Sarah Brooks was a pilgrim at World Youth Day in Brazil in 2014, last summer she returned to Rio Bonito where our Liverpool pilgrims stayed for a week.
Just over a year ago myself and 30 other young Catholics from across the North West travelled to Rio de Janeiro for the World Youth Day celebrations, where we would join together with around four million others to celebrate our faith. Little did we know how big an impact World Youth Day would have on us; especially me.
Last July I decided to travel back to Rio Bonito: the town about an hour away from Rio de Janeiro where we stayed with families during the first week of our pilgrimage. I had kept in regular contact with quite a few of the young people from there so I was eager to go back and visit and thank them for all they did for us during our stay. I was a little apprehensive at first, as I knew it would be completely different from WYD and I would be the only English person in the town. However, as soon as I got off the plane and saw my friends at the airport waiting for me I knew I had made the right decision to return.
I crammed in lots the two weeks I was there; going back to the city for a few days to climb Sugarloaf mountain, visiting the Christ the Redeemer statue, travelling up the coast to take in some of the beaches, meeting the families of my friends, attending traditional Brazilian parties, eating amazing food, and working in the school and language courses in Rio Bonito where I taught some of the students English and answered questions on English life and why Brazil is special to me.
It was also great to return to the youth group and the local parish. We see and feel the effect World Youth Day has on us but it’s rare we get to go back and see how the experience affected them. From the welcome I received at the church, it was clear to see how new relationships have been established and faith has grown since last year. I was invited to talk to the congregation at Mass, with one of my friends translating into Portuguese, where I was able to thank them for their hospitality and explain why it is so important to keep these relationships alive.
As I predicted it was completely different to what I experienced during WYD, however it was just as special, if not more. My friends have invited me to return next year and hopefully with some lessons, my Portuguese will be much better. Some have the idea that once events like WYD are over people just return to their normal way of life, that because the celebrations have ended so too must that journey. This is not the case: it is the beginning of new friendships, journeys and experiences; not the end.