World Youth Day Diary Rio 2013 by Mike Meadows

Wednesday 17 July: Leaving for Rio

We started this World Youth Day Pilgrimage by meeting together for Mass and departure at St Mary's Lowe House in St Helens, the headquarters for Youth Ministry in the Archdiocese of Liverpool writes Mike Meadows.  The celebration was attended by the young pilgrims and their families, and concluded with a photo call for local newspapers outside the church, before boarding the coach destined for Heathrow Airport.
 
Everyone was in extremely good spirits and it was great to have the group together in its entirety, along with our contingent of pilgrims from the Isle of Man.  Some of our pilgrims had spent the early part of the morning bring interviewed for BBC Radio Merseyside about our trip, whilst others had appeared on BBC North West Tonight the previous evening, so there was much discussion of this great experience during the journey.  We waited in the airport for a few hours, using the time to make new friends, share pilgrimage experiences and refuel in the various eateries, before boarding our flight and departing for Rio.

Thursday 18 July: Statue of Christ the Redeemer

The flight was scheduled to take around fourteen hours, and as we only departed late on Wednesday we knew it would be well into Thursday before we touched down in South America.

During the flight our pilgrims were kept entertained by films, chatting and a curious general knowledge quiz competition held on the in flight tv system.  Without wanting to publicly name the champion, I am pleased to announce that the glory was taken by yours truly!
 
The journey passed by relatively quickly and we were on time to land, only for the excitement to be curtailed by lingering fog in the Rio de Janeiro area, causing landing to be delayed, then diverted to Belo Horizonte airport, and after a frustrating two hours stuck on the runway, back to Rio again.  After much confusion we finally made it through the airport and were met by our tour guide 'Ziggy', who took us straight from the plane to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain.  This was absolutely breathtaking to say the least, and we all took the time to take in the surroundings, and get the obligatory photographs mimicking the famous pose.
 
Following our trip to Corcovado we reboarded the coach and headed for the Archdiocese of Niteroi and the town of Rio Bonito to meet our host families for the 'Missionary Week' element of our trip.  I met my family, the Correas, who were made up of mum and dad Cristina and Humberto, daughter Lara and son Bruno and Lara's boyfriend Bernardo Oliveira.  I would be staying with them for four days with one of our group leaders, Lesley, who I would also have the chance to get to know.  We then went off to a 'welcome party' in the village, where I got to know my Brazilian family a little better, bonding over our common love of football.  Afterwards we retired to our family's home, extremely tired from a very long day, but equally enthusiastic about what was in store for our time at Missionary week in Rio Bonito.

Friday 19 July: Solidarity Day

We started our first full day in Rio Bonito by meeting at the village chapel for Mass with the entire community.  This was amazing, and I really got a sense of how much faith means to the people of this community.  Everyone was singing in full voice and the music was led by the youth of Rio Bonito, as well as Ferg, Joe, Rosie and Becky from our pilgrimage.  It was really eye-opening to see Mass celebrated by Padre Dudu in Portuguese and Father Simon Firth in English, I really gained an understanding of how much it meant for the parishioners to have us in their town, purely from the sheer enthusiasm displayed in welcoming us through celebration of Mass and in sharing our languages.
 
After Mass we gathered at the front of church in the baking heat, where we had a little time to relax before gathering for an introduction to 'Solidarity Day'.  We met back in the chapel with all of the other pilgrims who were staying in Rio Bonito (and there were many) where we were given a presentation in various languages on the history of their town.  We sang and danced together for a long time, and also took time to reflect in silent prayer on the beginning of our World Youth Day journey.  We then had a long walk to the Seminary where we were treated to a traditional barbecue lunch, before being allocated to groups with various pilgrimages to participate in the solidarity events during the afternoon.
 
Our group was driven to a faith based drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the countryside, along with pilgrims from Texas, Sweden and the Philippines.  Throughout the journey the Liverpool pilgrimage led the singing of classic Abba, the Beatles and Queen tunes, which created a fantastic spirit, enthusiasm and interaction between the various pilgrims from around the world.
 
When we arrived at the rehabilitation centre it was explained to us that there are six inhabitants who voluntarily move into the centre for nine months, using only prayer and faith as 'medicine' to recover from their respective dependencies.  We were given a tour of the organisation, chatted with the inhabitants and prayed with them, before moving outside to plant fruit trees in the grounds in a bid to aid sustainability.  This was a really eye opening and thought provoking experience which left me feeling particularly touched by the notion of prayer as a sole method of recovery from addiction.
 
