How can I repay such love?

One year on from World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Bruna reflects on her experience working as a volunteer for her local parish in Brazil and helping hundreds of international pilgrims during their stay in the “Marvellous City”.

Bruna was the accommodation coordinator for her parish during World Youth Day Rio 2013
Bruna was the accommodation coordinator for her parish during World Youth Day Rio 2013

One year has passed since the most amazing journey of my life began! And every time I think about all that I experienced during those WYD days in Rio de Janeiro, the phrase that comes to mind is “How can I repay such love?”

The most crazy and wonderful week of my life began in 2012. I was in a restaurant with a group of friends from church; one of them was talking about the work that she had to do for WYD and I asked her if she needed help. The next thing I know I was the accommodation coordinator of my parish!

I didn’t know much about WYD at the time, having seen only a few things on the news. The following week I had my first meeting at the Local Organising Committee to learn about the job; I left the meeting totally scared! It was so much to do!

Over time, more and more work was coming in. I had to register families that wanted to host pilgrims, find schools who wanted to help, and organize and divide all the pilgrims into their places of residence. I thought to myself, “I’m only one person, I’m a teacher. I can’t do this!” But I forgot something really important –  I wasn’t alone! God was with me and he would send me the Holy Spirit to help and make me capable of the mission he chose me to do – and what a mission!

It was only me and three other people who organised everything in the parish: getting the volunteers, arranging accommodation, the catechesis and so on. But when God wants something to happen, it happens and I could feel Him with us in every moment, guiding us, giving us strength, and sending angels to help. All our volunteers, from the parish and even overseas, worked in the craziness of the hosting schools, the catechesis, breakfast distribution and welcoming the pilgrims! Host families opened their homes and their hearts to people they didn’t even know. People who weren’t even volunteers showed up to offer help, bringing the pilgrims that got lost back (it happened a lot!).

Because of my work as coordinator, I couldn’t go to the main events in Rio at Copacabana beach. But that didn’t keep me from having an encounter with Jesus and feeling God’s love.

Bruna and friends during World Youth Day
Bruna and friends during World Youth Day

I was able to experience his love through my service to the Church, the love and gratitude that I still get today from more than 500 pilgrims that we welcomed, from more than ten different countries, the demonstration of solidarity of people and so much more!

How amazing it was for me, in my little parish in Niteroi, to be able to witness Adoration from a priest from Malaysia, a Mass with a priest from the USA and a bishop from Africa answering my questions.

This week changed my life forever and moved me even closer to God, wanting to serve the Church in a greater capacity. As Pope Francis told us, be an “athlete of God” and spread his word and his love wherever He calls us to!

Thank you God for loving me so much and giving me the blessing to serve you and be an instrument of your love to so many people!