Tuesday, April 22, 2014

World Youth Day- Brazil days 7-10

(Part of our group after the Mass with the Pope)

Day Seven. I woke up on copacabana beach. Probably everyone on the beach was already awake except my house mate and me. Everyone was dancing and singing to the flash mob song. We brushed our teeth, carefully changed clothes in our sleeping bags, sang some songs, and talked to people around us. That's the thing about World Youth Day, you get to talk to people all the time, everywhere you go. The fact that I had been in Guatemala for two months before (and only got home two days before we left) made me really confident in my Spanish and that helped a lot because everywhere we went people spoke Spanish. Then the Papal Mass started. We watched it on the screens that were across the beach just like every major event that week. The Mass like most things that week was in Spanish so I actually got to understand what was being said, such a blessing! After Mass we decided that since we were already at the beach we would stick around there for the rest of the day instead of trying to fight our way out of the 4 million person crowd. Our priests came back from serving mass AND BROUGHT OUR ENTIRE GROUP COMMUNION! Like no one except the priests got communion that day because with the last minute venue change it wasn't possible but our entire group did! We made sandwiches, body surfed and just hung out on the beach all day. Then we went back to our host houses, showered because we all needed it after spending two days on the beach, and went to our pizza place for the last time. We stayed there really late for our last night and maxed out our wyd food cards because it was the last day to use them. Then we went home and went back to bed.

(Copacabana Beach Sunday morning)

Day eight. We woke up and had our daily mass. Then our group split. The two priests and a few other people left to go to the Amazon that day and the rest of us enjoyed our last day in Rio. We finally got to go see Cristo Redentor! The huge Jesus statue that Rio is known for had become a daily topic of conversation. We would even tell the weather by whether or not you could see "Giant Jesus." We got to Corcovado (where Giant Jesus is) a few hours before our tickets said so we got to do some shopping for the first time and spend a lot of time in the church there. Then we went up to the statue and saw some monkeys and took a TON of pictures. It was SO unbelievably crowded. There is a small chapel in the base of the statue and a bishop from Spain was celebrating Mass which was so cool to see. Then we went to the base of sugar loaf and decided we would just hang out around there on the beach instead of waiting four hours to go up there. We had dinner with the Minnesota group that we were paired with and our guide Alessandra for the last time at a Brazilian BBQ place. It was amazing! My chaperone left that day and so did our host mom so my two other house mates and I moved to another host house when we got back. Our new host house was our previous neighbor and where our priests had been staying before they left. Beth, her husband, her daughter and son, her daughter's boyfriend, and her nieces were all waiting for us when we got there. We had so much fun staying up and visiting with them. We got to know her nieces who were SO excited to meet Americans. We got their contact information, cried a little, laughed a lot, and of course ate. We got internet for the first time that night! I was so happy because it was my mom's birthday so I got to write her. We stayed up talking for a long time and finally got to sleep. I got a bed for the first time that night. Definitely a treat!

Day nine. We woke up really early, showered, packed our things, and went to our church. There we said goodbye to our guide and all of our host families. Needless to say we were all crying then. Our second host mom gave all three of us girls brazilian treats and containers of goiaba to take home. She's the sweetest. We got on a bus with a group from San Diego and started the drive to São Paulo. I slept most of the way to be honest. Then we went to the Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida. It was so huge and gorgeous! When we got in there Mass was being celebrated so that was cool to see. Our bus driver gave us a couple hours there which was definitely not enough time. Then we drove to the ariport. We got through security surprisingly quickly considering the whole airport was packed with people from WYD. There were priests everywhere so my friend and I decided to pick one to ask to bless the religious items that we bought for ourselves and as presents. We went over to this group of three priests because they spoke Spanish. We asked one of them if he would bless our stuff and he laughed and was like, "Yes, but these other two are Bishops so they should probably do it." So then we asked them and they did and we talked to them for a really long time. We were so excited that we got our stuff blessed by Bishops from Spain that we kept telling everyone in our group about it when they walked by and pretty soon alost our entire group was there asking for blessings. Then we got on our plane to fly home.

(The outside of the Basilica) 

(Inside Aparecida)

(Samantha and I when we found the Bishops... we learned what Bishop crosses were that day :') )

(Our group with the Bishops from Spain)

Day ten. We flew all night and landed in Chicago. Most of our group didn't sleep much but like the flight there I fell asleep after about an hour and woke up as they were serving breakfast less than an hour before landing in Chicago. We had a pretty long layover there but there were still some other wyd people in the airport. Then we flew home. It was definitely an amazing trip.