We got the bus back to Rio Bonito (continuing our singalong with our Swedish and Texan friends) and met outside church to have a packed lunch and ice cream, before evening prayers with the other pilgrims.  Lesley and I were delighted to return home after a long and tiring day to find that Humberto had put two hammocks up in the garden for us to relax in, and Cristina had prepared a huge lasagne for tea.  We ate and then headed out to Mount Colina with the community for a very charismatic prayer session with Padre Dudu, which although was entirely in Portuguese it was easy once again to understand the passionate faith of everyone in Rio Bonito.  Following the prayer session we headed back to the Correa house where I was given a lesson by Bernardo on all things Flamengo (the big local football team which I was told in no uncertain terms I had to support), before heading off to bed.

Saturday 20 July: Rio Bonito 9 Liverpool 7

We began the day with a wonderful lie in, after a busy start to the schedule and the longer than anticipated flight, this was an absolute Godsend.  Lesley and I were treated to breakfast by our wonderful ‘mum’ Cristina: papaya fruit, yogurt, homemade bread and fresh juice was delicious and set me up really well for what was ahead: 'Family Day'.

The plan was for the Liverpool lads to play the Rio Bonito guys in a 5-a-side football match at the local E.C. Fluminense Sporting Club, so as soon as breakfast was finished we headed to the arena with Bernardo to get ready for the game.  The Liverpool Pilgrimage was represented by Ferg Williams-Tanton, Alex Atkinson, Tom Hutchinson, Joe McCrave and me (with a second half cameo from Bernardo who joined our team).  It was a fantastic occasion with the game played in a really good atmosphere, we did not have a referee but instead made the calls honestly as we saw them, as is the custom in Brazil.  I thought this was incredible, something we should really adopt back home in England, and was once again an example of true catholic values being shown in the daily lives of our wonderful hosts.  The game finished up as 9-7 to our Brazilian friends (Liverpool scorers were Meadows (3), Tanton (2), McCrave and Oliveira) and we had a fantastic time building friendships through our common love of sport.  After the game we took a well-earned dip in the pool and headed back to the Correa's with Bernardo, Bruno and Lesley, where Humberto and Cristina had prepared for us the most amazing barbecue you could wish to see.  It really did go down a treat after a morning of footy in the baking heat, we were also joined by our fellow Liverpool pilgrims Emma and Lynne.  Following dinner we relaxed in the shade for a while as the ladies chatted outside, Bernardo, Bruno and I took some time to play FIFA 13 on the Xbox.
 
After a couple of games (and sadly a couple of defeats for me) we all went off to get showered and dressed up for the local community celebration which we were told could only be described as a 'traditional Brazilian hoe-down'.  We even dressed up for the occasion, with Bruno and Humberto lending me a lumberjack shirt and straw hat, so we could 'fit in with the locals'.  It was a fantastic celebration, with the Liverpool and Brazilian contingents singing, and dancing with each other in good spirits.  We all got into lines of male and female and took part in a very long line dance together, which ended with a 'pass the parcel' type game where a broom was passed along the line and if the music stopped when it was in your possession you had to dance in front if the group.  Sadly, as my Brazilian ‘father’ Humberto was the evening's master of ceremonies, the music conveniently stopped whilst I had hold of the broom, so everyone was 'treated' to my Cowboy jig.  I apologise to all who were unfortunate enough to see it.
 

Sunday 21 July: 'Trading my Sorrows'

After another late night we were grateful to have a free morning with our family, so began the day with a late breakfast and a walk around the community in the glorious sunshine with Humberto, Cristina and Lara.

Lesley and I were shown the local school where Humberto was a teacher, which was quite small considering it would be home to up to two thousand students.  We were also struck by the beauty of the area, as the town was surrounded by massive mountains which the community's youngsters took to each Sunday to fly their kites.  We concluded our little tour by being taken to the clean water pump in the middle of the village where all of the residents collect supplies regularly.
 
We were then taken to meet the rest of the Liverpool pilgrims outside the church, where we got the bus from Rio Bonito deep into the countryside to what could only be described as a giant open-air church.  We were met there by lots of other pilgrims from all around the world and proceeded to join them all in plenty of singing and dancing.  We were eventually asked to get up on stage and lead the singing of 'Trading My Sorrows', which was lots of fun, even more so when we were roundly applauded by our international pilgrim friends and were asked to do an encore.
 
