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WORLD YOUTH DAY 2013
Me, God and the Iguazu Falls
BY JOHN BANNON
A pilgrim shares some experiences from
early days in Rio de Janeiro for the 28th
World Youth Day, the first to be attended
by Pope Francis.
It's pouring, my shoes are soaked, my
backpack drenched. I look up and strain
to keep my eyes open as I'm pelted with
rain drops. I couldn´t care less. Above me
is one of the most beautiful sites I've ever
seen. Someone grabs me from behind in
a bear hug and exclaims, "How awesome
is this?" All I can manage is a stifled "yeah"
before another barrage of rain drops
consumes my attention. I look up again at
the cascading waterfall and stare in awe
at the torrents of water falling from above
and smashing into the rocks. It feels like
I'm in some fairytale land, but I'm not.
Even though I'm surrounded by
pilgrims and tourists, I feel like
it's just me and God.
Our pilgrimage began with a farewell
Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in
Newcastle. Family and friends bid an
emotional goodbye to 28 pilgrims bound
for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil. After many conversations, a quick
nap and much needed food, pilgrims
arrived in Buenos Aires. Our ever smiling
guide, Claudio, displayed his passion and
enthusiasm for his country as he gave us
a quick impression of Argentina on our
way to the retreat house in the suburb of
Immediately, the reality of where we were
hit hard. Shanty towns, streets littered
with garbage, barbed wire around homes
and the odd street bonfire were enough to
wake up our pilgrim group -- all of whom
were keen for a shower and a good night´s
Refreshed and having taken in a tour
of the city, we set about three days of
mission work, organised by Brs
Alvaro and Santiago
from the Christian Life movement. Our
first two days were spent at El Arroyito
Community Centre where inside the
compound we sanded and painted
classroom tables and chairs and installed
waste bins in the streets. As we mingled
with locals, it became apparent that the
small help we provided had touched
hearts and changed lives, for both the
locals and our pilgrim group.
The third day was spent at Asana, a home
for some of Buenos Aires less fortunate.
As we painted a couple of classrooms and
installed a grotto with a statue of Mary,
the smiles of the people in the centre
Meanwhile, the camaraderie in our
own group had reached new highs.
From singalongs at every opportunity,
nicknames, thought provoking prayer
sessions and a variety of tour games, we
had formed a real community. We had
gathered just five days earlier, many as
strangers, and through teamwork and a
collective spirit we formed friendships that
will be long lasting.
While the mission work was tough
and confronting, there was an air of
disappointment that we weren´t staying to
do more. Relaxation awaited us, however,
the world´s great natural wonders.
We spent the first day exploring the town,
buying souvenirs and sampling the local
cuisine and ice-cream. However the
Falls provided the real magic. Countless
cascades took our breath away and we
couldn´t help feeling that little bit closer
And, that´s a good place to be as we arrive
The majesty of Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
Photo courtesy of Elroy Aguiar. For a
WYD photo gallery, please visit
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