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Diocesan WYD Pilgrims Depart for France and Spain

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World Youth Day participants from the Diocese of Raleigh departed Friday, August 12, 2011, on the first leg of their 10-day pilgrimage that will take them to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France and then on to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain. The Diocesan group is made up the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge and 64 young adults and chaperones.

Travis Seymour, an 11th grader from St. Joseph Parish in Burgaw, said he is looking forward to the experience, travel and all the memories he will take away from this religious journey. He said he spent the two-and-a-half hour drive from home to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport trying to imagine what the next 10 days will be like. “It’s mind-blowing,” he said.

Travis said he and his sister Emily are taking prayer cards from family, friends and parishioners with them to pray the special intentions on the cards at both their visit to Lourdes and then with Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid.

“I’m just pumped,” Emily said.  “As we get closer and closer, my heart pumps faster and faster. She said her non-Catholic friends know how much she loves her faith. “They think it’s cool that I’m making this pilgrimage.” 

Jonathan McGee, a parishioner at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Raleigh, said he first heard about World Youth Day 2011 two years ago when he was a junior at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh. Jonathan, who will be entering his freshman year at Catholic University of America upon his return on August 22, said, “This is a wonderful way to jump start my spiritual life as I begin to go out on my own, being with the Holy Father and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge.”

Emma Korynta, a student at Northside High School in Pittsboro and parishioner at St. Thomas More Church in Chapel Hill, said “What is about to take place is finally starting to sink in.” Emma said she is looking forward to blogging about her experience during the pilgrimage, sharing her thoughts with family, friends and the faithful of the Diocese.

The Diocesan group will join hundreds of thousands of other Catholics from throughout the world to take part in World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, from August 16-21. There they will come together with the Holy Father, who will preside at several liturgical ceremonies, including the WYD Closing Mass.

Their visit will include the celebration of Mass with Bishop Burbidge at the Grotto of the Lourdes Shrine on Sunday, August 21 and an evening candlelight procession to the Grotto. Both events will be available via live streaming on a special website that will allow individuals in the Diocese to follow the pilgrims on their journey. The site can also be accessed from the home page of the Diocesan website by clicking on the WYD button on the right side of the screen.

From Lourdes, the group will travel by bus to Madrid on Monday, August 15, arriving a day before the start of World Youth Day. Special events will include greeting Pope Benedict when he arrives in Madrid on August 18, celebrating the Way of the Cross with the Holy Father on August 19 and attending the Closing Mass celebrated by the Pope on August 21 with an expected two million people in attendance.

Bishop Burbidge is asking the faithful of the Diocese to pray for the pilgrims during their 12-day trip. In a video message to the people, Bishop Burbidge said he will be praying for all in the Diocese at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine and with the Holy Father in Madrid.

Watch Bishop Burbidge’s video message.

The Diocesan pilgrims will be posting pictures and videos on the virtual pilgrimage site. Several will be contributing blogs and reflections of their experience. Bishop Burbidge will be providing daily Tweets. His Tweets are available @bishopburbidge. For those not on Twitter, Tweets can be obtained via text by texting follow BishopBurbidge to 40404.

The virtual pilgrimage website is now available, containing information on World Youth Day, including the five-day schedule in Madrid. The site also contains a link that will provide live streaming of the major events, including the pilgrims’ visit to Lourdes as noted above.

View photo gallery

Above: Diocesan Youth Ministry Director Patrick Diener talking with pilgrims as they gather at Raleigh-Durham International Airport prior to their departure for a 10-day pilgrimage to France and Spain. 

Below: Diocesan pilgrims at check-in counter in final preparations for their departure to London, connecting on to France for the first leg of their journey to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine.