World Youth Day 2013 in Rio gave local young adults a sense of Pentecost

Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

Bro. Timothy Pio Sgoutas, CFR, from Fort worth, leads pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort worth in Evening Prayer on Sunday, July 28.
Brother Timothy Pio Sguotas, CFR (center with Guitar) from Fort worth, leads pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort worth in Evening Prayer on Sunday, July 28. 

Anna Carroll experienced something she didn’t expect to find in Brazil — joy.

A sophomore at Southern Methodist University, she wanted to go to World Youth Day 2013 with her St. Thomas Aquinas youth group to feel closer to God. The pilgrimage did that and more for the 19-year-old.

“There was a moment when we met some young people from Brazil on the street and began teaching each other songs and dances. It wasn’t just fun. There so much joy there,” Carroll said, describing the impromptu gathering of like-minded souls. “The whole trip was just amazing.”

The college student was part of a diocesan group of 27 young men and women from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Pilot Point who journeyed to Rio de Janeiro for the July 23-28 international event. Started by Pope John Paul II in 1984, there have been 13 World Youth Day celebrations. This year’s theme was evangelization, and the schedule of activities — Mass, Stations of the Cross, prayer vigils, and catechesis -- were designed to help participants grow in faith.

Using World Youth Day in Brazil to mark his first official visit overseas, Pope Francis urged the estimated crowd of 3 million to be revolutionaries. With the words, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), he asked them to share their experience of faith and proclaim the Gospel to all people.

“Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits,” he said, during the closing Mass on Copacabana Beach. “The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. Do not be afraid to go and bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.”

The Holy Father’s message hit home with an 18-year-old from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish. Mark Artiles is postponing college to spend the next nine months as part of the National Evangelization Team. He’ll travel the U.S. offering peer-based spiritual retreats and training for youth ministry leaders.

“Pope Francis is such a great example of who Christ is calling us to be,” explained Artiles who is impressed by the pontiff’s focus on the poor. “He tells us not to serve others for attention or fame but because it’s what Christ wants us to do. That’s inspired me to get out of my comfort zone.”

The graduate of Keller’s Central High School now understands what it means to be a missionary at home.

“We can change the lives of the people around us just by living our faith,” he added.

Jason Spoolstra is pleased the pilgrimage sparked a sense of unity and purpose in the group. The St. Thomas Aquinas youth minister attended the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany and appreciates the event’s transformative power. He partnered with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton youth minister Gabe Gutierrez to organize the trip, then hired a Catholic booking agency to arrange lodging and transportation.

“I wanted the young people to experience the universality of the Church and see people from different walks of life and counties,” Spoolstra explained.

Gatherings that bring Catholics together from across the U.S. offer one perspective.

“It’s a whole different aspect when you see people from around the world praying together,” he added. “There’s no way kids can experience that without World Youth Day.”

The spirit generated at World Youth Day allows young people to feel the joy of being Catholic.

“They see the Church is alive, young, and vibrant,” he said with enthusiasm. “Everyone came together in Rio with the pope and experienced the sacraments. It set a fire that hopefully youth will spread to their communities.”

Witnessing the global Church created a feeling of Pentecost, Gutierrez said, remembering a particular moment during the six-day schedule.

“We were on the street with Brazilians, Argentines, Australians, and people from Spain, other parts of Europe as well as Latin and South America, and we were all chanting the same songs and dancing,” he recalled. “I told the kids that for a moment, it felt like Pentecost. All the nations were together and despite different languages, we experienced the same joy because we share the same faith.”

World Youth Day brings young people and the Holy Father together, so they can better understand his role as the Vicar of Christ, Gutierrez added. And one of the highlights of the journey for the Fort Worth entourage was catching a glimpse of the pope, “up close and personal.”

The first day the North Texans arrived in Brazil, they were walking down the sidewalk looking for a place to eat when a motorcycle escort whizzed by. The group ran to the street as the Pope’s motorcade passed.

“Our kids were waving at him and he was waving back at us. We couldn’t believe it,” Gutierrez said, describing the random sighting. “There is so much love for this man and what he represents.”

Jordan Mascari of Pilot Point said his experience at World Youth Day cemented his faith. Seeing the millions of people on Copacabana Beach waving their various countries’ flags was a feeling he’ll never forget.

“I remember thinking the world still cares about God and his Church because God still cares about the world,” he said. 

A sophomore at Southern Methodist University, she wanted to go to World Youth Day 2013 with her St. Thomas Aquinas youth group to feel closer to God. The pilgrimage did that and more for the 19-year-old.

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