Official Opening of WYD (with slide show) *web exclusive

by Antonina Zielinska

Before pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn headed over for the official opening Mass of World Youth Day 2011, they spent an hour in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament with hundreds of other English speaking pilgrims.

The Brooklyn and Queens pilgrims headed over to the Palacio de Deporters (Sports Center) where the Love and Life center has made a refuge for English speaking pilgrims. There they spent an hour of adoration before the Eucharist with the help of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

“The Franciscan Friar is fantastic,” said pilgrim†Francine Pinheiro, from†St. Sebastian, Woodside. “He knows how to get through to the youth by saying just the right statements. He not only provokes though, but deeper sentiments from within. During the benediction my friend and many others around me started crying. Personally, music speaks to me the loudest and most thoroughly, and I think it’s like that for most of the youth in this day and age.”

Pilgrim Anthony O’Reilly from Holy Family, Flushing said he has been to many benedictions before but this one was a different experience for him.

“You wouldn’t think that with a room full of so many people they could make it so silent that you could hear a pin drop,” he said. “It’s something that dosen’t happen too often. It was just you and †your thoughts. You weren’t thinking about money or issues back home. You just meditated on what was right there.”

Pilgrim Diana Romero, from†Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica, said this experience made the scriptures alive for her.
“I was amazed by the Holy Hour with the Franciscan Friars,” she said. “I felt as if I was seeing the scripture before my eyes: “at the name of Jesus†every knee should bend,†of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,†and every tongue confess that†Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Father Thomas Vassalatti from†Divine Mercy parish, Williamsburg said he was thankful for the Franciscan Brothers for the experiences they provided to young people.

“Sometimes silence is hard,” he said. “Sometimes young people don’t like silence, or are afraid of it. And they helped our young people be introduced to it.”

Father Vassalatti said the Franciscan Brother spoke with such wisdom that he introduced Father Vassalatti to knew concepts.
Having prepared their hearts and minds to accept Jesus, the pilgrims made their way to the official opening Mass of World Youth Day. However, they arrived too late to gain a spot that would allow them to see or hear the Mass. They could only follow in their prayer books they received in the WYD backpacks by listening to the melody of the missal music.

None the less, many of the young people had a positive experience.

Pilgrim Margarita Covarrubias from†Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians Church, Woodside, said she was not able to hear the the readings so she read them out loud to herself from her prayer book. A man from Australia came next to her and she tried to share her book with him. However, he asked her to continue reading out loud. She said this was an eye opening experience for her.

“I’m not used to seeing so many young people praising the Lord together and not caring who is next to them,” she said. “It shows that faith and unity isn’t really lost and we can find ways like this to spread our faith more and grow in faith more.”

Romero said that she prayed before Mass that God would grant her the ability to participate in the celebration.

“By the grace of the Holy Spirit I became capable of concentrating on the Eucharistic Celebration, even though I couldn’t hear or understand what the father was saying,” she said.

After Mass, the individual parish groups dispersed into the crowd to make it back to their hotels. However, the experience was not over for the pilgrims.

Holy Family parish, Flushingwas charged withthe task of bringing the three flags of the diocese back safely. Therefore, they led their fellow parish pilgrims and a few other pilgrims from the diocese back safely to the hotel by keeping the flags waving high above their heads.

On the way they met many pilgrims from around the world in similar situations. In order to show their pride in their country they sang many patriotic hymns and chants.

Pilgrim Victor Starsky from Holy family parish, Flushing was one of the flag bearers.

“We are among so many people from different countries and America has received flack from other countries,” he said. †”I†had the honor of holding the †American flag and representing my country.”

Starsky said that pride is different from hubris.

“Hubiris does not fit here,” he said. “You can be proud but it shouldn’t conflict with being able to interact with other people.”
O’Reilly was also a flag bearer and fully participated in the chants and songs.

“I’m holding this big American flag,” he said. “What every pilgrim should know is that they should show pride in their country but what is more important is to have pride in your faith.

“Most countries hold the Vatican flag. It’s not a competition of nations but a unity of nations.”

This unity was exemplified when the group met with Venezuelans. At first the two groups engaged in a friendly competition of which can sing and chant the loudest and which can run their flag farthest. However, the groups soon started to chant the name of their counterpart’s country. At the end they stopped to talk to each other and to take a group picture.

“The Venezuelans were my favorite group,” O’reilly said. “We didn’t just pass them but we go to stop and talk to them, not for long, but we stopped.”