by Antonina Zielinska
MADRID, Spain – In the days leading up to World Youth Day, early arriving pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn were taken on a guided tour of Toledo, a city located 60 miles from Madrid.
The city has been populated since the Bronze Age and grew in importance during the Roman Empire. It also played a key role in the development of Christianity in Europe.
Pilgrim Diana Arreaga from St. Joseph parish, Prospect Heights, said she was amazed by the city’s cathedral and its history. Although the exact dates of the church’s origin are unknown, it has existed since at least the sixth century.
“It’s still standing after so many years,” she said. “It’s representative of Jesus and the Church who are still stading after so many years.”
During their half-day stay in Toledo, the pilgrims attended Sunday Mass led by Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano. The bishop said this Mass was the highlight of the trip so far.
“Being able to lead young people in prayer, that’s always a privilege,” he said. “The sightseeing is good, but the prayer is what it’s all about.”
During his homily, he explained how the Gospel story of the Canaanite woman and her sick daughter promotes unity among all people. He said that by allowing the Canaanite woman to show her faith, Jesus let everyone understand that with faith all people can be saved.
Renee V. Marcellus, from St. Thomas Aquinas parish, Flatlands, said the bishop’s message inspires her desire to be more active in her Catholic faith, especially when she returns to her college campus.
“The bishop’s homily was an extremely powerful message of God’s love,” she said.
Bishop Caggiano said all of the World Youth Day events are centered around helping young people come closer to their faith.
“When the pilgrims come back (to Brooklyn), they will bring with them a real enthusiasm and an open heart,” he said.
He said that the feeling of loneliness is one of the obstacles that World Youth Day will help young people overcome.
“Most people think they are alone in what they are trying to do, which is to follow Christ,” he said. “World Youth Day is over a million youth together to teach them that they are not alone.”
The bishop said that the best way for young people to evangelize is by setting a good example. World Youth Day 2011 has many young people setting good examples for their peers, he said, just like the previous one in Sydney in 2008.
“The same enthusiasm, same joy, same dedication that we had in Australia, we have here,” he said.