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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Spanish Invasion
World Youth Day through the eyes of a priest.

crowd in madrid1
A view of the crowd at Cuatro Vientos prior to the Pope's arrival.

By Fr Jacob DuMont, LC

About a year and a half ago, when someone asked me if I was going to attend World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain images of World Youth Day in Toronto came quickly to mind.  I will never forget the night we had the Vigil with Pope John Paul II in the summer of 2002 – his words as well as the powerful testimony of so many youth adults from around the world left a deep impression on my heart as a 23-year-old seminarian.  I also remembered the rain!  It must have rained about 3 or 4 hours the night of the vigil with the Pope, but this didn’t dampen the spirits of nearly 800,000 young adults gathered there to worship Jesus Christ and celebrate our faith.  I knew that Spain would truly bring many blessings, but would also be a pilgrimage that would demand sacrifices including excessive walking, sleeping on the ground, intense weather, simple meals, and more. Get ready, Madrid, here I come!!

I am currently working as the vocation director as well as the director for youth programs for the Legionaries of Christ in the Chicago area.  I am also quite involved with a number of
jacob dumont and friends
Fr Jacob DuMont, LC (second from left) with some of the pilgrimage group's hosts in Villamantilla, Spain.
the youth programs for the archdiocese of Chicago.  About 8 months ago, a few of the priests and youth directors from the archdiocese asked me if I could help them to put together a very economic package that would allow more of the youth that they worked with to be able to go to Madrid, Spain.  I got together with one of the Legionary seminarians who also helps with the youth programs in Chicago, Br Juan Carlos Vazquez, and came up with some ideas.  Br Juan Carlos has parents who live near Madrid, Spain in a town called Villamantilla, so we spoke with his dad, Carlos Vazquez, and asked if he could help us to plan an economical trip for a group of maybe 40 or 50 young adults. Carlos spoke with a number of the people in the town of Villamantilla (about 800 people live there) including the mayor and were able to come up with a fantastic package for us – a 7 day trip to Spain for $300 plus airfare.  This would cover registration for the WYD activities, room and board, meals, transportation during the stay, and insurance.  When we presented this package to the young adults, it
joseph allen
Joseph Allen, a pilgrim on the trip, bears the American flag.
wasn’t long before we had about 150 signed up!  Of course, the accommodations did not include a 5 star hotel, but this helped to ensure that we had the full pilgrimage experience!

Our group of pilgrims included:
1. A large group of about 90 young adults from Our Lady of Mt Carmel parish in Melrose Park, IL.  Their pastor, Fr Claudio Holzer, and their assistant pastor, Fr Fernando Cuevas, also joined them.
2. A group of about 20 young adults from St. Francis of Rome in Cicero, IL.  Their pastor, Fr Mark Bartosic and youth director, Katie Davis, also came with them
3. A few others groups from Good Shepherd and St. Gaul parishes in Chicago, IL.  Fr Marco Mercado, the director for the Hispanic office for the archdiocese of Chicago, accompanied this group.
4. About 10 young adults from Washington DC accompanied by Br Daniel Turski
5. About 10 young adults from Boston, MA accompanied by Br Luis Lorenzo
6. About 10 young adults from Atlanta, GA and California.  Two of the pilgrims from California were my cousins, Rachael and Christina DuMont

We arrived to Madrid on August 16th and returned back to the U.S. on August 22nd. 

When we arrived to Madrid, Spain
1. One of the firemen tries to keep some of the WYD participants cool on Saturday afternoon in Cuatro Vientos before the vigil.
we loaded up on to a few buses and drove to Villamantilla where we were warmly welcomed by a number of the townspeople and a hardy lunch.  After this, there was time to unpack our bags and get a little rest (siesta).  The boys stayed in the town’s gymnasium and the girls stayed in the town’s school.  They had air mattresses or simple roll out mattresses to sleep on.  The priests stayed in the homes of some of the local families.  That evening we handed out the WYD backpacks, t-shirts, and metro tickets.  We also had some practical tips for staying together as a group and how to better take advantage of the many graces we were all about to receive. 

On August 17th we had morning Mass bright and early in the local parish Church, St. Miguel the Archangel.  Then, after breakfast we met in the same place for our first catechetical session.  In the afternoon we left for Avila to see the Convent of the Incarnation where St. Theresa lived for 30 years of her life.  In Avila, my two cousins and I also met up with my Uncle Kevin, Aunt Karen, and other cousin, Jessica.  God blessed
mass on saturday
Mass with the US Cardinals, Bishops, priests and young adults on Saturday morning.
us with a warm and sunny day.  In the evening we had time to visit Madrid and then return back to Villamantilla for some rest.

