Rio trip promises spiritual enrichment for Herman teen, youth worldwide

| Sunday, July 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Holly Schnur's first trip out of the country will be to Rio de Janeiro, where she will attend World Youth Day, a large gathering of Catholic youth.

“I am so excited. I cannot wait. I think it will be a shock. It's going to be very spiritual and very tiring,” said Schnur, 18, of Herman, one of 15 pilgrims from St. Mary of Assumption Church in Herman who will attend the massive event.

Pope John Paul II started World Youth Day in 1986. Since then, it has been held in Toronto, Denver, Sydney, Australia, and Cologne, Germany, among other places.

Schnur and her fellow pilgrims spent nearly a year working to raise the $3,000 each person needs to pay for the trip. They did everything from hold car washes to sell candy and even pull weeds and debris out of a river, to raise money.

She became interested in attending the Rio gathering after hearing from a friend about the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney. About 250,000 people traveled to Sydney, and 400,000 people attended Mass with Pope Benedict XVI, according to the World Youth Day website.

“There is vibrancy with the youth and their spirituality. It is youth from all over the world who come together to pray,” said the Rev. Mark Pattock, the assistant pastor at St. Mary, who was just ordained last month.

Pattock, 48, attended the Sydney World Youth Day and the same event in 2002 in Toronto. It is not, he said, exactly a vacation.

“We are going as pilgrims. Things are not always easy. We are sleeping on the ground. We have to wait in line for food. We are really there to encounter Jesus,” he said.

The Rio gathering runs Tuesday through July 28.

For most pilgrims, the highlight of World Youth Day is Mass celebrated by the Pope on the last day of the gathering. This year's World Youth Day marks the first visit of Pope Francis.

“He is a remarkable person. He is showing us not to be afraid. He has a lot to teach us today about how to live and be a witness to our faith and dealing with secularism,” Pattock said of the Argentine Pope, who was elected to the papacy in March.

The St. Mary's trip was organized by Betty Hoffman, a member of St. Mary's, who attended the Toronto gathering in 2002.

Two of her children attended the Sydney World Youth Day five years ago.

“We had a group who went to Australia. So the interest was there this time,” she said.

Hoffman said what most impressed her about World Youth Day was the diversity of the world's Catholics there.

“You get the world view of what Catholicism is. We tend to be so much more conservative in this country about how we worship.

“There are so many different styles of worship you see at events like this with people from all over the world,” Hoffman said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at

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