Random Pictures :)

(Group that went to Guatemala a few years ago and Brazil. Note: Emilio is filling in for his sister ;p)

(Father Joseph Mary in his vestments from the Papal Mass)

(Our church, Our Lady of Aparecida)

(Upstairs in one of the churches)

(In the adoration chapel at the voaction fair site)

(With one of the Missionaries of Charity)

(The screens where you could watch all of the main events. That's four million people not a blacksand  beach ;) )

 (With some of the military who were everywhere, always)

(With the American flag and our Jmj flag on copacabana)
Monday, April 21, 2014

World Youth Day- Brazil days 4-6

Day Four. Our entire house forgot to set alarms so we got ready really quickly and ran to our church just in time for mass. Afterwards we went to the bakery and bought waters and some snacks and headed towards to beach to get good spots for the Pope's entrance. We got there and got spots at the very front where he was going to come out of the gates (our spot is pictured above). We waited there for six hours but it didn't feel long at all. We sang a lot, met people around us, took pictures with a ton of people, got interviewed a lot, and handed out holy cards. Then the helicopter landed and the Pope came out. Since we were in the front he drove really slowly by us. Pope Francis was the first Pope I had ever seen. I didn't know what to think. Then, HE LOOKED AT US. Oh my word we were freaking out. A successor of freaking Saint Peter was only a couple of feet from us. It was insane. Seeing a Pope for the first time is literally so crazy.. such a rush of so many different emotions. After that we went to our pizza place (this became a nightly routine) and went back home.

Day Five. We had our typical daily routine; wake up and go to Mass. Then our group split. Some of the people went and saw Cristo Redentor (Giant Jesus) and the rest of us went to the vocation fair. We went through almost all of the booths, met people from all over the world, lots of religious orders, and even met up with the LifeTeen people. Then we went to the adoration chapel and prayed the rosary with the Missionaries of Charity in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We satyed there for a while and saw some relics and then went to the Youth 2000 church. We prayed there for a long time and got to go to confession finally! Then we went across the street to Botafogo Bay (pictured below) and played for a while until we met up with the rest of or group. We went to our pizza place and then went back to our host houses for bed.

Day Six. We woke up and packed our backpacking bags. This was the night we were going to get to sleep on copacabana beach!!! The original location that we were supposed to go to got flooded but that was okay because we all liked the idea of sleeping on the beach much more. We went to get food boxes but the line was going to take all day so we went and set up camp and got good spots on the beach and a few people from our group went and bought juice and sandwhich stuff for us instead. We played on the beach, met a ton of people, and took a million pictures. That night was the vigil. It was absolutely amazing. There is just something about worshipping on one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world with over 3 million people. The highlight was definitely Matt Maher singing Lord, I Need You. If you haven't seen it GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW.
  You have the link so you have no reason not to watch it. I literally have never heard the beach as quiet as it was during that song. It was SO powerful. We stayed up really late and talked with our group. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip even though getting to the bathrooms was nearly impossible. ;)

World Youth Day just kept getting better and better it was surreal. I mean to be surrounded by so many Catholics from all of the world is indescribable. 

World Youth Day- Brazil days 1-3

To be honest I've restarted this post more times than I can count anymore. Trying to put World Youth Day in words is like asking someone to count to infinity... it just can't be done. Let me just start by saying World Youth day was absolutely life changing. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before and was probably the best week of my life. Also so much happened in such a short time I decided to break this post up into shorter posts based on the days we were there.

I had THE best group anyone could ask for. The group was organized through Pan de Vida Retreat and so I was already friends with at least half of the people from retreats in the past and everyone else was so easy to get along with it was such a blessing. My chaperone was a close family friend and she and I had travelled out of country on mission together previously and so she was super easy to travel with and was just like my mom. We also had two priests with our group; Father Avram Brown (who I have also travelled with on mission a lot in the past and is like my brother) and Father Joseph mary (a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal whom I know from PDV retreats). 

The first day we all met at San Francisco airport, said goodbye to our families, and flew to Chicago. We left chicago and flew all night to São Paulo and had problems with our plane. Apparently they didn't have a gate or something for us and so we were stuck in our plane for a long time and they told us they would bring stairs so we could get out since most of us had very short layovers and the stairs they brought were broken so we waited even longer and finally they brought stairs and bussed us into the airport and we ran and caught our flight to Rio de Janeiro. When we landed we found out that another person in our group missed their flight. 

