. We are all so incredibly proud of what has been achieved in this last week.  The village that we have been working in is called  ‘Meio da Serra’ which in English translates as ‘Middle of the Mountain’ and they are overwhelmed and delighted with the work that has been done as the garden that we created will feed 14 local families.  After finishing all of our jobs we gathered at the garden for it to be blessed by Bishop William and it was lovely to be joined by some of the community for this.  Anderson (a brother of the community) told us just how much of a difference our work has made. After lunch we celebrated mass in the parish church and Anderson was overwhelmed that some of the community that don’t usually come to mass came into the church to be with us. Our last day in the mission was finished with a party that the children and young people helped us to prepare and a talent show where we and they were able to sing and dance and do all manner of crazy things! A special mention must go to Fr. Paul, Fr. Jan, Fr. Michael and Chris for showing us their dance that I for one am glad not to have missed!

On returning to the Pastoral Centre for dinner and gathering for drinks in the local bar it’s hard to put into words just how everyone is feeling. The people we have met and walked alongside have taught us so much, they have been a real witness of faith and of God’s abundant love for us. There is not one person on this trip that hasn’t been changed by the lessons in humility, friendship and stewardship. Fr. Jan captured the feelings of the planning committee  when he told the group how proud he is of the young people of the Birmingham Diocese and what they have done.

The ground before we worked on it!

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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

The last two days have been so incredible it really is hard to put into words the experience we are having. We have been to the mission daily and in such a short space of time we have already made an impact!

On Friday, some of the children at the mission wanted to show some of our pilgrims a walk they do called ‘the golden mile’. 2 hours later and their guide having to use a machete to create footpaths through the terrain and they soon realised that the golden mile was definitely not just a mile! They enjoyed the experience though and loved seeing some more of the Brazilian cultures and traditions whilst getting to know the young people better. Those left behind split into two groups, painting and gardening as these were the things that the community felt they would benefit most from. The garden will provide food for 14 local families so we feel strongly that we want to do it well and get it finished. The painters were faced with a huge challenge of painting the railings around the church that were completely covered in rust and the gardeners had to find a way of preparing beds that seeds and flowers could be planted in with limited resources, it was a case of roll your sleeves up and accept you will get muddy and wrecked. After lunch we did some more hands on work with the kids as they made bracelets, WYD crosses, learnt how to Zumba and play cricket. (Although anyone looking too closely would question our cricket rules!) We got the bus back to the pastoral centre where we had dinner, mass and then Julio had organised a fantastic band to come and play for us and our pilgrims were up doing the conga in no time! We were delighted to welcome Bishop William Kenney today as he has joined us for this pilgrimage. The day ended with most people heading to the local bar for a quick drink before bed.

On Saturday, we went back up to the mission where we picked up our tools and paintbrushes from yesterday and carried on. We feel very proud of the things we are achieving as we have nearly finished the painting and gardening and we have also cleared the river of rubbish and other things that shouldn’t be there! Again in the afternoon we worked with the young people, numbers are growing as news of us being here has spread and they seem to love having us around. In the evening, the Diocese of Petropolis had put on a special festival for WYD that we went to for an hour before mass. We were able to taste the local delicacies much to the delight of some of our pilgrims! Sue has been kept busy today as paint has gone into eyes and people have been bitten and I know we are all so grateful for her presence! We have met pilgrims from Chilli and Canada and you can feel the excitement rising for WYD. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will be the last full day in the mission before heading to Rio on Monday.
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By Carmel Keane, Christ the King, Coventry.

We arrived safely into Rio this morning and travelled straight to Petropolis where we were given the warmest of welcomes from Julio and his team! We were shown sleeping areas and floor space and those lucky enough to be staying with local families were taken to their new homes for the week.  A quick trip round town to see the Cathedral and get our bearings was followed by an incredibly bumpy, twisty and  at times hair raising drive up the mountains to the site of the mission.  Local children surrounded the bus as we got off and there was great excitement about who we were and what we were going to do so we decided to make the rest of the day a ‘getting to know you’ time. Some of the local children had choreographed a dance to welcome us so which was fantastic! We played silly games and taught them songs like ‘Jesus is my rock’ and ‘Heads, shoulders knees and toes’ this was great fun and all of the young people were desperate to get involved.  Time was spent in small groups so that we could teach each other what its like to  be a young person in our respective countries before the day ending with mass.  In asking people tonight how they were feeling the general consensus is that we are feeling very tired but also so truly blessed!

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And we’re off! This morning 50 very excited pilgrims from the Diocese of Birmingham met at Holy Family Church in Coventry to begin our pilgrimage to World Youth Day by celebrating Holy Mass.  In his sermon, Fr. Des reminded us how privileged we were to be able to make this journey and how the statue ‘Christ the Redeemer’ was waiting with open arms to welcome us.  

As we wait in Paris airport for the next leg of the journey to Rio we are talking about what tomorrow will bring when we arrive in the mission in Petropolis and really begin to focus on the theme of World Youth Day and ‘Go and make disciples in all nations’. Please pray for us as we embark on this adventure!

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Carmel Keane (Christ the King, Coventry)

World Youth Day 2013

After nine months of fundraising, preparation and exploration, the wait is finally over! Birmingham Catholic Youth Service (BCYS) are taking the largest diocesan delegation from the UK to World Youth Day’s 2013th host city of Rio de Janeiro.

