by Antonina Zielinska
Rio De Janeiro – After an overnight flight riddled with delays, pilgrims from the Brooklyn Diocese landed Monday morning July 22 in Rio de Janeiro, ready to start a full day of their World Youth Day pilgrimage.
“We are finally here, 224 strong!” exclaimed Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano during the welcoming Mass he concelebrated with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and priests from the diocese. “You have made us proud.”
Bishop Caggiano said he could see the drowsiness on pilgrims’ faces after the overnight flight. He also acknowledged that this was only the latest of the pilgrim’s struggles. The bishop commended the youth for all the sacrifices they made to raise funds and prepare themselves for World Youth Day.
“Thank you, every one of you for your perseverance,” Bishop DiMarzio said at the end of the Mass. “It’s a once in a life time opportunity, so take it seriously. I think you will.”
“It will not be easy, you will not get much sleep – so get used to it,” said Bishop Caggiano about the week ahead. “We have to pray for perseverance.”
Pilgrim Salvatore Isabella, 19, from Immaculate Conception parish, Astoria, said the homily reminded him of all the sacrifices his parents made to send him on the pilgrimage.
He said it is the thought of being able to see the pope that motivates him.
“Our parish has been working for this through a cold winter and hot summers, but we are so excited to be here,” said 16-year-old pilgrim Katherine Reynoso, from Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jamaica. “I’m overwhelmed. I expected a lot of people, but I didn’t expect so many people to be so enthusiastic and passionate.
When the pilgrims followed the three flags – a U.S. flag, a Brooklyn Diocese flag and a Vatican flag – to the church where they would celebrate their first Mass together in Rio de Janeiro, they encountered pilgrims from around the world.
In fact, there were so many pilgrims in the street because of the early arrival of Pope Francis from the Vatican, that it was hard to squeeze through the crowds and keep an eye on the flags that seemed to get lost in the sea of people.
Pilgrim Dwayne Taylor, 17, from Our Lady of Light parish, St. Albans, said he was surprised how peaceful the city is despite the sudden influx of teens. He said he is happy that the dangers he was warned about before embarking on his pilgrimage seemed to be overexaggerated.
Pilgrim Carolina Torres, 19, from St. Gerard Majella parish, Hollis, said there always seems to be alarms of danger before a World Youth Day gathering, but the event always is successful.
“I think, with all the warnings of danger, we are here, we take care of each other and I think everything will be fine,” she said.
Pope Francis with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff as he arrives at the international airport in Rio de Janeiro.
pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens gather with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio for Mass on their first day in Brazil.