On August 18th we headed back into Madrid to see more of the city and to participate in some of the WYD events including the prayer and penance service in the Parque de Retiro.  A number of our pilgrims were also able to visit and participate in the events at the Coffee House in the Bernabeu stadium.  Many Legionary priests were there available for Mass and confessions, and a sizeable group of singers and artists also performed on a stage.  By 4 or 5 in the afternoon all of us made sure to be heading to the Plaza de Cibeles to greet the Holy Father on his arrival to Madrid.  The streets were packed!!

On August 19th the highlight of the day was participating in the Via Crucis with Pope Benedict and probably about 1 million or more young adults from around the world. 

On August 20th we participated in a Mass presided over by Card. George and concelebrated by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, 50 other American bishops, and many priests from the US who were there for
mayor plaque
Fr Jacob presents a plaque to the mayor of Villamantilla to thank the townspeople for their hospitality and support.
the WYD.  There must have been about 15,000 to 20,000 young adults from the U.S. there to participate in the Mass.  Archbishop Dolan gave an excellent homily inviting all of the young adults to a deeper experience of Christ in their lives.

That afternoon we headed to Cuatro Vientos.  Our group arrived around 3:30pm into the large open field.  It must have been the hottest afternoon of the year in Madrid – over 40 degrees Celsius (105 F)!  We prayed the rosary and then looked for ways to keep ourselves cool by building some sort of tent or other protection against the blazing sun or running to the few fire trucks that came through the field to house down those who showed up in their paths. 

In the evening the Holy Father arrived and was greeted with a loud and warm welcome from nearly 2 million young adults.  Only a little after his arrival, though, the clouds opened up and a strong wind and rain storm ensued.  It brought back memories of Toronto 2002!  Only this time, the wind was stronger.  I thought about how the Holy Father must have felt.  He too was subject to the bad weather and was braving it out – and he is 84 years old!  I had no excuse to complain.  After about half and hour, the wind and rain calmed down and we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  It was a powerful experience to receive the benediction given by Pope Benedict! 

The night was cool and most were able to get a good few hours of rest.  I must of dozed off around 12pm or so and woke up around 5:30 or 6:00am.  I prayed my morning prayers and then went to find a place to brush my teeth… and get ready for
aerial shot cuatro vientos
An aerial photograph of the crowd at Cuatro Vientos.
Mass.  As I walked to the place where the water and bathrooms were, it was amazing to see such a “sea” of people – all here for the same cause.  That morning I was actually able to concelebrate in the Mass with Pope Benedict.  A little before the Mass began I got close to one of the barricades where I thought Pope Benedict may pass by, and sure enough he only passed a few feet away from me in his pope mobile.  I reached out and waved – he smiled and waved back.  This was truly one of the highlights of the trip! 

I had met Pope Benedict in Rome when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger (about 2 or 3 weeks before he became our new pope).  He had celebrated a wedding Mass for two of the students from our University, Regina Apostolorum, at one of the side altars in St. Peter’s Basilica and I had been able to serve the Mass.  After the Mass, the other seminarian and I went and “cornered” the Cardinal in the sacristy as we has taking off his chasuble.  He asked us where we were from, what we were studying, etc. and must have spent a good 15 minutes of his time with us… as if he did not have anything else to do that day!  I will never forget his humility, gentle spirit, and charity.  I was reminded of this meeting as I waved back to Pope Benedict before the Mass. 

When we returned to Villamantilla in the evening of the 21st, the people in the town put on a special dinner and presentation for our group.  The children in the town performed a traditional dance for us. On behalf of our group I was able to thank the mayor and the townspeople from Villamantilla with some words of gratitude and a plaque dedicated to them for all they had done for us.  After this, there was time for testimonies, music, dancing, and more. 

The World Youth Day 2011 Madrid experience helped me to deepen more in my love for Christ, the Holy Father, and the young people around the world.  I thank God again for providing me with the opportunity to go and to help many others to be part of this experience.  God willing, I will return with a group of about 30 or 40 more young adults to Madrid, Spain next year in July of 2012 to continue the “re-evangelization” of Spain and Europe, following the lead of Pope Benedict XVI.



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