For 15-year-old Vincenzo Guido of North Bergen it was just another walk in the park. But in South America. And with 3.7 million other people. Including the Pope.
Guido went on the trip of his life July 22-26, attending World Youth Day (actually a week) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and got to hobnob with millions of other young believers of his faith. He also was able to spend time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and get within 10 feet of Pope Francis.
He described the trip in one word: “mesmerizing.”
“A world youth journey is really what it is,” Guido said. “It’s a pilgrimage of the Catholic Church for the Catholic Church.”
He said he was told that the event was the second largest gathering in human history.
Guido attended several catecheses, spiritual enlightenment sessions, and discussed different Bible passages and what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century, as well as other topics. Much of his time was spent discussing the theme of Rio 2013, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” as well as making plans to live the word.
“It’s going to the communities, being disciples, and actually acting it out,” Guido said. “It’s not like Mass; just repeating things. It’s taking an active role.”
Guido was actually in Brazil before the conference began and stayed later, so he was able to enjoy Rio before and after the religious celebration. He went sightseeing the first few days, including visiting Corcovada Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, where he saw the famous Christ the Redeemer Statue overlooking Rio with arms outstretched.
“You shared with people the love for Christ from around the world.” – Vincenzo Guido
Guido, a Communicant at St. Matthew's in Ridgefield, became interested in the summit after talking to his parish priest.
“I talked to my pastor, went online to check it out and it sparked my interest to interact with other members of the faith from around the world,” he said.
But getting to Rio was no easy task. A fundraiser, a pasta dinner, was hosted at his parish. And Vincenzo began working all day Saturday every week there, doing so for nine months right up until the trip. He still works there now.
Vincenzo’s mother was obviously happy her son could make the trip, and saw it as a pivotal moment in her son’s maturation.
“I’m glad he was able to go,” Christine Guido said. “I think it’s something he will carry with him his entire life.”
She said that her son’s moment seeing the Pontiff and being near him was very profound.
“He was in the presence of the pope, at one point just 10 feet away,” Guido said. “It was not like he just drove by. He touched people. It was impressive to my son; he came back and talked about it.”
While she was 100 percent behind her son making the pilgrimage, she did say she still was a parent, worrying as a parent does.
“I was a nervous wreck while he was there,” she said. “It was a foreign country, a dangerous country, and so far away. And we only heard from him only a handful of times.”
At home, Guido is still extremely involved in parish and community activities. He is president of Circle at St. Matthew’s, the church’s Knights of Columbus youth arm. The group dedicates itself to service for others, raising money for various charities, among them feeding the homeless. He volunteers at a halfway house which provides their meals.
He continues to study at Regis High School in New York City.
“You shared with people the love for Christ from around the world,” he said. “It’s something I really took away from the conference.
“It was a great thing for him, a very great thing,” his mother added.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.