Photo: Americans Gina Leal, Alejandra Murillo and Eric Cousin sharing Vincentian spirit.
An Everlasting Bond
By: Eric Cousin
Member of St. Brigid Conference - Los Angeles
From the August 2013 Youth and Young Adult Newsletter, National Council of the United States-Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
On July 18, 2013 a group of 16 people, including myself, arrived in Brazil representing the Society of St. Vincent de Paul USA. After two plane rides, we were greeted by members of the Vincentian Family and escorted to a bus for our ride to Belo Horizonte. Cidade dos Meninos, a camp sponsored by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and various churches, became our home for four days. Cidade dos Meninos houses, provides an education and trade for 1,600 students ages 6-18.
We had the opportunity to meet many new people from 22 countries around the world with the Vincentian spirit. Every day at 9:00 a.m., we gathered for Morning Prayer after finishing a hearty breakfast of bread, cheese, ham, fruit and café. The three days in Belo Horizonte provided an opportunity for us to attend classes to improve and learn more about our mission as Vincentians. We also went on field trips to visit the works of SSVP in Belo Horizonte and the neighboring towns and cities. Everything about this part of the trip was amazing. I would love for it to happen more often.
On the 21st of July, everyone left Belo Horizonte for Rio to get ready for the extravaganza that was going to happen once Pope Francis arrived. Our trip on coach buses from Belo Horizonte to Rio de Janeiro was supposed to be a 7-8 hours ride, but to control the traffic inside we waited three hours outside the city before we were allowed in. To us, Americans, it seemed like poor planning and a big inconvenience but we learned that the Brazilian culture does things differently.Rio is a big city and is very nice. My group and I were led by Sister Christian Price who made the arrangements with a travel agency for us to see different places in Rio to add to our memories. The greatest site, for me, was going to see Christ the Redeemer at the top of the Corcovado Mountain. We took an electric train to travel up the mountain through trees and wildlife living on the highest point in Rio de Janeiro; where Christ the Redeemer stood, watching over the city. It was not a dry day, there was a mist and strong winds blowing, however there where hundreds of people at the site creating memories and having fun with their groups. On other occasions, we walked through the city and caught buses and subways to visit some very beautiful, old churches in Rio, as well as attended daily catechesis.
Copacabana Beach was so packed with people it was unbelievable. I never imagined so many people on one beach. Pope Francis sure knows how to gather people together. At one point, when it was raining on the beach during the Opening Mass, our group huddled together to stay warm; just as other groups where doing. Every day our group's bond grew stronger and I know I made some lifelong friends. It was amazing to experience all the people there for the same spiritual reason as well as their own personal reasons. It was an experience of a lifetime.
After five days, we packed our belongings and carried away our experiences to home to the USA to share with everyone waiting for us. The amazing thing for me is remembering all the experiences I had and how they will influence my life and the works that I do to help others. This trip turned into paradise, because to me paradise does exist. It is not a place you can look for, because it does not matter where you go to experience paradise. It matters how you feel from the moment of your life when you are a part of something great and able to share it with others. When this moment happens it will last a lifetime!The Vincentian Gathering and World Youth Day were the greatest experiences of my life and I appreciate all those who made it possible for me to attend.