With only 40 days to go, high school, college, and university students from all around the world are gearing up to embark on a global pilgrimage like no other: Magis and World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At Seattle University, fifteen students, alumni, and staff are getting ready to join the anticipated 2 million people who will gather for prayer, catechesis, and service this July. Led by Jesuit scholastic Matthew Pyrc, these grads and undergrads come from all kinds of academic backgrounds, including humanities, biology, and pastoral counseling, but they’re finding a new unity as they approach this exciting event.
Recent Seattle University alum Matt Salazar regretted not attending the last two World Youth Days, held in Sydney and Madrid, though he had the opportunity. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to make it this time either until he learned that the SU group would be open to alumni. For Matt, the chance to attend World Youth Day in Latin America was a chance to experience his faith and culture in an exciting way. On the other end of the spectrum, junior biology major Raina Taitingfong who will be attending her third World Youth Day pilgrimage, and her first experience with the Magis experience. Originally from Guam, Raina has been overwhelmed by the number of pilgrims who attend the event in the past. It’s amazing, she says, “when you see 2 million people there for mass, you realize that’s more people than on the island of Guam.”
Although these 15 young people decided to join Seattle University’s Magis/WYD pilgrimage for many different reasons, a few themes are held in common. Everyone is looking forward to experiencing their shared faith with people from around the world, and praying with people from all kinds of backgrounds. They’re excited about engaging in service during the Magis portion of the pilgrimage, and “being around people who share [Jesuit] ideals of social justice,” as alum Andy Giron pointed out.
Of course, making the experience even more exciting has been the election of Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, and the first from Latin America. He’ll be making his first trip back to his home continent as Roman Pontiff. “His example, the things he’s said and done, resonate more with people our age,” says alum Michael Alcantara. “The spirit is calling him and calling us into a similar space, and we’re meeting at the same intersection.” While most of the SU pilgrims signed up before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, graduate student in pastoral counseling Thuong ChuChe said it was Francis’ election that sealed the deal for her and her husband Khoi. “We had been praying about it, the finances were uncertain, but the pope’s election…we felt like that was it!”
And asked if they had a message for Pope Francis before they meet him in Rio, Matt Salazar declared, “Pray for the Mariners!” Which, to this contributor’s mind, only shows that Seattleites and especially Seattle University students really are in solidarity with the impoverished and sorrowful.
What about you? Are you travelling with a group to Magis/WYD in Rio? Tell us about your group and your group’s hopes down below in the comment section!