Marist Schools Australia

Catholic Education in the tradition of St Marcellin Champagnat

International Gathering of Marist Youth and World Youth Day 2013

by Hendrika Duivenvoorden and Jasmine Santamaria

Hendrika and Jasmine were members of a group of thirteen Marist Young Adults who travelled to Brazil as Pilgrims in July of this year.

To sum up the amazing two weeks we experienced in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is no easy task. Our first week was spent with our huge Marist family at the CHANGE festival (IGMY), with attendees from over 30 provinces along with Marist Brothers and leaders of the General Council. During this meeting we discussed how we can all make a difference in our local communities which will in-turn impact the world. Amongst the guest speakers, including Br. Emili Turu, energetic Mass celebrations, small group discussions and workshops was lots of dancing, singing, swimming, eating traditional food, giving of gifts and communicating by Google Translate. A highlight for most of the pilgrims was our 5am wake up call to visit Christ the Redeemer – one of the largest statues of Christ in the world and a beautiful symbol of Brazilian Christianity. After an action packed week of getting into the Marist Spirit, it was time for World Youth Day and the arrival of our Pope.

The Opening Mass was a tad chilly for some, with the coldest weather Rio has seen in years, but the wind and rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of thousands gathered on the beach. The Stations of the Cross were another highlight along with daily Catechesis from Bishops around the world.

Marists in Rio.jpg

The day arrived for the Vigil Mass and sleep out, but due to the crazy amount of rain the venue was changed to the beautiful Copacabana beach. Kneeling in adoration along with almost 3.5 million silent Catholics from around the world is an experience we will never forget. The presence of the Holy Spirit along with the Pope brought an indescribable atmosphere and a vivid memory etched in our minds. Four brave Aussie Marists faced the cold to sleep on the beach, while the rest of us stayed at our Marist home away from home and returned in the morning for the final Mass. Seeing the Pope celebrate Mass on a packed beach was an amazing sight. With Australian flags draped around our shoulders, the sun bearing down on us and young Catholics as far as the eye could see, certainly a celebration of the Eucharist which will not be easily forgotten.

After the Pope had said his goodbyes and to finish off a brilliant two weeks a few of us joined the thousands of other young people swimming in the ocean. Then with hugs, kisses, and promises to meet again we said goodbye to our International Marist Family and boarded our flight home; filled with the Holy Spirit, love in our hearts and plans in our mind for our bright future.

The words of Pope Francis have continued to inspire and motivate us on our return to Australia, in particular the commissioning words from his homily at the final mass. Pope Francis simply reassured us all, saying, “’Do not be afraid!’ When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us”. Pope Francis reminded us of our particular call to community and service with the words “When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community”. These, and many more of Pope Francis’ words, spoke to our hearts, echoing so beautifully the discussions of the CHANGE festival and our deep passion for the Marist charism.

We cannot thank the Marist Brothers enough for providing us all with this fantastic experience which has touched us deeply and provided us with a great hope four our Marist Communities and the wider Catholic Church.