A detail of the Cross on the chasuble to be worn during World Youth Day 2011

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of entries which will be sent by Father Brian McGrath, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Westfield, as he accompanies a group to World Youth Day in Spain.

Fr. McGrath, smiling and ready to go!

I leave in a few hours for Madrid Spain.  The pope is gathering the youth from around the world to a week of celebration, faith formation and prayer.  Twenty three have answered the call from our area.  We are high school students and college students.  I have four other adults chaperoning the trip.  The great thing about this group is the diversity of languages.  We are Anglo and Puerto Rican. We have someone who was born in Colombia and another who hails from Bolivia. (He is currently studying at Amherst College.)  For the first time we have plans to attend catechetical sessions both in English and in Spanish.  It is all very exciting.

Gathered in prayer before the pilgrimage

Of course being in charge of the trip my excitment is tempered with concerns. I wonder, did I forget anything? Are all the arrangements adequate? Will the transfers go smoothly? How’s the health of the group etc. etc. etc. ?

I have been planning for this trip for over a year. I have led groups to every World Youth Day since Denver in 1993.  This is an important time to make sure everything is set.

Eager pilgrims

I’ve been up since about 5 a.m.  It was so peaceful after the rain last night.  I had time to get the church windows open and vessels set up for our goodbye Mass.  I have our travel T-Shirts laid out for the group. (We are wearing “Homer Simpson Yellow” as an homage to the Diocese of Springfield, with a great design done by one of my parishioners.) 

The special, yellow shirt...

There were projects to organize around the parish (a pastor’s life is not just shepherd of souls but also making sure the buildings don’t fall down on people’s heads and that they are ready for the next school year and they will be around for the generations to come.)  I even had breakfast … real breakfast not the three-cups-of-coffee breakfast for which I  am known. I have morning Mass for the parish and a couple hours to check in with staff.  Then it is Mass, load the bus and off to the airport.

On their way...

In a time when the youth of England are rioting in the streets. We will step into the unknown with faith, hope and love.  We will be praying for everyone back home.  Say a prayer for us.

pax.  Fr. b.

PHOTOS courtesy of Catholic News Service and Dave Martin