A group of ten youth and five advisors from St. Bernardine Catholic Church in Forest Park joined a million other Catholic young people in Rio de Janeiro for what the Catholic Church calls World Youth Day—actually five days–in July.  I’ll let them speak for themselves, and you can come to your own conclusions.

— The most impressive thing when I was in the crowd was the love from all the kids there and how many were there from other countries, I think the most impressive thing was that so many young people believed in Jesus,

— Just going into it I thought it was going to be strict masses an hour having to be quiet and paying attention.

— I didn’t get strictly religious things out of it but you saw God in everyone who was there everyone was so kind to you and you just really felt Him around you.

— Everybody was just so excited to be there, people were chanting in the street, proud of their heritage.  You could see the Lord was everywhere.  Everybody was having a good time,

–It’s not like the church [we have here]—pews, stand kneel—because when we were in Brazil the catechism classes we went to they had interpretive dances, songs, they taught us an essential idea but did it in a way that wasn’t boring but inspiring us to learn about it.  The first day they had an interpreting dance I got a real kick out of it because I wasn’t used to seeing that in a church related thing.  On another day they were singing a song and everyone was getting pumped up.

— I would just say that it’s not completely about religion, like everyone thinks that you have to go to Mass and think about all these morals that the Catholic Church wants you to do but it’s not. It does make you think about those things but it also makes you think about it in a world view, like you get the perspective of the whole world.  You get to see everyone from around the world in this one place.  It’s amazing that you get so much from being in one place.

–Re Pope Francis: I think that especially with all the people there you get such a good energy, like you just feel God’s presence when he walks or drives by.  You feel it, no matter how far away you are.  I can’t really describe it.  It’s just something you feel.  It’s kind of like an out of body thing.  It’s kind of like a rush,

— I admire Pope Francis especially because he’s not a materialistic person.  You could see how generous he is in his heart and it’s so beautiful.

— I would definitely still go to Poland [in three years] if the pope weren’t coming because it’s not only about being able to see one person but for the experience of the people that you meet and the lessons that you learn.  It’s so much more than meeting one person.  It was great having him there and listening to what he had to say, but we’re not there to worship the pope.  We’re there to learn about God and feel God’s presence.

–The young people our age whom we met in Brazil prioritize religion a lot in their life and here we’re not used to that.  A lot of teenagers here go to Mass more out of duty, but in Brazil it’s kind of like an essential part of their life.

–When you’re here you’re like “oh man I have so much stuff to do,  I don’t really want to go to church.” You get caught up in everything you have to do, but when you’re there and you see everyone having such a close relationship with God, they don’t need to do all the religious stuff like the genuflecting and kneeling because of how close they are with God.  You could tell that they experience him through everything that they do and not just during a Mass.