After some of the other pilgrims had got up on stage too the evening Mass began and was celebrated once again by Padre Dudu.  Everyone was in really good spirits and singing at the top of their voices, so it was a really enjoyable end to the day and felt like we were all there as one big pilgrimage together.  It was amazing to see just how many of us were there to celebrate our faith as one, particularly because everyone took time to chat to each other and share photographs, and sharing the Mass just made it even more special.  Padre Dudu's homily was incredibly inspiring, you could see the considerable passion he has for youth ministry and encouraging all young people to take ownership of their faith. He delivered it in Portuguese (although we did have a partial, small translation from another priest).  Everyone I spoke to understood the passion and significant message that we didn't need translation or different languages for, but that in fact it is up to us to take the message of World Youth Day out into the world ourselves and share it with our peers back home.
 
At the end of Mass Lesley and I were met by Bernardo and Lara, and our ‘parents’ Cristina and Humberto for the journey back to Rio Bonito.  As we walked back to the car we saw Padre Dudu and the other priests in a queue in the car park, my ‘family’ had taught me a chant in Portuguese about their team (Flamengo) earlier in the week, so when we saw Dudu they insisted I sang it to him, as he is a staunch Vasco da Gama fan.  I obliged, much to their amusement, and thankfully Padre Dudu found it funny too, although he did correct me every time he saw me from then on.  This just reminded me just how inclusive the Brazilians were with sharing the things that mattered in their lives with us, I felt really happy to share their little football in-jokes and joke with them.
 
We then travelled back to the Correa house where we had the most amazing, huge burgers and fries, and reminisced about our time together over the meal.  Lesley and I had a wonderful last evening with our ‘family’ and both discussed how difficult we thought it would be to leave them the next day, which was pretty amazing considering we'd only met four days earlier.

Monday 22 July: Goodbye Rio Bonito, Hello Rio de Janeiro

We began our day somewhat reluctantly, as we knew it would be the last morning we would spend in Rio Bonito together.  We'd had an absolutely brilliant start to our World Youth Day experience, and this was all down to the warmth, generosity and love we had been welcomed with by our families in Rio Bonito.  The Correa's were no exception to this, I know I speak for both myself and Lesley when I say that from day one we truly felt a part of their family, and by the time we were due to leave we were both quite emotional about the thought of not seeing them each day and sharing our time with them.  They really are an amazing example of Catholic family life, and how a family loves, supports and in our case welcomes each of its members; for these reasons I feel truly blessed to have been lucky enough to be one of Humberto and Cristina's two ‘English children’ and call myself a Correa.
 
After breakfast we were given some lovely gifts by our ‘family’, a particularly touching one being a photo frame with a picture of us all together on the evening of the community 'hoe-down' celebration.  We also met Humberto's mother and she presented Lesley and I with some little statues of the patron saint of Rio Bonito and Our Lady of Aparecida.  We packed and as we headed out if the house I was met by my ‘brother’ Bernardo, who presented me with a Flamengo team shirt, which was such a touching gesture, particularly as our friendship was forged by our mutual love of football.  We then headed to church where we had time for a few emotional goodbyes before catching our bus back to Rio de Janeiro.  We took some photos before we boarded and departed Rio Bonito for the final time on our pilgrimage, but certainly not for the last time.  We can't wait to return and see all of our new friends again very soon.
 
Arriving back in Rio we had some free time before our evening meal, so Ferg and I went for a long overdue run and work out of the stations along Copacabana beach.  We chatted to a number of pilgrims who were also arriving in the city, and were even asked to pose for a few photos before we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.  We had a short walk to a local restaurant for tea where I tried crab meat for the first (and last) time and a lovely barbecued chicken with local vegetables.  We then hit Copacabana beach for an opportunity to get the guitars out and have a drink to toast the start of our time in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Once we returned to the hotel my group led Night Prayers where we focused on the idea of 'family' which we had experienced throughout Missionary Week, and how this sense of family would now move to us as a pilgrimage as we prepared for our time with Pope Francis.  It was a lovely way to end our first day as pilgrims in Rio and sparked lots of discussion about our favourite memories so far, and what we were looking forward to in the days ahead.

Tuesday 23 July: Mass on Copacabana

The main word to summarise today would be, 'rain'.  We started the day by having a choice to either visit the Favelas, tour Sugarloaf Mountain, or have a walking tour and some free time around Rio.  I opted for the latter as I wanted to acclimatise and walk around the city seeing the other newly arrived pilgrims from around the world, which made me even more excited for the evening's 'Welcome Mass' on Copacabana beach with the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro.

I went out for a run along the beach with Ferg and Joe, and managed to chat with some pilgrims from Chile and Ecuador before heading back to the hotel to meet the media team for our trip to the Fort to collect press accreditation.  Frustratingly, I had to queue in the pouring rain for the best part of two hours as they had forgotten to do my accreditation along with a number of others, but we eventually headed back to the hotel extremely soggy but not with dampened spirits, eagerly awaiting the evening's first Mass.

 
We headed to Copacabana in our groups and planted our flag on a spot near the front (we actually carried a Union Flag with us everywhere we went!) near to some Argentine pilgrims who I had a chance to chat to.  We both said how excited we were at the prospect of seeing Pope Francis the next day, and they were extremely proud to say that he was from their nation.  The Mass was a wonderful experience and a really good way to kick off the celebrations with plenty of singing and dancing, and of course lots of praising.  I really began to feel the World Youth Day spirit building and kept thinking about what a unique chance this was to understand and witness our Catholic faith in action on such a massive scale.
 
On the way back we were granted some free time to get food, so Ferg, Joe, Rosie and I had the genius idea to hit Dominos and take advantage of the 'Two For Tuesday' offer (which I now know is international).  I don't know how we managed to beat the queues with a reported one million pilgrims at the welcome Mass, but as soon as we got our order there were people lining up down the street to follow suit.  We headed back to the hotel battling the crowds and protecting our pizza to a chorus of cheers from those in the queue, and refuelled in my room feeling quite pleased with ourselves.  After copious amounts of pepperoni had been consumed we headed to the hotel bar for a drink before bed to finish the day, and got some sleep before an early rise for Catechesis on Wednesday.
 

Wednesday 24 July: BBC News

This morning we met in the hotel foyer at 8am to head out to catechesis in a church in Botafogo, a short walk from where we were staying.  The session, for English speaking pilgrims, started with some singing and testimonies from the Birmingham pilgrimage, and also included a lecture and Q&A session with Bishop Anthony Fisher, Bishop of Parramatta, Australia.
 
Bishop Fisher spoke about young people and their thirst for faith, hope and God, and linked this to Jesus' thirst for us when on the cross.  He encouraged us to go and be the GMD (Go Make Disciples) generation, and challenged us to inspire our peers to follow our lead and seek God in their lives.  The session then concluded with Mass together, at which point Sarah Beatty, Sarah Brooks and I met with Wyre Davies, a BBC journalist and his team who had travelled to the church especially to meet us and conduct some interviews for TV and radio.  We chatted to him about what inspired us to attend World Youth Day, our excitement at the prospect of seeing Pope Francis, and anticipations for the coming days of our pilgrimage.  The interviews were played out on BBC Radio Four, BBC 6 o'clock and 10 o’clock news, and throughout the day on the BBC World News Channel.  I found this experience really exciting and felt extremely proud alongside Sarah and Sarah to be able to tell everyone back home what an amazing experience we were having in Rio.
 
After we had finished the interviews we had the option to go to a praise and worship concert with the musician Matt Maher, or to pray with the Taize Community.  I went to the Taize session with a small group led by Father Simon Firth and Lesley because I felt I needed some reflection time to consider everything we had been part of so far, and to prepare myself for reconciliation in a few days time.  I'd heard of the Taize community before but never really knew what it was, so it would be fair to say that the session absolutely blew me away.  I sat alongside Fathers Firth and Fealey and Alex Atkinson listening to the most beautiful music which made silent prayer and reflection extremely personal.  I left at the end of the prayer time feeling very refreshed and invigorated by what we had taken part in.
 
We headed back to the hotel to meet with our friends for tea and ended the day with Night Prayer.
 

Thursday 25 July: Mass with Pope Francis

Today's Catechesis was at a different venue, the Vivo Rio Centre which was again a short walk from our hotel.  The session was with pilgrims from Australia, America, Canada and Scotland, and started with some lively singing and dancing with a band who could only be described as Catholic Coldplay.

