Meet the Director
Year of Faith
World Youth Day 2013 - Brazil
World Youth Day 2013 - Rio de Janeiro
"Tigers in Brazil"
Jesuit High School sent a contingent of 52, including 47 student "pilgrims" -- 39 current students, 8 recent alumni -- to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July, 2013. After landing in Sao Paolo, Brazil, the Jesuit group traveled to Paraguay for a week-long mission before heading to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day with Pope Francis from July 23-28. Please see daily blogposts and photos from the trip below.
(Click here for a video segment from "Daytime" on WFLA-NBC Ch. 8 featuring interviews with Jesuit WYD pilgrims. Click here for a ETWN video interview (at the 37-minute mark of the show) from Rio during WYD with Fr. J. Patrick Hough, S.J and Mr. Sean Salai, S.J. Click here for a July 26 cover story from the Tampa Bay Times about Jesuit at World Youth Day. Click here for Vatican Radio audio interviews with the Jesuit WYD contingent.)
Day 17 – Tue. July 30 – Returning to Tampa
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 30)
We arrived in Houston from Rio de Janeiro at around 4:45am and took some time getting organized before our 6:55am boarding time for the connecting flight to Orlando. Most of our layover was spent going through customs, joined by many others also returning from World Youth Day. With time changes in effect, we arrived in Orlando around 11:00am, gathering at a nearby gate for Fr. Hough to offer some final words and a farewell blessing since it was the last time our whole pilgrimage group would be together. On our way to baggage, Fr. Hermes surprised us outside of the shuttle, where he was waiting with a few parents who were picking up their sons in Orlando. Fr. Hermes had returned to Tampa from Rio early on Friday, and he drove to Orlando today to meet us for our bus ride back home. After picking up our baggage, we boarded a charter bus to Tampa. The bus pulled onto Loyola Lane at Jesuit at about 1:30pm, where we received a large, warm welcome that included several local media outlets. Thrilled to see our families for the first time since July 14, our pilgrimage is now over, thanks be to God! – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
R.C. Consuegra '15 is greeted by siblings and mom Karen at Jesuit.
Day 16 – Mon. July 29 – Farewell to Rio, Brazil
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 29)
Today we got up early to go out for breakfast and see the Christ the Redeemer statue before heading to the airport for our 9:00pm red-eye flight back to the U.S. The 125-foot statue of Jesus high atop Corcovado mountain is the most visible icon of Rio de Janeiro, and one of the most distinctive and reverential in the world. It was a particularly good image for us to carry out of Rio on our final day here, reminding us of the reason we came on this pilgrimage in the first place. It also was reminiscent of the 2013 World Youth Day theme from Matthew 28, of which Pope Francis preached at the Sunday Mass: Go make disciples of all nations. Unfortunately, Corcovado was so packed with tens of thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims waiting in three-hour lines that we were unable to reach the summit. But we got a great view and some photos just below the peak. We then fought our way through legions of people back down the mountain, headed to the school to pick up our things, and pushed our luggage through the uniquely small train and bus turnstiles that mark the Brazilian public transit system. The airport was a mob scene, but we made it to the gate for our flight to Houston okay, running into several American clerics and a bishop. Fr. Gamber and some of our guys also spoke with actor Eduardo Verastegui from the film "Bella" and his friend David Henry, who starred in Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place," as they waited at our gate. We boarded the plane and took off smoothly for our nine-hour flight to Houston. We are looking forward to being back in Tampa tomorrow with so many personal stories to share. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Clark Bulleit '15 gazes up Corcovado at the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
Day 15 – Sun. July 28 – Papal Mass in Rio de Janeiro
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 28)
(Click here for the AP story about the July 28 Papal Mass)