We drove to our base church, Our Lady of Aparecida, and met our JMJ guide, Alessandra, and got taken to our host houses. My host mom, Maria, was such a gift from God. She was the sweetest thing ever and I'm so happy I got to meet her. Then we walked back to the church to go to the opening mass. When we got there we took a bus to the metro station and found the metro that we needed to get us from where our host houses were to copacabana beach, where the opening mass was, broke. After a long time of trying to get to the opening mass and failing we finally gave up and decided to go home and try again the next day but then we accidently ended up at the beach right at the start of mass. 

I had no idea what to expect but as we walked up I saw all of the flags flying and everyone was singing and I was instantly so overwhelmed with joy. I fell so in love.. I can't explain it. I never wanted to leave that beach. Then when it came time for communion our leaders told us to not expect to receive communion because well, it's world youth day and there are thousands of people. Right then a communion station popped up next to us and our entire group got communion. Then on our way home that night a girl from the group we were paired with got lost and we looked for her until the metro closed. It was a crazy first day in Rio. We definitely all felt like everything was going wrong but at the same time we were so excited to be there.

After that crazy first day we decided to have a chill second day. We slept in and then went to mass at our church (because we had two priests with us we got our own mass every day). We went sight seeing after. First we saw Candalaria, the new Cathedral, a monastery (they even took us through all of this normally cloistered area, it was amazing!), and then ended up at a Franciscan monastery where our priests concelebrated Mass. Then we went home, had dinner, and went to bed. 

World Youth Day was definitely off to a good start. :) 
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Guatemala 2013

Hey guys!

So, I just want to start this post by apologizing for not posting in a really long time! Life has been crazy busy and I just realized I never posted about my mission trip to Guatemala this past summer. Thank you again to everyone who supported me both financially and spiritually. You guys are always in my prayers. :)

(The church in San Lucas Toliman)

This past summer I spent about two months (the end of May through the middle of July) working in Guatemala. For the majority of that time I was working for a Catholic mission in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala which is located on Lake Atitlan (pictured above). Definitely spoiled to be able to work in such a gorgeous place. ;) During this time I unofficially worked as a long term volunteer which meant that Monday-Saturday I would help take the groups of American volunteers to the various projects and work with them and be a translator for both the Americans and the Guatemalans. I really enjoyed this job because it meant that was almost constantly talking with either Americans or Guatemalans and I got to know a tons of people.

 The mission participates in many projects but the main ones that I worked with this summer were the coffee project, reforestation, the stove project, and construction. The coffee project is mainly just sorting bags of coffee and getting rid of the bad beans before they are roasted and bagged again. This is probably one of the easiest jobs but it was one of my favorites because you had the opportunity to talk to people, hear their stories, and get to know them as you did an almost mindless job. The coffee project is a huge way in which the mission generates money and helps supply jobs for the locals. At the reforestation project there is a bigger variety of things to do at this time of the year. You can either fill individual bags with dirt which will then be used to plant seeds in the very beginning of the growing process, sift dirt that will be used for those bags, refill bags that have been damaged from the rain (which there is definitely a lot of considering it rains almost every day), make wooden objects such as kitchen utensils and various things that will be sold, or rearrange the bags of plants as needed. The stove project is a two day job where you go to another village and build stoves inside homes. The houses in which they are built are extremely poor and they could never afford something like this on their own. We also build the stoves with chimneys which go out the roof so the house will longer fill with smoke when they cook like they usually do. The stoves are made out of cement, cinder blocks, and tile (pictured above). This is personally my favorite project because you are working inside of the home and you get to speak with the families, get to know them, and play with their kids. I think this project is one of the favorites because you cant to see your work almost instantly and see exactly whom it is benefitting. Most of my best memories and experiences are from the stove project. The construction project this year was mainly tearing down old building to build an office building for the church workers. The guys really enjoyed that one. ;)

Apart from working with the mission projects I was blessed with countless opportunities and there was always stuff to do in our free time including loving on little Guatemalan kids which is my absolute favorite thing. Volunteers at the mission are either placed in hotels or the long term house but this year I was blessed and got to live with a family. This was super beneficial to me because it gave me the opportunity to practice my Spanish even more (there was no English in my home) and I got to fully immerse myself in their culture. Below are a few of the other places I got the opportunity to travel to during my stay.

This was a sweet little convent in one of the other villages that one of the visiting groups took me to. 

These were taken at the church of Hermano Pedro in Antigua, Guatemala.

There were so many great things I experienced and things we did I can't even begin to write them here but I just wanted to do a little recap so ya'll could see exactly what you're supporting when you support me or just see what my travels consist of. For anymore information on the mission or for volunteer opportunities check out their website 

Thanks for reading and hopefully I'l start updating more!