Upon arrival in Spain we travelled to the gorgeous city of Salamanca, and stayed in a Salesian school. It was hot, hot, hot, and the atmosphere in the school was already electric. The Canadians had arrived before us and drew us into their party like atmosphere. Looking around Salamanca, highlighted what a gorgeous, historic and welcoming city it was. The pilgrims of WYD brought a little more magic to an already amazing place.
In Salamanca we participated in lots of fabulous activities; including witnessing parish life, sharing intercultural experiences with other Salesians, sight- seeing and days in the diocese. Highlights of my time in Salamanca were the Salesian good nights, which always made me feel lucky to be part of the Salesians, the sight-seeing, and been part of the amazing atmosphere the pilgrims of WYD brought to the wonderful city of Salamanca.
The journey to Madrid was filled with excitement (and sleep). The bus ride through the Spanish country side, was another fantastic opportunity to experience Spain. When we arrived in Madrid, we couldn’t quite believe it, but Madrid was far hotter than Salamanca, 46 degrees at times. The hot weather didn’t deter us, we soldiered through and experienced everything WYD had to offer. The days in the diocese were interesting and highlighted the difference in Catholicism across the world. Whilst not all of the days in the diocese were my cup of tea, they all provided some insightful and thought provoking catechesis’.
The excitement around the pope arriving in Madrid was clear to see, with locals stopping us and giving us a smile or handshake, showing they were sharing in the WYD experience also. The day the pope officially welcomed everybody in Madrid is one I will remember forever. The pope’s alter was at the top of a main road in Madrid, which had been shut off. The road was more congested than it ever had been before, not with traffic but with people, millions of them. This experience for me was quite overwhelming, with the crowds and the heat, but at the same time was amazing to witness.
A highlight of WYD for me was the Salesian family day, where over 8,000 Salesians met together, had fun and prayed together at the night time vigil, with true Salesian spirituality making the whole experience very special. The Salesian family day re-energised us and prepared us for our pilgrimage to the mass with the pope.
The day of the pilgrimage to the popes mass, was very hot, but there was definitely lots of excitement surrounding the events ahead. We set out on a walk to the airfield, and the more pilgrims we saw the more exciting the atmosphere became. Arriving in the field, and seeing the millions of people who were also camping over night, in the boiling weather, was an unreal experience. This was a once in a lifetime experience and there was definitely a special atmosphere. Whilst the weather was very, very hot the WYD spirit still prevailed. When the pope began to give his vigil on the night, there was a feeling of unity in the fields, not only within our group, but also with the millions of other people present. The thunderstorm that occurred during the vigil provided some laughs and memories, another surreal event in a very surreal day. The pope’s mass on the Sunday provided an opportunity to share mass with everybody else present. Another special, spiritual event which will be remembered for a long time.
WYD for me enabled me to see the goodness of God in the other people I met. The atmosphere was amazingly special, and whilst there were hard times ‘roughing it’, WYD provided such amazing experiences and memories, I am very pleased I participated, and am very grateful to all the people who made it happen and who I shared my WYD experience with.