125 pilgrims from parishes all over the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin have just returned from the recent Wold Youth Days with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid Spain.  (Gallery now available)


Kildare & Leighlin joined 1.5 million young pilgrims in Madrid for World Youth Day 2011

125 pilgrims from parishes all over the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin have just returned from the recent Wold Youth Days with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid Spain.  Up to 1.5 million young people from all around the world ascended in Madrid from 15th-22nd August for what is described as the largest youth gatherings in the world.  Young people travelled from the corners of the earth to join together in a festival of faith and friendship.  The programme for the week included daily catechesis, prayer, music, reflection, youth festivals, drama, concerts and much more.  Madrid was awash of colours with flags from all over the world.  The heat in the city reached a staggering 43 degrees; heat young Irish pilgrims just aren’t used too!

The group from Kildare and Leighlin were hosted in a village north of the city named Collado Mediano.  The village was situated in a beautiful valley and the mountain landscape provided a refreshing breeze for young pilgrims!  The welcome and hospitality of the local parish in Collado Mediano was outstanding.  Many pilgrims stayed with host families and all were made to feel at home.   During the week local parishioners joined with the young pilgrims for Mass, several liturgies and a candlelight procession through the village reflecting on the Stations of the Cross.

On Tuesday 16th August the diocesan group attended the Opening Mass close to Cibeles Square in the city centre.  On Thursday they attended the ‘Papal Welcome’, Pope Benedict arrived in the city centre amid an atmosphere that can only be described as electric.  Flags, singing and dancing filled the air and the young people chanted and clapped ‘Ben-e-dicto’!  On Friday morning the group attended catechesis in the’ Love and Life’ Stadium with 20,000 other English speaking pilgrims.  Bishop Dolan from New York was the main speaker that morning.

The weekend seen pilgrims gather together for the World Day Vigil and Mass in Cuatro Ventos Airfield.  On Saturday the group travelled towards the airfield firstly by metro, which was packed to capacity, and then the group walked the final 4km with thousands of other pilgrims.  The Pilgrim walk was made easier by the locals in Madrid showering the crowds with water from upstairs apartments and cheering them along!      Arrival at Cuatro Ventos was a once in a lifetime experience with a crowd so vast it was only from the aerial views on the large screens that we were able to comprehend what we were actually a part off.  The Vigil began with great excitement for the arrival of Pope Benedict around 8pm.  Shortly after the weather took a turn for the worse and a storm was upon us.  Thunder, Lightning, rain and severe winds had pilgrims running for cover under sleeping mats, cardboard, bin bags or whatever they could find!  The storm was short lived and the vigil continued with prayer and Eucharistic adoration.  The camping out over night with over a million pilgrims was great fun and something many will never forget, there was singing, traditional dance from various countries around the world and of course some did sleep during the night!

Mass on Sunday morning was celebrated by Pope Benedict and the pilgrims could listen in to the direct English Translation using their radio and ear phones.  Mass was beautiful and the World Youth day officially ended with the announcement from the Holy Father that the next World Youth Day would be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013, just 2 years time.

The joy and excitement of the World Youth Day experience is captured by what the young people thought themselves!  Veronica Wheatley aged 24 from Doonane parish said “my highlight was the Vigil and the Pope arriving, it was a surreal experience and spiritually empowering”.  Micháel Hanratty aged 25 and a student from St Patrick’s College Carlow said “it was an incredible week, one that exceeded all my expectations, it was truly a terrific pilgrimage filled with life long memories”.  Patrick Byrne aged 19 from Castledermot parish said” I never forget the welcome we received and the people we met.”  Ciaran Mc Manus from Naas parish said “it was a magical week, my highlight was the confessions, the emotion in our group afterwards emphasised the importance of the sacrament for us all”.  Rev John Cummins Administrator in the Cathedral Parish in Carlow said “the reverence of the young people in such a vast number was extraordinary, particularly during the Mass; to have silence among 1.5 million young people was profound”.    Paddy Naughton from Clane who has been to two previous WYD’s in Cologne and Sydney said “WYD still hasn’t lost its magic, I made so many new friends in our own group and from around the world”.

It is anticipated there will be a reunion for all Kildare and Leighlin pilgrims at the end of September as the Eucharistic Congress Bell arrives in the Diocese!  Moving towards the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June in 2012 provides a great opportunity for WYD pilgrims to continue their involvement in the local parish and diocese.

For more details about World Youth Day and other youth ministry events in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin please email fds@kandle.ie