The Kentville pilgrims pose before the statue of Jesus as Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain in Brazil. - submitted
By Wendy Elliott
Thirteen Roman Catholic pilgrims from St. Joseph's Church in Kentville found themselves among three million of the faithful in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, recently.
Youth co-ordinator Kate Corrigan said they were delighted to get close to the most famous pilgrim of all as Pope Francis returned to his native continent in late July for the first time since his election.
“Pope Francis looked me in the eye and waved. What a humbling experience,” Corrigan said.
At the Saturday night vigil on Copacabana Beach, Corrigan said the Kentville group watched the service on the twelfth screen back from the Pope.
The 76-year-old pontiff told young people from nearly 180 countries, who had come for the church’s biennial World Youth Day, to look into their hearts.
“His homily challenged us,” said Corrigan. “He encouraged us to go and make disciples of the nations.”
He asked all the pilgrims to pray for a young girl who was shot trying to leave her home country to attend the Youth Day.
She was impressed with the fact that the Pontiff she called Papa Francisco stood before the masses in tattered and torn shoes.
“He’s the coolest guy. He’s so real. His humility showed us what it is to be a Christian.”
During Eucharistic adoration, where the host of the Body of Christ is displayed for veneration, Corrigan said it was so quiet on the beach that for 30 minutes you could only hear the waves of the ocean. It was very moving, she added.
Joe Gnemmi, an ESL teacher from Hantsport, got close to the pontiff twice and said he is still processing the whole experience.
“It was completely crazy and completely awesome,” he said. “People from all over the world were there, professing the same thing, and they were all young.”
The Kentville representatives spent a week before the youth gathering in family billets outside Rio. They took a doll made by Mary Lou Hatfield as a mascot and attached Canadian and Nova Scotia flags to hockey sticks so no one got lost.
Corrigan said the Brazilians they encountered were very friendly.
“The people were lovely. A number of times I was told people had a dream to come to Canada.”
Both Corrigan and Gnemmi had attended previous World Youth assemblies.
Also attending the event were Phil Gnemmi, Margaret Gnemmi, Beverley Harris, Matthew Hillier, Matthew Lannan, Jerschelle Mendoza, Adrianna Merks, Jermaine Perez, Faith Santos, Jason Schofield and Mark Trenholm.