The United States Bishops ushered in the preparations for the evening’s vigil with the Holy Father with Mass at “Palacio de Deportes.” Sisters from CMSWR communities directed the English speaking pilgrims to the respective seating areas while bishops and priests from all over the United States greeted and thanked the Sisters for the gift of their life and consecrations. We assured them of our prayers, and they responded that this is a source of ongoing support to them and to the priesthood. (more…)
Many of the sisters volunteered with the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus at the Palacio de Deportes. This is the main English Speaking site at WYD Madrid. Catechesis sessions and confessions encompassed most of the morning. El Parque del Buen Retiro hosted a Vocation fair attended by religious communities from around the world. Thousands of Pilgrims participated. A seemingly endless row of confessionals were set up along the center of the park. Thousands of pilgrims availed themselves of this opportunity to encounter God’s mercy in the sacrament.
The Sisters drove into the city of Madrid in the morning of August 16th. Some assisted at the Love and Life Center for English speaking Youth. Australian youth were ushered in by the Sisters who welcome them to the day’s events. Sisters from the various communities took the opportunity for prayer in the ancient churches of Madrid. Confessions were offered in the Parque de Retiro. Hundreds of pilgrims participated. (more…)
On August 15th, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sisters enjoyed a day of rest, celebration and exploration. A number of Sisters took part in the annual procession of La Virgen de la Espina – the Patroness of Los Molinos, Spain. Townspeople dressed in local garb gathered in front of the façade of the convent where they sang hymns to our Lady before processing to her grotto located on the side of the mountain.
Afterwards some of the Sisters rode into the city of Madrid to scout the area and plan the travel routes for the Sisters to participate in the World Youth events. During their day they met young pilgrims from around the world. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB – the CEO of Salt and Light Productions from Canada met with our Sisters at the Love and Life Center for the English speaking pilgrims. (more…)
Young Sisters representing communities of the CMSWR from across the United States arrived safely in Madrid for the 2011 World Youth Day events. The three ports of departure – Chicago, Miami and New York were a sight to behold as young people from across the country converged for their departure for the event. The Sisters were greeted by numerous young Catholics enthusiastically anticipating the event.
Praised be Jesus Christ! It is with much gratitude that I write these closing reflections. The heart is so full, I’m not quite sure where to begin.
Just to share…I don’t usually like to travel, and I’ve never really had a desire to go to a particular place, on a pilgrimage or anything of that sort. Even past world youth days, I enjoyed hearing about it but never really desired to attend. Sometime in April or May of this year (can’t quite remember the time frame) the Lord put a very strong desire in my heart to attend WYD in Australia. Not only was there a strong desire, but simultaneous to this, there was a sense of knowing that somehow I would be going. I can’t tell you how or why, I just knew. When Sister Joseph Louise mentioned to me in passing one day that I had a very important letter in my mailbox – even before retrieving it, I knew it was something connected to WYD. And indeed it was. It was a (more…)
Praised be Jesus Christ! World Youth Day has come to a close and I cannot help but reflect on the great grace of realizing how every soul really longs for truth. This may seem elementary to many because if we are made in the image and likeness of God, of course, we long for ultimate Truth, which is our Creator. In day-to-day living, though, our activities and responsibilities, many times, hinder us from reflecting on the truth that each soul is infinitely loved by God and that actual grace is working at every millisecond of each person’s life to be drawn to know Him and desire Him. I have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in a new way through my opportunity to participate in WYD. This power was revealed to me to be very gentle and unassuming.
I had always pictured the “power of the Holy Spirit” as something very forceful and strong. My encounters with those who attended WYD (old and young alike), those who observed from afar, those who were skeptical at first, those who are of other faiths – have helped me to understand in a new way that the Holy Spirit is gentle and He allows each individual to grow at their own pace…and grapple, if necessary, to understand truth – just as Jacob wrestled with the angel all night. No person is left in the dust, so to speak – God is active in every soul, it is simply a matter of consent on the person’s part to open their heart to His inspirations – and even then it does not happen like a Saint Paul conversion being thrown off his horse – no, the Spirit works in slow, gentle, and quiet movements of the soul for most common folk. I witnessed this gentle opening of people’s souls to His inspirations – many did not even realize that this was what was happening and yet by either their questions, their thoughts shared, and their willingness to listen to others’ thoughts – one could see that the Holy Spirit was living and active, and working with souls where they were at.
I have been told that this WYD held the great gift of very accessible adoration throughout the city. The youth were able to kneel before our Lord in almost every venue and could find Him in many places anytime of the day or night through the week – what a tremendous outpouring of grace! And what is prayer before our Lord but an encounter with the living God Who transforms us and molds us and teaches us to pray for one another as He intercedes for us daily before the Father. Having a half a million youth praying for our world, our Church, and one another must have resounded in heaven and made the angels both weep for joy and rejoice – and how it must have worked in the hearts of the people of Australia and around the world! Hearts were opened because of prayer – how powerful is prayer when we ask sincerely before our Heavenly Father.
