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WYD 2011 Madrid with Dan Tarchala - August 2011 - Pictures

“Every journey begins with a single step” - Confucius

This quote is true but to an extent. The journey of a lifetime for me was going to World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain in August 2011. I left not knowing how this trip would affect me or what it would be even about. All I knew was that I was going to Europe and was going to see the Pope.

I left my home and boarded a plane to Rome. I went to WYD with a parish from Orland Park called Our Lady of the Woods. I didn’t know anyone from the parish but I soon made friends with everyone. After a long flight to Rome, we boarded a bus to tour the Eternal City. Many of us were tired but we knew that we had to push on. Three days of sightseeing in Rome was not enough but luckily I threw a coin into the Trevi fountain which, by ancient folklore, guarantees a return to Rome.

We then flew to Lisbon, Portugal and then took a motor coach all the way to Madrid. After a long and much needed sleep, we headed to downtown Madrid to the opening Mass with the Archbishop of Madrid. On the way there, I saw many young people like myself from different countries. They ranged from South America to Asia to Australia. I was overwhelmed by the amount of youths that were here. Yet this was only a third of the actual amount present in Madrid for WYD.

The next day is when the Holy Father was to drive into Madrid and give a blessing. My group and I set up camp, around 8 am, by the guard rails that prevented us from walking in front of the Pope-mobile. We waited there until the Pope arrived at 7:30 pm! Even though it was hot and tiresome it was worth it. I came within 7 feet of the Pope and got a few nice photos of him.

The final day of WYD is where I found the most inspiring sight out of the whole trip. The Pope was to have Mass outside at an airport out in the middle of nowhere. We walked 7 km (about 4.5 miles) from our hotel to the airport and when we reached our destination we were stunned. There were 1.5 million youths in this field waiting; they were waiting to see and hear the Holy Father. The sight gave me so much inspiration and hope that I was utterly stunned. I was blessed to have had this opportunity to go on such a trip and I am definitely a changed person. I would like to thank all my family and friends and fellow parishioners who kept me in their prayers as I embarked on this pilgrimage.

Confucius claimed that a journey starts with a single step. I believe that this trip in its entirety was the single step for me; a step on a journey towards greater peace and strength in my faith.

Thank you for all your prayers,
Dan Tarchala