In order to enhance his pilgrims’ World Youth Day experience, Father Josephjude Gannon took his parish group from Queens on a Rio de Janeiro adventure to experience Catholicism Brazilian style.
Father Gannon, the administrator of St. Gerard Majella parish, Hollis, referred to his World Youth Day iPhone app to see what events would best suit his young pilgrims. He found one sponsored by the group, Shalom, close by their hotel.
The pilgrims participated in song and praise for two hours in Portuguese with the Brazilians and one more hour in Eucharistic adoration.
“It was like a pop concert, except it was about God and faith,” said 19-year-old pilgrim Melanie Persaud, after the event that was led by the music group Halleluya.
The pilgrims said they were able to overcome the language barrier thanks to their shared faith and the hospitality of the Brazilians.
“It was challenging at first,” Persaud said. “As they kept repeating the words and hand gestures, it all fell into place. By the end of the night, I knew more than when I started. Even [later] in Mass, I understood more.”
The language was not the only cultural difference in the event. There also was the incorporation of simple dance into praise and worship.
“They got us dancing!” exclaimed 20-year-old pilgrim Jasmine Gomez. “I’m usually introverted and shy. And, I don’t know, I just felt comfortable.”
“It was the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, no matter the language,” Father Gannon said. “It was an experience for them to pray in a different language and know that it was the same Jesus.”
“Right before the adoration, as soon as the Blessed Sacrament arrived, everyone hushed,” Persaud said. “So you got the feeling that He was there.”
“You got the feeling that He was right there,” Gomez said. “That He is everywhere. He is always there. You felt His presence with everyone getting quiet at the same time.”
The pilgrims said the Brazilians were very happy to have them join their group and were grateful for the gifts of Pray for the Pope coins they received. They were so impressed with the young Americans that they said they would post a photo of them on their website, www.comshalom.org.