This morning we awoke on Copacabana Beach around 4:30am to move our beds since the tide was coming in a bit higher than expected. We relocated to the sidewalk next to the beach, right up against the street where Pope Francis has been passing in the Popemobile every day upon his arrival by helicopter, taking a slow drive along the beach toward the main sanctuary area. This gave us our best view of the Pope yet, in broad daylight from a few feet away, and several guys got great videos and photos from this spot. After waking up on the street, most of us moved back to the beach, taking up next to an empty police tower in front of a television screen, where Jesuit High School of New Orleans shared space with us. As we ate breakfast, thousands of people who hadn't slept at the beach continually poured in for the Papal Mass which was attended by more than 3 million people, according to immediate media estimates. It felt more like 6 million to us, as we ended up crammed shoulder-to-shoulder and did not receive communion because the hosts ran out. However, we were deeply moved by the ceremonies and new musical compositions of the Mass, as Pope Francis preached on the great commissioning of the apostles by Christ at the end of Matthew 28. He exhorted us as disciples to do three things: Go forward, preach without fear and serve. Chants of "Papa Francisco" frequently interrupted the Mass. As the Pope promised to keep us in his heart, many of the pilgrims wept. Following Mass, we enjoyed a true "day of rest" as a brief Christian music concert featuring the various WYD musicians turned into a spontaneous beach party (remember that Copacabana was not supposed to be the original site for this Mass), with thousands of grimy pilgrims jumping into the ocean for relief after the night's fitful sleep on the beach. After several hours, we finally departed around 5:00pm as the beach started emptying, but not before Mr. Salai arranged for co-host Doug Barry of Eternal Word Television Network's "Life on the Rock" program to interview Fr. Hough on the beach about his experience at the Jesuit Pope's first World Youth Day. The "Life on the Rock" program with this interview will air in two weeks on EWTN. Our group went down the metro a bit for dinner and then headed home for small-group reflections, where everyone shared his final thoughts about how this experience has affected his relationship with God. Tomorrow (Monday) we hope to see the famed Christ the Redeemer statue up close before heading to the airport for our 8:00pm red-eye flight back to the United States. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Millions of pilgrims awaken Sunday on Copacabana Beach before the Papal Mass.
Day 14 – Sat. July 27 – WYD in Rio De Janeiro
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 27)
Since it rained for much of the week in Rio, the hike and vigil at Campus Fidei were cancelled because it was too muddy. So we returned today to the substitute venue at Copacabana Beach, where we fought our way through the roughly 2 million people for a spot on the beach to watch the prayer vigil and sleep overnight. But first we had to prepare spiritually and materially for the vigil. After breakfast, we walked to St. Cecilia parish for a group morning prayer, adoration, confessions and Mass. Fr. Hough gave an exhortation on confession and Fr. Gamber preached the Mass. We then headed to the World Youth Day food distribution site just shy of the beach to pick up our meal boxes, which contained cans of tuna casserole in addition to various energy bars and other dry foods for our two days on the beach. Getting back on the subway, our main mode of transportation this week, we arrived at Copacabana to find the beach already closed for the Pope's arrival and people crammed along the streets. Fr. Gamber said the intensity of the ever-growing crowds here reminded him of the early Pope John Paul II gatherings in the 1980s. More and more people keep coming each day to see the pope. The 400,000 people who attended the opening Mass with the archbishop of Rio felt like a picnic compared to the 1 million people who attended the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis last night and the 2 million reportedly in attendance for tonight's prayer vigil. We were too far tonight from the TV screens to hear any major parts of the prayer vigil itself; our only glimpse of Pope Francis came when he drove down the road in his Popemobile as we were waiting to cross over to the beach. There was barely a dry spot on the beach tonight, and we had to race back to beat others to a good spot far enough from the tide to sleep comfortably. Like thousands of other groups here, we built little sand walls to mark our territory, and those who were able to sleep went to bed in their sleeping bags on the sand. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Flags from across the globe fly as about 2 million people gather on Copacabana Beach.
