special events > World Youth Day, Madrid, 2011
          But there was no time to rest, so the next ten days turned out to be challenging, in spite of  inspiring. Madrid was hot, as we had been warned! It wasn’t easy to get to our various meetings.... Most of the time we walked, but sometimes we caught the metro.  We feasted on American food, Spanish delicacies and, needless to say, lots of paella. I would start my day with piping hot cappuccino to get a good share of caffeine to keep myself going throughout the day.  After breakfast we never knew when our next meal would be!

Madrid was a lovely host city for the innumerable young people coming in from all over the world. Youth groups representing their countries paraded down the streets in colorful shorts and T-shirts, shouting chants and songs. Their enthusiasm was catching. We had a few slogans of our own! Our hotel was on a main street, Calle de Gran Via.  A block away was the Plaza del Sol, one of Madrid's most beautiful plazas that is surrounded by ornate, white stone buildings. It was from there that we caught the metro to the Palacio de Deportes de la Comunidad de Madrid for our  daily catechesis sessions with bishops and sisters from all over the world. No doubt, our beloved Archbishop Dolan was somewhere among them. We first saw Pope Benedict on Thursday evening at the Plaza de Cibeles.  Because the crowd was so huge, we watched him from a screen on a side street just off the plaza. The Mayor of Madrid attended, while the Pope addressed us all in Spanish. This event forced us to learn the art of staying close together in a tight group, because the crowd was so pressing.

For me World Youth Day was both a private and public experience. I dug deep into myself to understand more about what I was seeking, while I shared with the adventure with 19 others. Our group was very much part of the joy of World Youth Day. Our highlight event was meeting Pope Benedict on our last two days; it was also the most challenging.  First, we had to walk for 4 hours under the hot sun to get to Cuarto Vientos, the airfield. On our way we had a taste of Spanish hospitality, as friendly people doused us with buckets of water from their apartment windows, and the fire company hosed us down with water from their engines! Then we prepared to spend the night on a tarp we had brought from home, and for which we turned out to be most grateful. Just as the Pope arrived a sudden thunderstorm hit, but we used our ingenuity, turned the tarp into a tent and all of us stayed dry. Pope Benedict held the Mass for two million people in Spanish. His message encouraged us to stand up for our faith, and to live it always. Then he blessed us.  

We are fortunate that our wonderful parish, St. Gregory the Great, sent us to World Youth Day and gave us a chaotic, but really uplifting adventure. Our love and thanks to all of you!  I end with a message from a bishop I met: “You have come here to find God. Now, go and find Him!”

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                        World Youth Day, Madrid, 2011
                                                   Susanna George

World Youth Day was an altogether impressive event, and lots of fun. Sixteen teens and four of us chaperones flew across the Atlantic on a chartered Air Europa flight, leaving on a rainy Sunday night and landing at Madrid’s Barajas Airport the next sunny Monday morning. Our New York travel agent kindly greeted and shuttled us to our hotel, right in the center of the city.  

St. Gregory the Great Church 
144 West 90th Street   New York NY 10024-1202   
Tel: 212.724.9766      Fax: 212.579.3380   

Masses in English, French and Spanish       "Diversity in Culture - Unity in Christ" 

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