by Jack Figge
Special to The Leaven
Cars honked, pedestrians waved and even videos were made of the 89 archdiocesan pilgrims hauling their luggage through the streets of Seixal, Portugal, on July 31.
Not knowing what to expect, they arrived at Nossa Senhora da Anunciada, only to be warmly welcomed by local youth volunteers.
“I really enjoy these moments when I can be with people of the same faith,” said Alexandre Ferreira, a local fourth-year university student, “and this time is to forget about the world and get to meet new people and show them the city and things we love.”
Outside the church, volunteers taught the pilgrims a traditional Portuguese dance and formed a conga line. To return the favor, College II seminarian Jimmy Mendoza led the pilgrims in teaching the volunteers the “church clap” dance.
Emily Madden, a parishioner at St. Benedict Parish in Atchison, embraced the opportunity to join in.
“It was really cool talking with the locals and hearing how they are a small town and a close-knit community but that we are bringing light and joy to them,” said Madden. “They were explaining their everyday life and how they practice the faith, which was cool.”
The lived pilgrim experiences of riding in compact elevators, eating cold cuts for breakfast and walking through the narrow, ancient streets of Seixal expanded their view of the world.
“The first thing I thought when I walked into Seixal was that everything was smaller than in America,” said Theology I seminarian Trey Niesen. “It was great to see everybody peeking out of their houses and waving ‘hi’ to us.”
The warm welcome was a powerful witness to Christian hospitality and offered fresh insight into the Bible.
“I feel like the Israelites right now, walking in the land they know not,” said Niesen. “Having the people here be genuinely interested in us makes me feel like we are connecting to the rest of the world.”
To view the full album of photos from World Youth Day, click here.