The session was really interactive and included a lecture from the keynote speaker, the Archbishop of Brisbane, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who delivered a thought provoking lecture on how we can become disciples, and make disciples of other people too.  I found this really interesting as it tied in closely with the theme of World Youth Day, and was something that I hoped Pope Francis would touch on when he addressed the young people too.

We celebrated Mass together again, and then headed back towards the beach in the late afternoon to be ready for the opening Mass with Pope Francis.  We picked a spot on the road behind the Stations of the Cross because the crowds were really busy, and waited in anticipation of the Pope's arrival.  The excitement built steadily and erupted when he drove past in the Popemobile.  I have been to Anfield on many a European match night but nothing compared to this noise and enthusiasm as Francis waved to the crowds of us who cheered him.  It was a great way to welcome the Holy Father, even if some of us were a little hoarse by the end of the Mass!
 

Friday 26 July: A Papal Blessing

We met in the hotel lobby at 7:45 am for the short walk to day three of Catechesis, again at the Vivo Rio Centre.  Similar to Thursday's session it began with lively singing and dancing, this time led by the charismatic Jesse Manabusen from America.

After some ice breakers it was over to the day's keynote guest speaker, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley from Boston USA to address us.  He talked about the themes of World Youth Day and related these to expectations of young people to take ownership of our faith and become modern day disciples.  He also discussed the relationship of young people with God, putting it simply by saying, 'Without us God can do nothing, without God we can be nothing'.
 
After finishing the Catechesis with Mass a small group of us opted to do the Stations of the Cross with the Holy Father, so we braved the crowds to get a good spot alongside the sixth station.  When we arrived we were pretty much right at the front of the barriers with a couple of hours to go before he was due to drive past, so we put our things down and relaxed for a while, chatted and had an ice cream, thanks to the generosity of Father Colin.  With about half an hour to go until he was due to drive along the route of the Stations we got into position, lining up in anticipation along the route.  This was quite difficult because the crowds were now fifteen or twenty deep, and some people were pushing in to try and claim a good view.  Father Colin, Alex, Brian, Tom and I all linked arms to try and hold our ground a little in order to catch a decent glimpse as Pope Francis passed by.  As we were waiting, Father Colin suggested we held out the World Youth Day crucifix necklaces we were given in Rio Bonito as he went past, as it would be a nice thing to say we had done together.  Soon after the Pope was in view, creeping forward ever so slowly as he was handed small children to kiss and bless.  The crowds were screaming and pushing forward so the five guys and I all huddled almost like a scrum waiting to share the moment together.  Soon enough he drove right in front of us and as we held out our necklaces he stopped right in front of us and gave us a blessing.  It was absolutely incredible.  The scrum turned into a five man bear hug and we were all jumping up and down and shouting in elation.  As a typical northern lad I can't remember the last time I got emotional but as soon as we realised the moment we'd just shared with the Holy Father there was not a dry eye in sight between the five of us.  I have to say that this was probably the best moment of my life, a feeling I honestly would never have imagined experiencing.  It was even more crystallising that I experienced it with four people I didn’t know a week or so earlier, but we'd all become good friends in a short space of time and were brought to Rio united by our faith and now bonded by this amazing moment with Pope Francis.
 
After the euphoria had calmed a little we prayed the Stations of the Cross together and headed back to the hotel for night prayers, excited to share our experience with our friends.  I was also delighted to meet up with my Brazilian ‘family’, the Correa's who were in Rio for the Stations and came to our hotel briefly to say ‘hi’.  It was wonderful to see them and just made an incredible day even better!
 

Saturday 27 July: Sacrament of Reconciliation

We began the day with a short walk in the sunshine down to Botafogo beach, right next to the stadium where the Botafogo football team play and in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain.  We assembled here as a pilgrimage in order to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation together.

The service was led by our Chaplains, Fathers Simon, Simon, Colin and John and encouraged reflection, contemplation of our pilgrimage journey and exploration of our faith as we approached the Vigil Mass with Pope Francis.  Father Simon Gore encouraged us to take advantage of our beautiful surroundings by walking along the beach in silence, thinking about our failings and taking time to talk to God.  I found this really thought provoking, and felt more at ease when it came to speaking with Father during reconciliation having had a little time to reflect in such an awesome, peaceful place.  As part of our penance the Chaplains encouraged us to walk back alongside the other pilgrims from around the world who were journeying to Copacabana for the Vigil.  This really brought out the sense of community and reminded me again of the bond which had brought us all to Rio from every corner of the globe.
 
