Last Preparations for WYD Vigil (with slide show)

by Antonina Zielinksa

Seeing Pope Benedict XVI live for the first time was a highlight of World Youth Day 2011 for Brooklyn and Queens pilgrims.

Temperatures reached 97 degrees Fahrenheit in Madrid on Aug. 18 and clouds were few and far in between. It was in this heat the pilgrims from the diocese stood for over five hours waiting to get a glimpse for the first time of the Holy Father in his Popemobile.

“Seeing all the young Catholics waiting for the pope was very exciting,” said Pilgrim Ciara Nestor, from St. Patrick parish, Bay Ridge. “Just seeing that everyone was out there for the same reason was great.”

The diocesan pilgrims were surrounded by sweaty young people from around the world and could not leave for fear of losing their place.

“It definitely made me tired but I had a lot of fun because we were talking together, eating together, throwing water at each other,” said pilgrim Mark Guzman, also from St. Patrick’s parish.

This was an opportunity for the pilgrims to see the dedication young Catholics from through out the world have for the pope.

In order to help the pilgrims stay cool, the official volunteers for WYD gave out free water and doused the crowds with water.  In the last couple of hours before the pope’s arrival, firefighters showed and cooled the pilgrims with a shower.

The pilgrims sang, chanted and made new friends to pass the time and to keep their minds off the heat.

“We met lots of new people,” said Sydney Seitz, from Holy Child Jesus parish, Richmond Hill.  “I was having a lot of fun and I did not mind waiting for five-and-a-half hours.”

Despite the precautions the pilgrims and volunteers were taking, the heat was just too much for some people. Pilgrim Meseley Luis, from Holy Child Jesus, fainted while waiting for the pope. She said volunteers came and helped her regain consciousness.

“I was crying because I thought I might not get better and be able to see the pope and that was the whole point of coming here: to celebrate life and the faith with the Holy Father,” she said.

In the end, however, she was able to get back to see the Popemobile pass by and did not regret waiting.

“It was worth it,” she said. “He represents the Church.  He’s our Holy Father.  It’s a once in a life time experience that I would not want to miss.”

Salvatore Isabella from Holy Child Jesus parish said he also was happy to wait.

“I was so excited because it was my dream to come to World Youth Day,” he said.  “It was just a shock that I got to see him and I was right up front.”

Despite a long and emotional day, the pilgrims woke up early for their last day of preparation before making it over to the field where they would meet Pope Benedict.  In the morning, they attended catechesis in the Love and Life Center. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was the spiritual guide.  The pilgrims received him with good cheer and the archbishop kept the crowds laughing and attentive.

“I didn’t think I would enjoy the catechism because it was so early, but I learned so much,” said Elizabeth Enriquez.

In the evening, the pilgrims prayed the Stations of the Cross led by Bishop DiMarzio and in solidarity with the rest of World Youth Day pilgrims.

“It was really useful that they explained the connections between the stations and modern times,” Guzman said. “It helped us see the modern world through theological terms.”

Ric Crossfield, from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica, was one of the lectors for the stations. He said he was impressed by the passion of his fellow lectors.

“It reassured me that we are here for the same reasons, “ he said.  “It was very beautiful.”

Crossfield is already looking forward to the next World Youth Day, which will be held in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Throughout the struggles, it’s good to know that we are united under one person and that is Jesus,” he said.