Day 13 – Fri. July 26 – WYD in Rio de Janeiro
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 26)
We had an amazing day in Rio. It started with Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City giving the English-language catechesis at a nearby Catholic institution we visited after breakfast. Keegan Hart ’15 even got to ask the Cardinal a question about evangelization, while standing next to him, and shared his own desire to become a Catholic. The Cardinal warmly embraced Keegan, telling the crowd that he was a good friend of Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Mass immediately followed, concelebrated by Jesuit’s own Fr. Matthew Gamber, S.J. and Fr. J. Patrick Hough, S.J., with assistance from Mr. Salai as an altar server. As the Cardinal drove away after Mass, our group serenaded him with a lusty "J-E-S-U-I-T" chant, and he offered our guys some of his M&Ms. We then stopped at Botafogo Beach for a little volleyball and relaxation before heading to Copacabana Beach to pray the Stations of the Cross with Pope Francis. There we found ourselves pressed tightly into a crowd along the streets, blocked from crossing to the beach by what felt like 2 million people, mushed together tightly by a surging wave of excited pilgrims just behind the first Station of the Cross. As Pope Francis rode by on his way to the main stage along the road, he surprised us by stopping almost right in front of us, even though we were many rows of people back from the actual street. In the excitement caused by Pope Francis wading into the crowd to kiss babies and shake hands, a woman at the fence passed out in front of him, being carried over by attendants and taken to one of the several ambulances nearby. Our students saw at least seven people pass out and receive treatment, perhaps because of both the intensity of personal emotions as well as the intensity of the crowd itself. Whenever the Pope passes people go nuts, breaking into tears and many fainting to be carried away by paramedics. Shortly after Pope Francis arrived at the main stage, the beach was reopened to us, and we poured onto it with tens of thousands of others to watch the rest of the Stations of the Cross on a big screen. The live stations featured a rock music version of Bach's “St. Matthew Passion,” as dozens of altar servers swinging censors led the actors gradually down the road to the Pope's chair for the final meditation on the burial of Christ. In his homily, given largely in Spanish, Pope Francis called on us to open our hearts to the suffering of Christ on the cross, who suffers with us in all of our struggles from political injustice to family strife. After the Pope blessed us, a Christian rock concert ensued for the third straight night, with everything from Spanish and Portuguese hymns to the Canadian-American musician Matt Maher performing old praise and worship hits such as “Your Grace is Enough.” What a day. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
The Jesuit High School WYD contingent at Botafogo Beach.
Day 12 – Thur. July 25 – WYD in Rio de Janeiro
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 25)
On our way home from Mass last night, we stopped at Vivo Rio for a Christian rock concert with other English-speaking pilgrims, running into 30 Jesuit scholastics from the United States who were volunteering at the event. This morning it was raining, so we headed back to this enclosed English catechesis hub for Mass with fellow Anglophile pilgrims that was preached by an Australian bishop. We then stopped for lunch at a buffet restaurant that accepted our WYD food cards and said goodbye to Fr. Hermes, who blessed the group before leaving for the airport to return early to Tampa. Fighting our way to Copacabana Beach, we waited three hours for Pope Francis' arrival, enjoying the beach and digging trenches for seats while different musical groups performed. When the Pope finally landed by helicopter, getting into the Popemobile for an 8-mile drive to the stage on the beach that took more than an hour, we crowded as close to the street as possible. He passed by shortly after 6:00pm, and the Popemobile was moving somewhat quickly at that time so our photos did not come out clearly, but we got a very good look at him. He seemed natural, energized and happy to be with everyone. About a million people on the beach crammed the streets to see him go by, then rushed back to the beach after the Pope passed. He presided over a brief prayer service and gave a homily in which he promised (according to our rough translation) that "faith is the real revolution" and noted that our faith tonight "was stronger than the cold" as the weather was a bit chilly and wet for Rio. The atmosphere felt like a combination of prayer and rock concert. Tomorrow the Pope will preside over the Stations of the Cross. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jesuit students and some new friends march to the beach in Rio to see Pope Francis.
Day 11 - Wed. July 24 - World Youth Day events continue in Rio
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 24)
More and more people seem to be arriving each day for the festivities, and the subways are filled with many chants. The most common seems to be a Spanish chant that translates: "Here are the young people of the Pope!" After sleeping in this morning, we ventured to the World Youth Day vocations fair, where hundreds of priests and sisters were promoting their religious orders. The fair also featured confessions in multiple languages, a food court, tents with Christian pop music, a eucharistic adoration tent, a Brazilian Boy Scout ropes course and a playground area. We spent some time eating lunch and praying in adoration before the students were dispatched on a "scavenger hunt" to learn about one of the religious orders. It started raining heavily before we could break into small groups for reflection, so we boarded the subway and went to dinner at an all-you-can-eat pizza place that accepted our World Youth Day food cards. We concluded the day with Mass and reflection, resting up tonight for the first day with Pope Francis tomorrow. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Tanner Trujillo '15 speaks with two nuns at the World Youth Day vocations fair.
Day 10 - Tue. July 23 - World Youth Day begins in Rio de Janeiro!
