World Youth Day: Diary

Categories: Nation/World

August 2, 2013, edition 

July 22:
It is good to finally be in Rio. The journey began long before we boarded the plane and it will not end with our leaving. We reached Brazil Monday morning and immediately got on a bus.

First, we headed to the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado, a mountain overlooking the city. The anticipation for this site was incredible — standing thousands of feet in the air at the feet of Jesus was more amazing than we could have imagined. The excitement of that moment set the stage for an awesome week ahead of us.


Corcovado, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, was the first site the World Youth Day pilgrims from Minnesota visited.
Photo submitted

The next day we set out to see where the day would take us. After a slight mix-up in the metro station we found ourselves at a church on a hill. We became fast friends with some of the Brazilian WYD volunteers. We were fortunate to have a special Mass with them in the Church of Our Lady Gloria.

We made our way to the Cathedral of Rio, which took many hours to get there due to interesting detours. The people were so friendly that we couldn’t walk without being stopped by the locals. In one case we ended up at the house of a very exited woman with whom we could not communicate with verbally. She fed us and we traded gifts before moving on. We will be on our next adventure soon.

Daniel Borash,
Holy Cross Parish, North Prairie

July 25:

Throughout this trip we may never get to our planned destination, but we will always end up where we are meant to be. This has become the motto of World Youth Day trip. The subway in Rio is used to transporting the 7 million people that reside in the capital of Brasilia, but the subways could not have been prepared for the 4 million extra incoming pilgrims.

When our group decided to try to get to the international vocations fair, we did not know that we were headed right into a metro crisis that would put any day in New York City to shame. As we made our way to Sao Cristavao, the subway car filled more and more. When we got off, the situation was worse — we could not walk since we were pushed towards an exit by the crowd.

Pope Francis’ arrival was a much anticipated event that included rain, soccer, food, Farkle, and nearly 10 hours of waiting on a sidewalk to see him. Our endeavors were greatly rewarded. As the time for the arrival drew near, I could feel the crowd grow excited and then explode into a roaring wave of praise and applause as he went along Copacabana beach. When he passed me, he was no more than 10 feet away.

To add to the excitement was the amazing occurrence. As Papa Francisco passed me, I held out a red, white and blue rosary that my group and I had helped to make. To my utter amazement and astonishment, the guard to his left took the rosary from me and promptly handed it to the pope. Once I got over the excitement of seeing the pope and then realizing he had received my rosary, I was filled with joy and knew I had been where I was meant to be at that moment.

Ben Borash
Holy Cross Parish, North Prairie


Pilgrims from Minnesota are (front row, from left) Father Larry Hubbard, Chantelle Frie, Carolyn Kokett, Daniel Borash and Ben Borash. In back are Randy Borash, Rob Schumer, Peter Borash, Courtney Lee and Gary Borash.

July 25:
Today I was able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event — seeing the pope in person less than 15 feet away from me. I knew this event was one of the most important at World Youth Day, but nothing prepared me for it.

We left raround 8 a.m. from where we were staying to make the15-minute trek to Copacabana beach. The actual procession didn’t start until 6 p.m. but we wanted good spots to witness the Holy Father. Though cold and rainy throughout the day, we brushed that aside because of our excitement and enthusiasm. The hours passed by quickly — before we knew it, other pilgrims started swarming the beach.

We found a spot and vowed not to move a single inch. But we were packed like sardines against the fence and we had no spare space — everyone was anxious to catch a close-up glimpse of Pope Francis. Helicopters, the Brazilian military and police forces patrolled the area to control the crowd.

When we found out the pope finally landed, the energy level increased and people pushed from all sides. I was out of breath as the pope and his guard came closer and closer to where we were standing. I was 10 or 15 feet away when he passed by. The crowd was screaming like crazy and here I was — completely speechless in complete awe and wonder. I never imagined I would get so close to the most influential person in my life and of those in the Catholic community. Not everyone is blessed with that opportunity and I’m very grateful, and always will be, that God willed for me to witness this awe-inspiring event.

Carolyn Kokett
St. Edward Parish, Elmdale

July 29:

From Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, I send a word of greeting to all of our friends back in Minnesota. Here with me are a group of youngsters from North Prairie, Elmdale, Upsala and Apple Valley, Minn. Our group has five boys and three girls, an adult guide and myself. They are here to share the Good News of the Lord in their own way.

My story is written to share the adventures of a group of young people who have come to Latin America, to learn and to share their lives in a way that would be helpful here in Rio de Janeiro. I was invited to join them as a spiritual director to accompany them. That in itself was enough to give an affirmative nod and join their great adventure.

Certainly their goal was and is to share the Good News of the Gospel to the folks here. And there is a need for that. It is said that there are between 5 and 8 million people living in this city. I was surprised at its size. But Caracas, in Venezuela, where I was part of our archdiocesan team for years, is not too different.

So far it has been great. The young people have their own way of touching the people. One has been to make rosaries and give them away free, to the people here. The rosaries are beautiful, mixing the colors of our flag — red, white and blue. The rosaries are given out on street corners and the people flock to receive one of these colorful prayer guides. I have celebrated Mass in what would be equivalent to our State Fair, where many people were present.

We will be returning to Minnesota July 31, leaving behind us a great number of wonderful people, many of whom have been touched by these youngsters. I feel privileged to have been a part of their group, as their faith is so strong.

Father Larry Hubbard (alias Padre Lorenzo)
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis