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'It Was Awesome'

'It Was Awesome'

After 17 days, 156 miles walked, and the experience of a lifetime, they're home: Jesuit's 114 World Youth Day pilgrims -- 88 current students among them -- arrived at Tampa International Airport on Friday night (Aug. 5) to a spirited, emotional greeting.

Hundreds of family and friends gathered at Gate F to welcome back the students and chaperones from the 17-day pilgrimage through Europe to World Youth Day with Pope Francis and 2 million others in Krakow, Poland.

(See below for video of the pilgrims' return to Tampa; a WFLA-NBC Ch. 8 segment about them; a photo slideshow of their entire trip; and a link to Fr. Patrick Hough, S.J.'s Twitter page with hundreds of photos from their journey through Europe.)

The extraordinary World Youth Day events from July 27-31 were just part of their amazing experience. A summary would fill dozens of pages, and include:

  • Arriving in Italy July 20, where they celebrated Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
  • They visited dozens of famed historical and religious locales such as the Roman Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, and the Church of the Gesu (the mother church of Society of Jesus).
  • They celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and Angelus with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.
  • The traveled through Austria and the Czech Republic to Poland, visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial to the Nazi-era concentration and extermination camps.
  • They stayed with host families after arriving in Krakow for WYD on July 27, where they met fellow pilgrims from Iceland, Kuwait, Scotland, Spain, Australia, Hong Kong, Argentina, and dozens more places around the globe.
  • They celebrated Mass with the youngest Cardinal, Soane Patita Paini Cardinal Mafiof Tonga, who is the first Cardinal from Tonga.
  • They slept overnight with a million others at Campus Misericordiae (field of mercy) July 30-31, the night before the historic WYD closing Mass with Pope Francis.
  • Amidst the Austrian Alps they shared a final few days of reflection before traveling back to Florida.

The mesmerizing images from the WYD events show the nearly 2 million people in attendance. It was reminiscent of the last World Youth Day, in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when a Jesuit contingent of more than 50 (39 students) joined millions on Copacabana Beach and celebrated Mass with Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope.

One of the trip chaperones this year, Fr. Patrick Hough, S.J., the Director of Campus Ministry at Jesuit, tweeted daily (@jphoughsj) the entire way, providing remarkable images and details, hundreds of photos and updates, tracing their incredible journey. Click here for direct access to his tweets.

A few weeks later, on Aug. 26, Shane Eilers '17 and Nick Muir '19 spoke at Convocation about the amazing impact the pilgrimage had on their lives. Click here for the script from Eilers' presentation, and click here for Muir's.

See below video of their arrival at TIA on Aug. 5, below that is a WFLA-NBC Ch. 8 segment about them, and below that is a photo slideshow of their pilgrimage start-to-finish.




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