Nearly two weeks after World Youth Day, I decided I needed to do my best to keep the spirit of those great days alive. So both of my guests on Register Radio this week were a part of my World Youth Day blessings. For those of you who missed the Register’s coverage of WYD in Rio, you can find the blogs here.
I spend 12 days in Rio. We were a band of 12 media apostles from the EWTN family travelling to bring to you the joys of Pope Francis’ meeting with pilgrims from around the world.
If one word could sum up a World Youth Day experience, encounter is that word (The Register’s editorial last week touched this theme).
World Youth Day is an encounter of young people with millions of other young people of different languages, of various cultures, but of the same faith, with the similar challenges and joys in life. It’s an encounter with Pope Francis, the Holy Father of the universal Church but who has a particular personality, with gifts for this present time — many of which are probably yet to be displayed. It’s ultimately and encounter with Jesus Christ, who is presented to us by his Vicar, the Pope, and by all the cardinals, bishops and priests who gather there to bring the sacraments and the Word.
Father Chas Canoy
Within this great encounter, I met up with Father Chas Canoy, a priest of the Lansing diocese in Michigan. He teaches and is a formation director at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He’s finishing his licentiate degree in the New Evangelization. And he’s an old college friend of mine, who I hadn’t seen since 2002 WYD in Toronto, before he was a priest.
I knew that Father Chas was going to WYD Rio because I saw a post on Facebook more that two weeks before WYD that he was already heading to Brazil. I sent him quick note, hoping we might schedule a meeting place in Rio but I heard nothing from him.
Now there’s no wonder why I didn’t hear from him. In the weeks before WYD Rio, Father Chas, one other priest and more than 50 students and missionaries from Fellowship of Catholic University Student (FOCUS), brought WYD to small villages along the Amazon River.
The boat that carried them is where they slept, side by side on hammocks. They endured sickness, heat, bugs and each other in close quarters for many days. But most importantly they brought the joy of Christ to the people along that famous river.
In the interview, Father Chas told me that when then arrived at each village, no matter if it was early in the morning, they were met by a festival of dance, costume and song. The Brazilian people laid out all that they had to greet the missionaries in total warmth and gratitude. The missionaries for their part went door to door inviting the people to Mass and catechesis. The priests were able to bring to the people something they don’t get so frequently, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And that brings me back to how I met up with Father Chas in Rio. I was in a packed Church where English-speaking pilgrims from Nigeria, Ghana, Ireland and the U.S. had gathered for catechesis and Mass. I stood in the very back of the church throughout the Mass, because there were so many people. As I went to receive the Eucharist, the priest who was distributing the Sacred Host ran out when I stood in front of him. I waited prayerful and that’s when my friend Father Chas came to bring me the Lord. God is good!
After mass, we had lunch together and he told me all about his Amazon mission experience. Listen to the interview to hear in his own words how God touched lives through this service.
My second guest on Register Radio was also a surprise, and a blessing, to encounter. In the days leading up to WYD, the Register drew together a list of WYD participants who could blog and write articles for us. Father Matthew Gamber, S.J. had covered WYD for us in the past. This year his duties on the trip prohibited him from writing, but he delivered to us a young reporter, Chris Kudialis.
Chris met Father Gamber at the 2011 WYD in Madrid. He’s fluent in Spanish and covered WYD Madrid for a Spanish newspaper. The experience wet his appetite and he was eager to cover WYD again — this time writing in English for the Register in Rio.
This 22-year-old journalist has a gift for description. His coverage included a visit to a favela, a shanty town in Rio, a chronicle of some of the hardships and triumphs that pilgrims from around the world experienced getting to Rio, and a wrap-up article providing complete overview of the key moments of WYD.
In our radio interview he spoke of the warmth of the Brazilians, the intensity and emotion of Way of the Cross with Pope Francis, and the rewards of meeting pilgrims from all over the world, especially those who’d traveled from very far.
I asked Chris, what the pilgrims took away from WYD? He said, he could see that the pilgrims embraced the theme “Go make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). “Pilgrims started making disciples of nations during World Youth Day,” he said, describing how one girl began to share her pro-life convictions at the parish she was staying in, already beginning to evangelize before she even left Rio.
Chris also shared with me what he gained.
“I gained personally an appreciation for sacrifice,” Chris said. He described being able to “go in-depth” with the pilgrims, how honored he felt to see Pope Francis and how encouraged he was to witness the faith of pilgrims.
“I was really impressed with how Pope Francis in his actions the way that he went ‘freestyle,’” said Chris. “He took the opportunity to be with people. What could have been a security disaster (his car being mobbed by a crowd on the day of his arrival), turned into a moment where Pope Francis really reached out to people, a moment of ministry.”
“Even in times of adversity, in times of the unknown, Pope Francis has reacted not only appropriately but brilliantly in a manner that really reflected God’s love and his mission as the pope,” said the journalist.
Listen to the interview to here more of how World Youth Day will live on in the hearts and minds of those who witnessed it.