On the road to Rio

35 St. Croix Valley residents answer call to attend World Youth Day in Brazil

Members of the local delegation traveling to World Youth Day later this month in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, gathered at the Church of St. Michael Tuesday for Mass and to prepare for their trip. (Submitted photo)
Members of the local delegation traveling to World Youth Day later this month in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, gathered at the Church of St. Michael Tuesday for Mass and to prepare for their trip. (Submitted photo)

Thirty-five residents from several east metro Catholic Churches are answering the call to worship in what could be one of the largest gatherings of people in human history.

Every two or three years, pilgrims from the Catholic Church between the ages of 16 to 35 answer the pope’s call to worship together at World Youth Day. This year, millions of pilgrims are expected to attend the event in Brazil.

Among those pilgrims are 35 members from The churches of Saint Mary’s and Saint Michael in Stillwater, Saint Charles in Bayport and Saint Odelia in Shoreview. The group arrives in Rio De Janiero July 17 to participate in World Youth Day 2013.

Annie Grandell, a youth pastor at St. Michael’s, is the main organizer of the WYD pilgrimage. It is the fourth time Grandell has participated in World Youth Day and the third time she brings a Stillwater-area group to the event.

The trip has been in the planning stages for two years since Rio De Janiero was announced as the 2013 host at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid.

“It’s one of those things that you spend so much time planning it and everyone is anxious to get down there and have it become a reality,” Grandell said.

Despite Brazil’s current political climate, Grandell said that very strong precautions are in place to ensure the group’s safety.

“People have forgotten that the exact same thing happened in Madrid before we went in 2011. We’ve got a guide who will be with us at all times and we’ll do the best job we can when it comes to the safety of our kids.” Grandell said.

More people decided to go this year than she expected, especially adults.

“We figured that less people would be willing to send their kids to Brazil than Madrid,” Grandell said. “It was great to have the same turnout and we have a higher ratio of adults than to kids under 18 this year. It really shows that youth ministry is more than just for teenagers.”

During Mass Tuesday evening at St. Michael’s, church priest, the Rev. Michael Miller, offered a blessing for the local delegation and a reminder of why they are going to Brazil.

“Pilgrimage means we’re going somewhere for a reason,” he said. “Life is a pilgrimage. It’s not always an easy thing to reach a goal.”

For the first week they are in Brazil, Grandell said the group will stay with host families a couple of hours outside of Rio De Janeiro and participate in service work and cultural experiences. Grandell added that there’s really no particular service goal the group has in mind.

“It’s like any service work really,” Grandell said. “You go and you ask how can I serve and it can be anything from visiting people in nursing homes to doing some manual labor.”

World Youth Day itself lasts for five days from July 23 to 28 and includes various prayer sessions, classes and masses. It’s capped off with a closing mass that is expected to be led by Pope Francis, who is originally from Argentina. When it comes to the event itself, Grandell said it is a time of great spiritual growth for many attendees.

“What I love about it is that it explodes their world view. Their experience doesn’t go far beyond Oak Park Heights and most of the kids involved in church can answer any and all questions you’d give them on a test,” she said. “The word Catholic comes from the Latin phrase universal church and they could tell you that too but there’s something about walking it and experiencing it like you never expected. You’ll walk to mass with people from China and sit next to people from Qatar and we’re all united under the same faith.”

Grandell said that the deep spiritual conversion the pilgrims experience energizes the attendees and encourages them to come back and teach classes and invite their friends to come and experience the Catholic faith.

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]


World Youth Day

When: July 23-28
Where: Rio de Janiero, Brazil
What: Instituted in 1985 by Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day is celebrated annually at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday in Rome and at a week-long event internationally every two to three years. The last World Youth Day event was 2011 in Madrid.