19 Seton Hall University students traveled to Brazil for three weeks over the summer, for an experience of a lifetime, where they were able to participate in World Youth Day, with the help of their sponsors: the Center for Vocation and Servant Leadership, the Center for Catholic Studies and SGA. The Director of the Youth Ministry at Seton Hall and one of the trip leaders Brother Andrew James said he is forever indebted to these sponsors, for without whom, he and the students would not have had this incredible experience.
World Youth Day, held every Psalm Sunday since 1984, was hosted in Rio De Janeiro this year. Each year the Pope invites all of the world’s youth to come out and celebrate culture and faith. Seton Hall was a part of this celebration, along with a few other Universities in the area. While there, the students went to the slums to paint and clean houses and take care of the poor with the Sisters of Mother Theresa.
“Every one of us wished we could have spent more time there,” Brother James said. “And, as Providence would have it, this was the same slum (Varginha) that Pope Francis would visit a week and half later.”
The students were invited by the sisters to welcome the Pope as he arrived in the slums. Out of 3.5 million young people trying to catch a glimpse of the Pope, the Seton Hall group was among the only to be able to welcome him up close. Brother James said they waited five hours in the rain for his arrival.
“I remember anticipating Pope Francis walking onto the little stage before us, I think our excitement completely energized every minute of the five hours waiting for his arrival. When he finally arrived, it was pandemonium,” Brother James said.
One student Gabriel Torres worked directly with the Pope while there. He said he was part of a small, select team to do security checks and issue credentials to all the religious people, nuns, seminarians, bishops, priests and monks. He had to verify their identity and determine if they were selected to give communion or participate in a special mass with the Pope.
“Our bosses surprised us with invitations to the special mass and we were seated very close to the Pope,” Torres said.
He said he also worked the security cordon during the Papal arrival.
“We followed the military police’s lead and tried to keep the crowd from rushing barriers,” Torres said.
Although Brother James said the most emotional part of the trip was meeting Pope Francis in Varginha, he said the prayer vigil with the Pope where more than three million youth were completely silent in prayer and the Mass on Copacabana Beach, where no sand was visible because of the amount of people present, were also big highlights of the trip.
Torres said climbing up to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer during sunset with other volunteers was his most memorable moment on the trip.
“Seeing so much beauty in one place reminds you why you came and motivated me to work the best I could,” Torres said. “It was a lot of work at times from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. dealing with people who had been waiting for hours, but seeing the Pope up in person and having people thank you for your help was well rewarding. I would love the opportunity to work in Poland during the next one.”
Seton Hall Class of 2015, Journalism
News Editor, The Setonian