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 23)
There are a lot of people here. When we arrived at our lodgings late on Monday, there wasn't room for us at St. Cecilia as planned, so volunteers moved us to a public school called Profesora Augusto Motta. Today we walked all over the city, touring churches and World Youth Day activities. The highlight was an extended stop at St. Francis of the Penitents Church, the local Franciscan hub for World Youth Day 2013. In addition to being a museum and formation house, St. Francis of the Penitents boasts a magnificent golden baroque church that is around 400 years old. Several students bought trinkets in the shops and went to confession in the World Youth Day confessionals, which are white screens with the possible languages for confession printed on the penitent's side. These iconic confessionals are set up all over the city and are busy all day, with hundreds of pilgrims going to confession in multiple languages with hundreds of priests. After leaving the Franciscan church, we fought our way through crowded streets and public buses to Copacabana Beach, where we joined an estimated 400,000(!) people for the official welcoming Mass celebrated by the archbishop of Rio de Janeiro. English is distinctly the third language of this gathering, behind Spanish and Portuguese. We meet Latin Americans, particularly from Brazil and the Pope's home country of Argentina, wherever we go. It was a memorable experience for all of us to attend Mass in Portuguese on this famous beach, wearing ponchos to protect ourselves from the drizzling rain while trying to avoid the incoming Tide. After Mass, we found dinner at a nearby cafe and then made our way back to the school, where we settled down for a very deep sleep, excited for tomorrow. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jesuit students head toward Mass with 400,000 others on Copacabana Beach.
Day 9 – Mon. July 22 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 22)
We finally arrived in Rio this afternoon via Sao Paolo. We ate lunch at the airport, which featured a food court and World Youth Day "fun zone" for arriving pilgrims. Then we boarded a charter bus for a stop at Our Lady of Aparecida Church, where we will be attending catechesis and organizing an English-language Mass for pilgrims on Wednesday (July 24). There we met a bishop from Malawi, and pilgrims from South Africa and Nigeria, while arranging some of our logistics. Parish bells rang to announce the Pope's arrival in Rio, at which point Jesuit school president Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J., led a prayer in the church for our group and other onlookers. We spent the rest of the day driving around and exploring an energized, jam-packed city, failing to see the Christ the Redeemer statue because of cold, rain and fog that made it invisible to pilgrims today. An intersection near St. Jude parish provided an opportunity to socialize with pilgrims from all over the world. We ate dinner at a pizza place before boarding the bus (this is our only day with the bus) for St. Cecilia parish, where we're staying, for a very late Mass and reflection. Unfortunately, wireless internet is almost non-existent here, so blogging has become more difficult. But we will keep trying to transmit daily from here in Rio for World Youth Day. -- Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jesuit students are among hundreds of thousands in Rio for World Youth Day with Pope Francis.
Day 8 – Sun. July 21 – Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina/Paraguay
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 21)
It was fitting that our theme of pilgrimage today, Sunday, was the beauty of God's creation. In addition to celebrating the Lord's Day with mid-day prayer and Mass at the Jesuit retreat house in Foz do Iguazu, we visited one of the world's largest waterfalls, on the Iguazu River that borders Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. The Iguazu Falls, so named from the Guarani Indian word for "big water," are a staggering, breathtaking collection of nearly 300 waterfalls which make Niagara Falls look like a leaky faucet. As seen in Roland Joffe's 1986 film "The Mission," the 17th century Jesuits built several Indian missions in the semi-tropical forests above the falls, which tumble over the edge of the Parana Plateau, because they provided a natural barrier against the Spanish and Portuguese slave raiders who periodically set out from the colonial settlements of Sao Paolo and Asuncion to attack various missions. Seeing these towering waterfalls in person, the scene of a Jesuit priest's martyrdom filmed on this spot in "The Mission" now seems like a moviemaking miracle. After getting our tickets at the entrance to this National Park in Brazil and riding a shuttle bus to the falls, we wore ponchos for protection against the continual drizzle that fills the air, making it impossible to be totally dry. It was so cold and windy that Jesuit High School president Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J., briefly had a plastic bag on his head to protect against the piercing wind in the open-air second floor of our bus. Several students donned helmets to tour the waterfalls via a ropes course, while others took boats to see them up close. After returning to the retreat house for Mass and dinner, our evening reflection focused on gratitude for God's creation and the value of honoring it by attending Mass on Sunday. Tomorrow (Monday) we rise at 4:00am to head to the tiny airport here in Foz do Iguazu, where we will depart for Rio de Janeiro, via Sao Paolo. Our pre-pilgrimage tour of Jesuit mission sites is now over and we’re heading to Rio for the start of World Youth Day activities. News reports indicate Pope Francis intends to use this week's gathering as a platform to discuss poverty and other social problems, making this World Youth Day a pivotal moment in the history of the Catholic Church. In our chaperones meeting tonight, Fr. J. Patrick Hough, S.J., covered all of our logistical bases, but we really have no idea how many people to expect in Rio. Brazil is 78% Catholic and remains the largest Catholic nation on earth, and this World Youth Day may be the biggest yet. Some media are estimating 2 million will be in attendance. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jackson Parisey '15 takes a close-up look at the epic Iguazu Falls.
