Daryn Peres, 20, our second WYD blogger, has shared a few thoughts about his trip, with more on the way. Peres, whose hometown is Dallas, Texas, is studying Information Technologies and Supply Chain Management at Marquette University, Milwaukee. Enjoy!
Wednesday, Aug. 31
Well before World Youth Day we attended this program called Magis which means “the more.” The program was organized by the Jesuits, and it brought together people from around the world who were from a Jesuit parish or university. We all met in Loyola, Spain. This is where St. Ignatius had his conversion and where his basilica is located. It was a phenomenal experience to me, to be in the conversion room where St. Ignatius gave his life to God. In my mind it was the place where everything started, and he was able to see God and the extraordinary work he was doing through people – he read the life of the saints and the Bible because he was recovering from a cannonball striking his leg and books made him start to question his life and about God.
It was interesting to interact with people from different countries, some people knew just very little English but we got by. The experience of people coming together for this Magis and WYD program made me feel that God is at work in the world and in our lives. We played many games and sports together during our free time and I am proud to say that I learned some new games, nursery rhymes and made some new friends. I especially bonded with people from my culture since I am Indian.
After being in Loyola we broke out into our Magis experience groups. Our group was spiritual, and we were grouped with people from Spain and Uruguay, so about 25 people total. Our group was sent into Portugal to a town called Monserrate, which is close to Lisbon, Portugal, and the border of Spain; no one from our group knew Portuguese. Monserrate is a castle on a hill with many small towns surrounding it. In many of these small towns there are no priests because the Portuguese expelled religious orders from the county in the 1940s – I think that is when it happened.
The priests that were in orders ran many of the schools and parishes, and there were very few diocesan priests. So when the religious order priests were expelled, the diocesan priest had to serve in all the parishes but they cannot be in every parish because there are too many of them. So the bishop of Portugal decided that lay people should give the homily in parishes and distribute the Eucharist – they are not consecrating the host but just taking the consecrated hosts from the tabernacle and giving them to the people. These lay people meet with the bishop to discuss what is going on in the community and what their homily is going to be on. The bishop has called this the group of St. Francis Xavier. We joined up with this group and stayed in a local elementary school.
The group of St. Francis Xavier were able to teach us about the culture of the community, the history of the church in Portugal and why their ministry was needed. It was wonderful being able to assist them. This is how most of our days broke down: We would eat breakfast then go down to the lake. At the lake we would have Mass and then a reflection and small group discussion on the day’s readings. After our time at the lake we would eat lunch and have a siesta, or nap; in Portugal everyone has a siesta between 2 and 5 p.m. because it is the hottest part of the day. At 5 p.m., we would then go into the town. Each day our group would do a different activity; it was either playing with the kids or visiting the elderly in their homes. It is interesting to note that in this town there were many widows or women dressed in black. This is because if a woman’s husband died, then she wore black for the rest of her life. If a close family member died then a woman will also wear black, but there is no set time for the mourning period of a close family member.
In this town, there was a big age gap of really young people, under age 15, and older people, about age 60 and up. I know we brought joy and love to the youth and to the older people by visiting them, asking about them and their children. Teaching the kids new games and having more people to play with is what really brought them joy and happiness. I know at first I did not realize what we were doing, but after discussion of how the community normally is, I realized that we were making an impact.
After we met with the elderly in their homes and played with the children, we would gather with the community for a reading of the Gospel, a talk about it, to sing some songs as well as share personal testimonies on our faith that went with the Gospel reading. Obviously our personal testimonies were translated so they understood. It was an interesting moment for all of us to hear these testimonies from people from other countries and cultures. Soon the ladies started sharing their own personal stories and lives with us. Through personal stories, we were able to make a real human connection with them and learn about their lives. This made us a part of their community and I know that will have a big impact on our lives.
As the week went on, we saw more people and the word was getting out that youth from other countries were in their town. They started attending the testimonies talk, which was called “God on the street.” Now that I think of the name, it surely does fit because that is were we found God – we literally were outside the church on the street preaching about God and how he had moved in our lives. Then on Friday, which was the last “God on the Street,” the place was packed. Some of the members of the group of St. Francis Xavier were so surprised that they started to cry because so many people were there to hear the Word of God and how God had impacted their daily life and where they had found God in their life.
On Friday this lady was talking about how her two kids died in a car accident and how our spirit reminded her of them. I do not understand Portuguese, and I can get by on Spanish, but I understood her emotions and what she was conveying to us. When someone asked me, “Do you understand?”
I said, “Yes, I understand.” Then, she pointed to me and said in Portuguese, “I know he understands,” and then pointed to her heart. I was very thankful for that moment, for meeting that person and having that connection with them.
On Friday, we threw a party in the town and danced the night away. On Saturday, the ladies in the town made dinner for us, which was great. We were sad to leave for WYD Sunday knowing how much this place meant to us and how the experience had impacted our life.
I still have about two more pages in me on, specifically, WYD, and then what I have learned and my reflection on it I did not think it would be this long but apparently there is still a lot of stuff in my head. …
To be continued…