Bauman came to Brazil with a U.S. group from the Christian Life Movement, an international ecclesial movement started in South America. They arrived a week early to do mission trips in the favelas – or slums – of Sao Paolo, an experience that she described as "overwhelming."
Her group painted the local outreach center, conducted catechesis with the children and visited families in their homes to talk with them, pray with them and listen to their stories.
These visits were "startling," Bauman said, explaining that she was "struck by the openness of the people in this culture in general, but especially of the people in the favelas. They didn't know us, but they invited us into their homes and they poured their hearts out to us."
She contrasted this with the United States, where it is "almost a social taboo" to really open up and touch someone's heart upon first meeting them.
"But we are meant for true encounter with one another, which is what I experienced in the slums, and I believe that we can learn a lot in this area from other cultures," she reflected.
Bauman has also worked with the poor in Denver for several years, through a program called Christ in the City that brings young people from around the country to serve the local homeless.
Commenting on Pope Francis, who also visited a favela during his trip to Brazil, she said that she is "really touched by what he does, especially by the spontaneity of the love that he shows."
"It's clear that he sees the person first, and his primary goal in any encounter is to love the person without reservation."
In addition to the Closing Mass with Pope Francis, the Opening Mass also made a powerful impression on Bauman.
"I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and I didn't even notice the rain at times. Even though I didn't understand the language and I was exhausted, I was just so caught up in what was going on," she said.
Reflecting on World Youth Day overall, Bauman said that the huge numbers of people were what struck her most.
"Just seeing people pour onto the beach – they kept coming and coming and coming. And then realizing that we're all there for the same reason; it's just really powerful," she explained. "What if we all lived out our faith? What could we accomplish? We could do a lot."
(Story continues below)
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