Day 7 – Sat. July 20 – Asuncion, and return to Foz do Iguazu, Brazil
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 20)
We spent the day praying at shrines and touring the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion before returning to Vila Shalom Jesuit Retreat House in the border town of Foz do Iguazu, where we had slept our first night in Brazil on July 15. Mass and reflection are an important part of the daily routine on our pilgrimage but today was particularly special. We were able to venerate the heart of a saint and a Marian shrine on our final day in Paraguay. Following our morning Mass at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School's chapel in Asuncion, we had a brief prayer service before the heart of St. Roque Gonzalez (displayed in the same chapel), with students venerating the relic in silence for several minutes afterwards. Then we went out for lunch and sightseeing in the city, giving everyone a chance to do a little exploring in Asuncion’s historical and cultural areas near Independence Plaza, and also to run into a high-spirited group of 50 World Youth Day pilgrims from Cordoba, Spain, who were doing the same thing. It was a brisk, dark and misty day. We departed Asuncion in the early afternoon for a trip to the National Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miracles of Caacupe, where several in our group lit votive candles for various prayer intentions. The statue of Paraguay's image of Mary is located at the back of the shrine atop a pillar where handprints mark the prayers of the faithful. Our group prayed a decade of the rosary before the shrine before students touched the handprints in prayer and reflected silently for awhile before returning to the bus. After a long drive with border checkpoints and other stops, we entered Brazil through Ciudad de Este, retracing our steps from July 15 and arriving for a late dinner of soup and bread at Vila Shalom around 12:15am. Around 1:00am we broke into our small groups for reflection, another important part of our daily pilgrimage routine that occurs before bed each night. Students have the chance in small groups of 10-15 to process and share the graces of their experiences on pilgrimage. Tomorrow we will visit the famed Iguazu Falls, which dwarf Niagara Falls in a way that their appearance in the movie "The Mission" only hints at. We will spend Sunday here in Foz, getting one last overnight sleep in the retreat house before flying to Rio on Monday. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jesuit student Alex Foradada '15 prays at Our Lady of the Miracles statue at Paraguay's national Marian shrine.
Day 6 - Fri. July 19 - Ybycui Park and Asuncion, Paraguay
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 19)
It was another adventurous travel day as we spent most of our time on the road from San Ignacio Guazu to Ybycui Park, and then finally Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. It had been chilly in the mornings and evenings this entire week, but this morning the Paraguayan winter woke us with particularly brisk temperatures in the 40s, and the day never got much warmer than the 50s. We started with morning Mass at San Ignacio Guazu Church concelebrated by Fr. Charlie Thibodeaux, S.J., a Louisiana Cajun who has been working with Guarani Indians in the Jesuit missions of Paraguay since 1980. After Fr. Thibodeaux spoke briefly to our group about his work, Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J., the Jesuit High School president, preached Mass. The Jesuit mission gave us some empanadas for brunch as we boarded our now-familiar charter bus once again for a 3.5-hour drive to Ybycui Park. At Ybycui Park we hiked through the woods to a beautiful waterfall, where the students and alumni chaperones enjoyed a nice cold swim that felt wonderful after such a long time in the bus. Following our afternoon hike, we drove for several more hours, stopping for dinner outside of Asuncion and finally arriving at the Jesuit high school here (Cristo Rey) at around 9:00pm. Tomorrow morning (July 20) we will attend Mass in the school chapel, where we will see the heart of Jesuit martyr St. Roque Gonzalez in a reliquary, and then tour the nation's capital for a bit before lunch and the drive back to Brazil. We are nearly done touring the Jesuit missions, ruins and works of Paraguay. Spirits on the bus were high after the waterfall, with a lot of games and student bonding sessions in full swing, and our evening reflection periods are growing spiritually deeper. World Youth Day feels like it's just around the corner. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
A group of Jesuit students peer down from above the waterfall at Ybycui Park in Paraguay.
