Pilgrims describe life-changing power of World Youth Day 2011

By David Kerr

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Rosali Mendiz and Samantha Betor, WYD Pilgrims from the U.S.

A week ago, Samantha Betor and Rosali Mendiz didn’t know each other. Now the teenage pair from Massachusetts are best friends, united in their Catholic faith thanks to World Youth Day 2011.

“Oh my goodness. It’s been indescribable,” 17-year-old Rosali, from Westfield, Massachusetts, told EWTN News at the Papal Mass at Cuarto Vientos airbase on August 21.

“Just getting to see the Pope and stuff like that, I would never have thought in a million years I’d get this opportunity.” 

The two girls come from different parts of their state, but were thrown together in a Diocese of Springfield pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid. It's changed both of their lives.

“I’ve never been in big crowds before, so that was a completely new experience,” said 18-year-old Samanatha from North Adams, Massachusetts. “And last night with the storm we prayed the rosary and it stopped raining, so it’s the little things like that which make me believe stronger.”

“It’s been so amazing and holy,” added Rosali. “We were doing adoration and everybody was just silent. That was probably one of the best moments of my life.”

“This is what makes me most proud of being Catholic,” she added.

Their experience seemed common to nearly all the young pilgrims EWTN News spoke with at the Papal Mass, regardless of where they came from.

“Looking out right now at this ocean of nations it’s profoundly inspiring to see so many people come here not just to see Pope Benedict but to see Christ really,” said 25-year-old seminarian Eamonn Hyde, who hails from Harlow, England. 

He's glad that World Youth Day “can inspire young people to see ourselves as something more than going along with what society tells us. It’s just brilliant.”

Proudly holding the red and white English flag aloft next to Eamonn was 17-year-old Sean Jones from Southend-on-Sea, England.

“It’s probably one of the best things I’ve done,” said Sean, who called it “a growing up experience, spiritually.”

Moments later Sean enthusiastically took off with his England flag, waving it as he chased the Popemobile around the perimeter of section D-3.

Beneath a different national flag, but in the same section, 18 pilgrims had come from St. Margaret’s Church in Clydebank, Scotland. 

“I certainly think World Youth Day is life-changing in the same way my very first World Youth Day in Cologne was life-changing,” said 24-year-old Patrick Brown. 

The event always has a profound impact “in some way. It’s an absolutely moving experience that you’re never going to forget for the rest of your life.”

Friday's Via Crucis in central Madrid provided the most touching moment for Karol Paul DeBono of Malta.

“Meeting such a huge number of young people professing the Catholic faith really enriches your faith. It’s a wonderful experience and it gets you closer to God,” said the 21-year-old from the village of Tarxien.  

Now, a million-plus pilgrims will return home, many of them renewed in their desire to live and teach the Catholic faith.

“I’m a schoolteacher so I think I’m going to take a lot back to my students,” said 37-year-old Cheryl Hamill from Young in New South Wales, Australia. Cheryl teaches Religious Education.

“But also in terms of my own faith, this week at World Youth Day is going to enhance that greatly as well.”

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