.- A group of Canadian pilgrims said this World Youth Day is more fun and the youth feel “more united” than at previous events.
“There are always little differences in all of them, but I find that in this particularly, there’s a lot more of a sense of communion,” said Christina Brine, from Winnipeg, Canada.
“It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you’re able to communicate, especially with the Brazilians because they’re so welcoming, and it’s just fun,” she told CNA July 24.
She and some of her fellow Canadians gathered at a catechesis session this morning at the school of Our Lady of Mercy in Rio’s Botafogo area.
This is Brine’s fourth World Youth Day. She participated in previous gatherings in Toronto, Cologne and Sydney.
In Rio, she has found great enthusiasm for visitors.
“When Brazilian pilgrims see the Canadian flag, they shout 'Ca-na-da!' and then it’s just a chant of 'Ca-na-da!' all the way until they disappear down the street,” she said.
Brine emphasized that at every World Youth Day she loves seeing people’s faces when they experience the event for the very first time.
The 29-year-old said she loves “how they light up, how they’re so intrigued as individuals through the different activities that we’ve been able to do.”
Brine believes this Pope “will be one of those that talks from his heart and will be able to communicate with generations now.”
She said one of the things she likes best at the world’s largest youth Catholic gathering is the that the catechesis session that take place over three days.
“It’s just a mingle of all the cultures and nations together and I love seeing how we all interact,” Brine said.
“I was really touched by the Lord in Sydney so this is just a building on from that,” she stated.
She believes that youth have left the Church because of “pressure” and that events like World Youth Day bring people back.
“We need to use these events more to keep people in and bring more people back into the Church,” Brine told CNA.
Another pilgrim, Jennifer Cooke, is a 34-year-old school counselor originally from Winnipeg, Canada. She is living World Youth Day for the second time.
“They were amazing experiences,” Cooke said of her first event. “But this time I felt I came a little better prepared in terms of knowing what is going to happen.”
“But I found that, just the same as last time, the opening Mass gave me such a sense of awe that we’re all here together and it really does give that sense of connection to one another as part of a Christian community,” she said.
Cooke has come to this World Youth Day to strengthen and continue to grow in her faith as well as to embrace “the theme of going to the world and serving it as Christ’s disciple.”
“My hope is that the theme will emphasize the need of the Church to be the agent of social justice and of change in that area for Brazil,” she remarked.
“Money needs to continue to go into education and healthcare and to try to improve the condition of people in favelas,” she said.
Organizers prepared young people for World Youth Day with a ‘mission week’ from July 17 to 20 across different regions of Brazil. They aimed to give young people the chance to participate in spiritual activities, works of solidarity with local communities, and missionary and cultural events.
Cooke said she had hoped to be more involved in work with local communities, but her group leader decided to have her group participate in the spiritual activities of Chemin Neuf, a Catholic ecumenical community.
“That was a different experience and I was really disappointed we didn’t get to participate in missions week,” said the Canadian.
“They have a different theological approach than what I’m accustomed to and it was good that it really exposed me to that,” she added.
She noted “it’s a more evangelical approach than what I’m comfortable with, although it’s good to be outside one’s comfort zone.”
Concerning Pope Francis, Cooke emphasized that she is “definitely looking forward to meeting him” and that she is “touched that he comes from the global south.”
“I think that him being from the southern hemisphere will bring a new approach to the papacy and hopefully really renew the fire for social justice,” said Cooke.