Day 5 - Thur. July 18 - San Ignacio Guazu, Paraguay
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 18)
We spent today in various activities in San Ignacio Guazu, an active Jesuit mission settlement and village that shares its name with the Jesuit parish here. In the morning, we toured the museum at the old mission and celebrated Mass at San Ignacio Guazu Church. Then we split up to explore the village and get lunch. After lunch, the Tampa Jesuit students played soccer with some kids at the mission, and then walked down the street to the village soccer stadium for an international soccer tournament with teams from Paraguay and Chile. We fielded two teams -- and lost every game and did not score once! Our South American opponents seemed to play much harder, but the Tampa Jesuit students were able to socialize with several of the Paraguayans and Chileans, the latter being the same group of Jesuit high school pilgrims we met on our arrival here for dinner the night before. Following the soccer tournament, we dined as a large group in a village restaurant and then returned to San Ignacio Guazu Church for an Adoration service, with confessions and benediction. Tonight our group spends its second and final evening sleeping on the floor at a school near the Jesuit residence and retreat house here. Tomorrow we head into Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. – Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Fr. J. Patrick Hough blesses students in benediction service at San Ignacio Guazu parish.
Day 4 - Wed. July 17 - Jesus de Tavartangue, Paraguay
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 17)
Today we had our first full day to see the ruins of the Jesuit missions in Paraguay (called "reducciones" or "reductions" in English) and to meet some of the Guarani Indians who continue to live in surrounding villages since the dissolution of the missions nearly 300 years ago. We started the day with a visit to the ruins of Jesus de Tavartangue, a mission the Jesuits ran for nearly a century before being forced to abandon it in 1767 when the Spanish government kicked our Order out of Paraguay. Coming from Spain and Portugal, the Jesuits first learned the Guarani language from Indian children, and then invited the semi-nomadic Indians to leave the forests in order to build these missions. Each mission had a staff of two Jesuit priests and about 5,000 Indians, who were drawn to live with the Jesuits by their willingness to promote cultural dialogue, and by the safety the missions offered to the Indians from the "bandeirantes" or slave raiders -- European colonists who periodically swept into the Jesuit missions from the colonial towns of Sao Paolo and Asuncion to round up Guarani Indians as slaves. Despite watch towers and other defenses erected by the Jesuits, the colonists frequently attacked and destroyed the missions. After an extensive tour of the Jesus de Tavartangue mission ruins provided by a guide from the "ruta" museum group, Jesuit president Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J., celebrated Mass for our group on the altar of the ruined church, offering his thoughts on the work of the missions here. We then hiked for five miles through unmarked dirt roads and trails, following a local guide to an anonymous Guarani Indian village deep in the interior. There we met the cacique (chief) of the village, purchased some trinkets and played soccer with the village children (and donated the balls to them). We then crossed a stream on a log bridge with wire guide that led us out of the village, and we returned to the Trinidade mission (which we saw last night) for lunch and a prayerful period of reflection on the sacrifices we make for Christ as Christians in light of the missionaries' sacrifices here. As darkness fell around 7:00pm, we boarded our charter bus and drove to St. Ignatius mission near Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, where we encountered a fiesta with bread roasted over open fires for dinner and a festive dance underway. St. Ignatius is an active Jesuit mission to the Guarani Indians with a parish, retreat house and novitiate (training center for Jesuit seminarians) that Jesuit High School of Tampa has supported in recent years through our mission drive. We are staying at the Jesuit school here for the next few nights, with some of the Jesuits staying in the Jesuit community. At the fiesta we met Fr. Charlie Thibodeaux, S.J., a Jesuit priest from Louisiana who has been working in the mission here since 1980. We also met a group of 35 students from three Jesuit high schools in Chile who are likewise here for World Youth Day, along with a Jesuit priest and a Jesuit scholastic who are chaperoning them. Our group had a chance to try out their Spanish with the Jesuit novices, high school students and girls from the mission here who were helping roast the dinner over the spit. Hopefully our Spanish will continue to improve over the next few days; it should be easier than the Portuguese we will be hearing more often in Rio next week. However, the Chilean pilgrims have informed us that the Spanish here is difficult even for them, as it includes many Guarani words and slang. Several of our students are becoming adept at the use of body language in communicating with the locals. The scheduled trips to Encarcio cathedral and San Cosme mission did not happen because we had to adjust our schedule around our travel delays on July 16 (yesterday). Tomorrow, July 18, we will spend the day interacting with people here at the San Ignacio Guazu mission near Asuncion. -- Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Fr. Hermes leads students across a stream after departing the Guarani village.
Day 3 - Tue. July 16 - Heading to Paraguay
(Click here for a photo gallery from July 14-15-16)
Today we spent more than 12 hours driving from Brazil through Paraguay to see Jesuit ruins, which were well worth the wait after our bus got lost and delayed us for a couple hours. The day’s journey began at 1:30am this morning, when our GOL Airlines flight from Sao Paolo landed at Foz do Iquazu (Brazil) near the Paraguayan border, where we boarded a charter bus and tumbled into bed at the local Jesuit retreat house after a light snack. We slept four to a room in little box beds from 2:30 - 9:00am, when the retreat house staff gave us a continental breakfast and we boarded the bus again for Paraguay. On the Paraguayan side of the border crossing we got off the bus to get our visas stamped. Then our first stop was a rental car agency to get a truck since our bus wasn't big enough for the whole group. After lunching at a little cafe en route, we became lost as we neared our destination at the Parque Manantial and Trinidade reduction, a rural area with very few people or businesses. We finally arrived at the Jesuit ruins of the Trinidade reduction, the oldest intact mission ruins, well after dark but in time for a 7:30pm "light show" tour of the grounds. After a long day of fatigue and hunger, we were very moved to join a tour of the ruins, learning how the 16th century Jesuits carved a mission out of the wild landscape and drew 5,000 Indians to live in a settlement there that was later given up when the Jesuits were expelled in 1775 due to government politics. After the light show, we checked in at the Parque Manantial resort, where the students would be bunking on the floor in cabins. Pizza dinner and reflection with Mass brightened everyone's spirits. We are all tired but excited about our planned trip to the Cathedral in Encarnacio and the San Cosme mission tomorrow, as we begin to learn about the Jesuit mission presence to the Guarani Indians that continues to this very day. -- Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Connor Brozak '15 and R.C. Consuegra '15 on the road to Paraguay.
Day 2 - Mon. July 15 - Pateo do Collegio, Sao Paolo, Brazil
Today we spent our first full day in South America, walking and sightseeing in Sao Paolo, Brazil, which we learned was named and founded by the Jesuits. First, we landed in Sao Paolo after 8am, the local time being one hour ahead of Tampa time, and we then boarded a chartered bus for the city center. We met up with Mr. Joe Hill, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic studying Theology in Belo Horizante, and with groups from Jesuit New Orleans and Brophy Jesuit Prep in Phoenix, for a tour of the Jesuit museum and Mass around noon. We venerated relics of Blessed Jose Anchieta, one of the most important Jesuits of the mission in Brazil. Portuguese Jesuits founded the original settlement here around 450 years ago and named it after Saint Paul (San Paolo) for whom they offered a Mass dedicating the town. We had lunch at a city market and dinner at the food court of a city park, meeting up with enthusiastic groups of World Youth Day pilgrims from Venezuela and other places, who hung around with us for a while. We are waiting to board our flight for Foz da Iguazu at 11:00pm and spend the night at a Jesuit retreat house there near the Paraguayan border. When we arrive there sometime early this morning, we hope to bathe there for the first time in South America, which the natives highly recommend to us. Tomorrow morning we leave for a four-hour chartered drive to the Jesuit missions in the Paraguayan jungle. If you've seen the movie, The Mission, with Robert DeNiro, you'll have some idea of the areas we will be visiting this week, including Iguazu Falls, and the city of Asuncion. Internet connectivity and charging outlets are highly limited and we do not know how often we will be able to blog once we are out there. -- Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
Jesuit students at the reconstructed site of the Collegio (high school) which was established in the 1550s and is one of the oldest Jesuit schools in the world.
Day 1 - Sun. July 14 - Departure
Following a solemn Mass and blessing with parents at 10:00am, our group of 52, including 47 student pilgrims, loaded the bus for Orlando to board an afternoon flight to Washington, D.C. Everyone ate lunch on the bus and spirits are high. We will plan to eat dinner in the D.C. airport before connecting on an overnight flight to Brazil. Please keep us in your prayers. -- Mr. Sean Salai, S.J.
The 47 Jesuit student pilgrims pose following departure Mass.
Click here for the official World Youth Day 2013 website.