We had some free time in the afternoon so went up to the pool on the hotel roof relaxing, and then got ready to join the Vigil Mass down at Copacabana.  Again we got down early and picked a spot, with a couple of hours until things were due to start Ferg and I went to get some supplies before joining back with the group to instigate some rousing renditions of 'Bread of Heaven’ and 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot', strangely to the applause of the other pilgrims around us!  We had a good view of the screen in front of us so could keep up with the Mass quite well.  Pope Francis addressed the crowds during his homily and told an analogy about different fields (like Campus Fidei where the vigil was supposed to be held until the rain came!).  The first field was a farmer's field where we were encouraged to plant and grow the seeds of our faith, and share the fruit with all we meet.  The second was a sports field, where the Holy Father reminded us that as young Catholics we are all on the same team and must work together to make disciples of all nations.  I loved the simplicity of his address, something we could all relate to (even though I had to get a translation when we got back to the hotel, because he spoke in Spanish.)
 
After Mass we headed back to the hotel for an early night in order to be up and out on Sunday morning for the Papal Mass with millions on Copacabana beach.
 

Sunday 28 July: 'Popeacabana'

We got up for 4.00 am to get a spot down near Copacabana beach for Sunday morning's final Mass with the Holy Father.  Thankfully we managed to get a little sleep on the road for a few hours, before waking about 7.00 am to guard our place nearby the screens as the crowds began to arrive in their droves.  We stood waiting for Pope Francis to arrive for a couple of hours.  We chatted with some other pilgrims who had woken at the crack of dawn too, swapping some memorabilia and generally doing whatever we could to wake up.
 
The Pope eventually drove past in his convoy, surrounded by hundreds of security staff and then disappeared for a few minutes behind the secure compound walls before reappearing at the altar, much to the delight of the three million people in attendance.  We then celebrated Mass for the final time with Pope Francis, as he encouraged us to really take the World Youth Day theme home with us and live it out in our daily lives, to all we know.  He also announced the worst-kept secret, that the next World Youth Day would be held in Krakow, Poland, in 2016, sparking mayhem from the direction of the Polish pilgrims who were understandably delighted.
 
After Mass had finished I went back to my hotel room to catch some coverage of the final mass on the official WYD TV channel.  The sun had finally come back out (we hadn't seen it since Rio Bonito) so most of us met on the roof for some time in the pool and socialising.  After a while myself, Ferg, Joe, Tom, Joe and Alex headed to the beach for a kick about in the sand, braving the waves for some attempted surfing and got some ultimate frisbee lessons from our resident expert Mr McCrave.  It was a nice way to share our final few hours of free time, a chance to step away from the mayhem and euphoria of the Pope's events and reflect with friends in what must have been the only relatively quiet area of Rio de Janeiro.
 
Once we had tired ourselves out chasing waves (and frisbees) we returned to the hotel to freshen up and head out for our final meal together at a restaurant on the beach.  Whilst we were there the locals were watching a fiercely contested local derby on the TV between Flamengo (my team!) and Botafogo, so at times it was noisy to say the least, but it was great to spend some time sharing our favourite parts of World Youth Day 2013 with each other and eating good food.  After the meal we headed to a beach bar for one final sing song and a caipirinha or two to toast what had been an absolutely amazing, incredible, unbelievable experience.
 

Monday 29 July to Tuesday 30 July: Homeward Bound

We were up early, packed and off to Rio de Janeiro airport around lunchtime to fly the short journey to São Paulo to catch our main flight home.

Sadly for a massive city, São Paulo's airport is pretty dreadful to be stuck in for six hours, especially when you really don't want to go home.  There were many glum faces but we were all heading back filled with the spirit and looking forward to sharing our memories with everyone back home.  We flew back to London and drove through to St Helens via a short food stop in the Midlands.  Met by family and friends at St Mary's, Lowe House, thirty weary pilgrims disembarked the coach and headed home, vowing to return to wonderful Rio de Janeiro and Rio Bonito very, very soon.
 
Thanks to our staff team of Father Simon Gore, Father Colin Fealey, Father Simon Firth and Father John Hindley, Ferg, Emma and Lesley for making our experience such an enjoyable one.  From a personal point of view thank you sincerely to the people of Rio Bonito, particularly the Correa family who welcomed me and Lesley into their home and made us honorary Brazilians not just for a fortnight, but for life.  The welcome, love and faith we experienced from all we met is something that will live with me forever.