Monday 29 July 2013

"A home away from home" for Star of the Sea pilgrims!

Today has been the definition of bittersweet. We are currently on our way from Missionary Week in Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro for WYD. While we are excited for all of the events in Rio and anxious to see what this week holds for each of us, the past week with our new family at Santa Zita parish has been one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. From the moment we arrived last Tuesday, we were welcomed with wide open arms and extreme joy.
The Sisters of the Carmelite Mission made their house a home away from home for us. We weren't merely guests in their home, but felt like we were meant to be there.

Some of the highlights of the week were a visit to a facility run by the Carmelites where children from the favelas (slums) are sent to live because it is too dangerous for them to stay in their homes. We spent some time just singing and dancing with them. It is amazing to see these children who have so little and face so many challenges and dangers in their lives, yet they are full of spirit and joy.

Another highlight was a regional celebration for everyone participating in Missionary Week in the Santana area of Sao Paulo. There are 2 memories from this afternoon that will stay with me for many years. First was the heavy rainstorm that sent all of us running for cover. Our shelter under an overhang quickly turned into a little dance party with our voices being the only music. Not even a torrential downpour can dampen the spirits of World Youth Day pilgrims or the volunteers who host them.
The second is the short ceremony at the beginning of Mass. One representative from each country present processed in carrying their country's flag and a small container of soil from their country. Then, each one poured their soil into one container and a tree was planted in it. Through that tree, we are all united and have also left a part of ourselves in Sao Paulo.

Our days were always full of activity, be it spiritual formation sessions, cultural activities, prayer, Eucharist or just having dinner, but the best part of all was sharing it with my fellow pilgrims and the people of Santa Zita Parish. Many of the volunteers did not speak English or spoke very little, so communicating was not always easy, but we are bonded by one faith and the one language that is universal - love.

And so this morning, after sharing in the Eucharist one last time, we had to say goodbye to our new family. There was hardly a dry eye in the house as we hugged, kissed and waved goodbye. But we leave grateful for the time we had together and hopeful that we will see each other again one day.
We will carry the members of our Santa Zita family in our hearts through World Youth Day and for the rest of our lives.

Star of the Sea Parish

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!

    We've reblogged Jessica's reflection on The Busy Catholic blogspot: