James Kelliher of the Diocese of Westminster describes an unforgettable experience

Pilgrims from all over the world returned home from Madrid after the papal Mass was celebrated on Sunday August 21 to conclude World Youth Day.

James Kelliher of Westminster diocese described his experience of the event. “One of the many amazing things about World Youth Day was how someone whom you might not have met for years could suddenly appear out of nowhere to say: ‘Hi’,” he writes.

“For example, one sunny afternoon in Madrid, Mathilda, whom I’d known all my life thanks to our parents, came up to me and we started chatting. Needless to say, this was an unexpected surprise, but also one of the most memorable moments.

“It would have been nice to be able to spend more time with everyone, as one does at university where you are together for several years but the short nature of our time together did not take away from the splendour of what happened for those 12 days.

“A bunch of young Catholics came together, bonded, strengthened their faith and returned back home wanting more.

“I think a key part of the success was our common values and shared faith. I’ve lived in Spain before, made friends and had a good time but there’s something unique happening when you share an experience with people of the same faith. It’s hard to describe, but this quality best manifested itself to me during the penitential service on the Monday.

“It was during this time of Confession when I felt connected in a new way to everyone around me. Sitting back down after my own Confession I watched and absorbed the reactions and behaviour of those around me.

It was an enlightening and unforgettable experience that showed me the power of our Catholic faith – and how fortunate we were to have each other.”

Pilgrims from the Diocese of Plymouth relax in the sun

Pilgrims from East Anglia at Our Lady of the Pillar shrine, Zaragoza (Photo: Ruth Waterson)