With monthly meetings including prayer, catechesis and workshops, we have been learning about our mission and getting to know one another before this truly inspiring and life changing pilgrimage that we are partaking and I am just one of the fifty who are making the very special flight. With a chance to meet some extraordinary children from the town of Petropolis and to experience mass with Catholic’s from across the world, Pope Francis and of course Jesus Christ, it would be foolish to let this opportunity pass by without grabbing it with two hands.

Following our Commissioning Mass on the morning of July 17th, we will make our journey to Heathrow Airport to start the first half of our pilgrimage in the mountain region of Petropolis. This mission project works with young people, helping them in terms of education and well being. With the conglomeration of their skills and our hard work and charitable hands we are working with them over a course of five days in graft and in entertainment. By improving their community parish we are to help out with renovating the Church’s area with painting and gardening and also on a more local scale; river clearing. On a more informative scale, we will also be leading workshops on cricket, zumba, music, recording, arts and crafts and all the other fun and exciting things that children should experience. By teaching these skills, the children, along with ourselves, will be able to showcase these in a ‘Who’s Got Talent?’ show to conclude our stay.

Working within this area and staying with the local ministry certainly will open our eyes and prepare us for the festivities that await us in Rio!

The second part of our pilgrimage sees us travelling to the extravagant and world famous city of Rio de Janeiro for the main events. By joining the animation team and being an active part of the festivities, we will not only take part in catechesis, liturgy and masses, but also get involved in the Youth Festival and make a load of life-long friends along the way.

I don’t think it’s possible to put into words how much this means, not only to us, but also to the children and community of Petropolis but we can be sure in knowing that we are fulfilling the World Youth Day 2013th theme of ‘Go and make disciples of all nations!’ Matthew 28:19.

Gabriella Romano

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50 pilgrims from across the Archdiocese of Birmingham have been preparing monthly since October 2012 at St Chad’s Cathedral. Members of the World Youth Day Planning Team, headed up by staff from BCYS have lead Catechesis, prayer and practical workshops and information sessions to prepare our young people for this life changing encounter with Jesus Christ, Pope Francis and Catholic young people from every continent of the world.

It has been an absolute privilege to walk this journey with some exceptional young people from our parishes. Their dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to this pilgrimage has been incredibly inspiring.

Nine young people from Christ the King and Holy Family in Coventry raised over £20,000. Their fundraising campaign was designed to create a variety of family events to bring together their parish community. They had everything from Christmas and Easter parties, afternoon tea parties, concerts, Irish nights, pudding afternoons, quizzes. Even nursery children made pictures to sell in the schools art exhibition to support its young people travelling to World Youth Day RIO. (I have a sheep on my fridge)

WYD_RIO1The Andrew Robinson Young Peoples Trust has supported young people from less privileged backgrounds to journey to RIO and the Catenians and the Knights and many parishioners having heard their young delegate speaking at Mass and have supported them. Archbishop Bernard and Bishop William will be journeying with the group such is the passion and commitment from our Diocese to its young people!

On July 17 after the 9am Commissioning Mass at Holy Family in Coventry, we will journey to Heathrow and the first half of the pilgrimage will be spent working on a mission project in the mountain region near Petropolis. Fr Jan Nowotnik the Pilgrimage Chaplain and I undertook a site visit here in September last year.

The mission works with children and young people and helps them in areas of education and well being. Working alongside the missionaries there and utilising the skills and gifts of our very talented delegate of young people we have planned a 5 day program.

This includes gardening, painting and river clearing to leading workshops on cricket, zumba, music, song writing, recording and arts and crafts. The young people from the mission will be telling us about life there and teaching us Portuguese songs and words. We will be bringing symbols from our home towns and Diocese to share with them. Our final day will be about preparing and celebrating Mass together, followed by ‘Petropolis, Whose Got Talent’? Fr Des definitely has! As part of their fundraising our young people and planning team have also been sourcing and getting sponsorship for football kits, plants, paint, recording, art materials, gardening and sports equipment.

The second part of the pilgrimage brings us to the city of Rio de Janeiro for the World Youth Day encounter with Pope Francis and the youth of the world. The celebrated statue of Christ the Redeemer will be a constant reminder to us. Christ’s open arms, a sign of his willingness to embrace all those making this pilgrimage journey. From amongst our young diocesan pilgrims, we have created an animation team who with Edwin Fawcett will lead music, liturgy, testimony and worship for an English speaking catechesis site in the centre of RIO! Here pilgrims will gather every morning for teachings given by Cardinals and leaders of the Universal Catholic Church.

In the afternoon the Youth Festival takes place, whose objective is to promote meeting Christ, through the beauty expressed in Brazilian art and culture. Young people will choose from a variety of concerts and music shows, theatre, dance and art exhibitions. There will be opportunities to pray and the Youth Festival includes expositions, vigils and adoration.

The gatherings on Copacabana beach with His Holiness Pope Francis will give pilgrims a chance to encounter Our Lord in a remarkable way; together with the all night vigil and the Papal Mass this 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro will be a life changing opportunity!

My thanks go to a very committed WYD Planning Team, to Sandra Satchel for her advice and support, to Peter Lucas who will be the UK contact for parents whilst we are in RIO, to Jackie Craig for months of hard work at BCYS, to our pilgrims and to you, an incredibly supportive Diocese. Please pray for us!

For any young people not travelling to RIO, the Kenelm Trust are offering an exciting opportunity. We are also taking a group of pilgrims to, ‘World Youth Day @ Home’, July 26–29th at Aylesford Priory.
For further details email: brightlights@bcys.co.uk.

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