The gift of having our Holy Father so close to us is beyond words. There is a grace with the Office of Peter that transcends boundaries of faith – people of different faiths shared how happy they were to have Pope Benedict visit Sydney. There was a tug in my heart when I heard that his plane left for Rome. I thank our Lord for the gift of my faith, to have had an opportunity to be a witness of His love, and to be transformed (God-willing) by my encounter with others who are living witnesses of their faith.
As Sister Mary Scholastica and I close our reflections,ending our World Youth Day journaling in the blogging world I hold each of you in my heart. My prayer for each person who has walked this journey with us and those who have been touched in other ways through this grace-filled time is that you will be drawn more deeply into the truth that you are uniquely loved by God and that He desires your friendship as though you were the only person on earth. May the Holy Spirit be our beacon of light and burn brightly in our souls so that we truly will be His witnesses before the world and give testimony to the power of His love and mercy in our lives.
With much love and gratitude…
Sister Grace Helena
I pray this day was filled with many blessings and graces for each of you. Praised be Jesus Christ! Today was our last day of “official” work at Saint Mary’s Cathedral. I was surprised at how many pilgrims were still coming through. The morning was a bit slow, but by the time we left, around 2:00 PM, there were at least 1000 people who had gone through and a group of about 2000 had reserved a time slot shortly after we left!
Today was very low key, which I am grateful for. The Australians continue to tell us how much they loved having us here. Many have tears in their eyes and ask us to stay. I am very edified by the simplicity of their gratitude, their openness, and their inhibition to speak with us about the impact this last week has had on them. Sometimes, it seems, pride keeps us from showing and expressing gratitude…these people are so gracious and desire truth…and have taught me much about humility. These past two and half weeks have showered Australia and us with torrents of graces. May we give as much as we have received (…and more).
God bless each of you. I have loved Australia and my time here…but, I am looking forward to being home. I miss you all very much.
Sister Grace Helena
Praised be Jesus Christ! I ditto what SGH has written above. AND I also look very much to returning home. Praying for all of you!
Sister Mary Scholastica
Praised be Jesus Christ! Today our Holy Father left Australia to head home for Rome. We had the tremendous gift of attending a general audience with him this morning (it was for all volunteers and staff – all 8,000+ of us). SGH and I left the college early in hopes of getting there before the bulk of the crowd. Our efforts were duly rewarded. And even in this, the good Lord watched over us. We missed a bus and got a bit turned around as to which direction we were supposed to go which happened to be providential as another volunteer flagged us down as we were about to turn a corner and gave us a ride to the Domain where the event was held. Otherwise we would not have gotten the spots that we did. We were close enough to see the emblem on his stole – which means we were quite close. I took photos to share with you. What a beautiful pope we have!
I cannot begin to tell you what it was like to be so close to Peter (meaning PBXVI). To pray with him, to be blessed by him, to be with him. And just so you know…all the blessings we received from him this week were received for all of you. Please God, may it bear fruit.
After our morning audience SGH and I headed back to St. Mary’s Cathedral as we were on duty. Both of us were manning different stations connected to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati – Sister by his relics, and I passing out booklets on him in the front section. We were probably busier today than most other days, praise God! We also had an opportunity to meet his niece who was actually leaving Australia today to return home to Turin. A blessing. The days have been quite full and sometimes long – and though our time here has been abundantly grace-filled, I do look forward to returning home.
Sisters, the following send their greetings: Fr. Bob Lombardo, Fr. James Adams, Fr. John Montejano, and I know there are many more but my mind draws a blank.
We miss Pope Benedict but rejoice in the blessings afforded us with his presence. God bless and good night.
Sister Mary Scholastica
Praised be Jesus Christ! Happy Belated Feastday, Sister Maria Elia! I am sorry we did not greet you on your day… actually, your day for us was a day early for you…anyways, I prayed for you and hope your day was filled with every blessing from our Lord!
A quick reflection about the closing Mass at Randwick Racetrack…
I do not know how many priests con-celebrated, but there were many. We had met many throughout the week who were having difficulty getting accredited in order to participate in the Mass. This means that they needed to go through a screening process, and for whatever reason there were many difficulties for many priests. We assured them all of our prayers. Today, the day after the closing Mass, we providentially saw two of these priests and they said their accreditation came through at the last minute – many more priests said the same thing. I asked a priest I met today at the cathedral how he felt to be so close to the Holy Father and to con-celebrate Mass with him. His response was that it was the best experience of his life so far, he said it was an honor and gave him new energy to go back home. Another priest told me that the sacrifice of having to wait to the last minute – the ‘not knowing for sure’ – was difficult for him, but that he realized our Lord was asking this sacrifice of him for graces that were needed this week. As I spoke with them, I thought: Men of faith and prayer – men willing to be molded and led by the Holy Spirit. How much we need to pray for our priests!
