Why I’m heading to South America with a Backpack and Sleeping Bag

World Youth Day 2013

World Youth Day 2013

You won’t be hearing much from me in the next two weeks. No facebook posts, no tweets, no blog entries. I won’t be talking to book clubs about The Well, making final edits on The Thief, or even working diligently on my third novel in the Living Water Series.

Nope. I’ll be joining my 17-year-old son on a pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. Here’s a little bit about what we’ll be doing and why I’m taking two weeks away from (most of) my kids, my husband, and my writing.

World Youth Day:  a worldwide celebration of Catholic youth centered on encountering Jesus Christ.

WYD is held every 2 to 3 years in different locations around the world and includes worship, catechesis, sacraments and cultural events that culminate in a great celebratory Mass with the Pope. It is an amazing way for youth (and their adult chaperones) to deepen their faith. In 2011, I experienced WYD in Madrid with my daughter, Rachel. This year, I’ll be going with my oldest son, Andy.

Pilgrimage: It’s not a vacation.

A pilgrimage is a journey of moral or spiritual significance. It is a time of reflection and prayer. We’ll be staying in ‘simple’ accommodations (sleeping on the floors of schools and churches, thus the sleeping bag), eating what our hosts provide, praying a lot, and walking a lot. It is a physically and mentally exhausting two weeks that leaves you changed forever.

Which is not to say we won’t have a lot of fun. Traveling with teens is a lesson in having fun in the most unlikely places. Spontaneous burst of song on public transportation, games of frisbee with old men in the park, and button and email exchanges with new friends from around the world are just a few of the moments I remember well from Madrid.

  • Week 1: For the first week, we’ll be staying with families in Petropolis, in a mountainous region north of Rio. There, we’ll live with host families, learn about their culture, and do service work. Andy and I are particularly excited to see the Mata Atlantica, Brazil’s oldest and most endangered tropical rainforest.

    Mata Atlantica rainforest, Brasil

    Mata Atlantica rainforest, Brasil, photo attribution

  • Week 2: From Petropolis, we’ll head to Rio for the WYD festivities. We’ll be staying with other English-speaking groups in the area of Copacabana beach and participating in catechesis, Mass, and cultural events. We’ll even get  to visit the sites of Rio, including the Cristo Redentor statue on Corcovado Mountain. Our trip will culminate with a day-long hike to the site of the closing ceremonies, sleeping under the stars with 5 million of our closest friends, and waking up to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis.
The site for the final event: Mass with Pope Francis

The site for the final event: Mass with Pope Francis

Please pray for our group and all the teens and adults traveling to Rio for WYD!

Our WYD Group

Our WYD Group: I’m on the left, in day-glo pink, Andy is to the left of me

If you are contacting me because we met in Rio, please leave a comment below or go here to send me an email. Anyone who mentions WYD2013 in their comments will be entered to win a signed copy of The Well.

Go and make disciples of all nations.


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