As most of you probably saw, the Mass was beautiful. Pope Benedict spoke so eloquently. The young people were really listening. The opportunity to to be in the same place with our Holy Father has been such a gift. I know Sister and I keep saying this, but when you are near him there is an undeniable grace.
This morning there was a special meeting with the Holy Father for all the volunteers. We were a part of the volunteer work force! We woke up very early and tried to get to the place of “Meeting” before the other 8000 volunteers showed up. Well, we were about the 1001st and 1002nd volunteers to beat every one else to the front lines 🙂 We actually found a very good spot very close, as you will see from the pictures Sister took. She was able to get some great pictures of our Holy Father. To be soooo close to him that you could actually see his smile and his reactions as people spoke, this was very special. It felt a little lonely when he left the stage, knowing that he was on his way to the airport. How deeply bonded we are in the Mystical Body of Christ.
On our bus ride back to the college after working at the cathedral a young woman thanked us for being here and shared how joyful our presence made Sydney. She was speaking of all the pilgrims and the WYD events. She did not participate in the WYD, but her sincerity and genuine gratitude was resonant of so many, many other Austalians and Sydneysiders (as those who live in Sydney are called). Today, there was a bittersweet feeling amongst many as the Holy Father returned home. We miss him already.
Have a blessed day. With many prayers for you.
Sister Grace Helena
Praised be Jesus Christ Sisters! Made it home from the closing Mass! What a week to remember. Last night’s vigil as you probably already know was beautiful. I almost don’t want to go into a blow by blow account simply because I’m still processing it myself and am also a bit under the weather. I’m sure SGH will do a nice job explaining it all to you.
All I can share was that it was an immense gift to be in the presence of our Holy Father(even from afar) and words cannot express what it is like to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with Pope – Christ’s Vicar on earth. God bless and good night.
Sister Mary Scholastica
Praised be Jesus Christ! We have just returned from the pilgrimage Vigil and Mass with our Holy Father. The whole event was blessed. First of all I wanted to share that the Saturday Mass in which Sister Mary Scholastica received Holy Communion from our Holy Father was really heavenly! I was not sure if I could get in due to the special invitations necessary, in fact, I was told I could not. At 8:15 AM I decided to venture across to a nearby park where the American Bishops were celebrating Mass for the American pilgrims when I saw a small group of Sisters who were on their way to the cathedral. They, too, had been told they could not get in, but heard that there was a good chance we could – so I turned around and went back. We were able to get in without a problem. What a special moment to see Pope Benedict as he was processing down the aisle. I was not seated where I could see him during the Mass, but it just was not important. There was a sense of gift – freely given to uplift and plant deeply in the soul that this moment in time was eternal – just as our destiny is. Nothing seemed to matter but being present to each moment of the Mass. There were monitors throughout the cathedral so that all the faithful could see what was happening throughout the Mass. The consecration of the altar was beautiful! I have never seen a dedication of an altar or church before. The prayers were powerful and inspiring, as they can be connected with our own consecration and total gift of self.
After the morning Mass, SMS and I packed and began our pilgrim walk with four other Sisters. It was blessed and quite “pain-free”, as pilgrimages go 🙂 We prayed along the way, as well as visited with pilgrims. When we arrived at Randwick Racetrack, it was already packed – the trek to find our assigned area took as long as the pilgrimage walk, itself! By the time we found it, almost all the CMSWR Sisters were there. We squeezed in and, as WYD Vigil camp outs go, began to make friends very quickly, as you are in very tight quarters – the young people were very respectful and went out of their way to offer us water, a pillow (!), vigil candles -good young people! SMS and I had the late evening/morning shift at different Adoration tents. I was assigned to the tent with the Sisters of Charity. It was truly lovely. At 10:00 PM, when my shift began, I found the tent packed to the gills. It started to loosen up around 12:30 AM. Adoration and Confessions were going on throughout the whole night – and the priests remained busy. God’s grace is strong. I was there until about 1:15 AM, then made it back to our campsite by 2:15 AM.
The Holy Father drove around the race track before beginning Mass – we were able to see him really well – the driver drove a lot slower this time 🙂 Our Holy Father’s smile is so endearing… I am going to write this in two installments…to be continued tomorrow….tomorrow we will write about the Mass.
A quick reflection…have you ever been in a place with a half a million people and heard the silence? That’s what happened during Holy Communion and through many parts of the Mass – there was such reverence. There is deep faith – it needs to be nurtured in our young people, that’s all. We are blessed. God bless you. With much love in our Lord,
Sister Grace Helena