Three Pilgrims Share Thoughts

Video segment from World Youth Day of three Diocese of Raleigh pilgrims with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge sharing their thoughts on events so far. The three are Nick, Margaret and seminarian Marlon Mendieta-Rojas.

Video courtesy of Fr. Philip Tighe, St. Catherine of Siena, Wake Forest, NC shot on a smartphone.


So Far So Good

Hey all! I have not been able to post for a little while, we have been super busy!


Lourdes was beautiful, we got to see the stations of the cross in life size and it was amazing. It is so important to remember all the time the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Mass in the grotto was cool too; it was in many languages but it was still very clearly mass.


Madrid has been crowded and crazy, but moving. It’s awesome to be totally focused on God for this time, and with other people too! The other groups are fun to see. If we spot them we all ask where they’re from and take pictures with them. The WYD opening mass was a little hectic but we’re all doing great. What was worse were the Anti-Pope protesters. However, we are all safe and the police in Madrid are on it! We’ve been reminded that Jesus was persecuted too.


Today we’re going to a talk with Jason Evert (a chastity speaker) and then to welcome the Pope to Madrid! We were also reminded to pray lots and have prayer buddies to pray for each other.


That’s all for now, we’ve gotta get to some talks! God bless you!


Lauren G, 15

A Note From Bishop Burbidge

Our pilgrimage began with a journey to Lourdes.  The pilgrims and I were deeply moved with the faith that was so evident in this sacred place. I had the unique privilege of celebrating Mass with a brother bishop at the grotto at which our Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Bernadette. Our pilgrims and thousands of others from around the world were present. Later that day we celebrated Mass for the Vigil of the Assumption and then participated in a candle light procession.  The sight of so many people demonstrating a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother is an experience I will always remember. In addition, seeing the number of seriously ill people at Lourdes touched my heart. Dedicated volunteers brought them to the liturgical services and to the holy water at Lourdes.  I am confident that miracles took place right before us as the Lord touched those in need with His healing love and gave them strength, grace and perseverance. It is a reminder of the call we all have to lead others, especially those in need, to Jesus!

We also made a trip to Avila and learned about Saint Theresa, a Doctor of the Church. Her writings, the example of her life and her great commitment to prayer greatly assist us in our call to holiness.

We have been in Madrid since Monday evening.  The opening Mass for the pilgrims was on Tuesday evening and it was a joyful and beautiful celebration.  Today, we had  a diocesan Mass at Saint Michael Basilica followed by a catechesis session.  Later in the day, there was a vocation fair that included testimonies, concerts, talks and a Holy Hour.  All the pilgrims were reminded that an essential step in discerning one’s vocation is to be still and quiet with the Lord, for he truly speaks to our heart!

There is much excitement in the air as we await the arrival tomorrow of Pope Benedict XVI.  One young man said to me, “I  am so blessed to be a Catholic and to know how much the Holy Father loves his young people. “  I am sure that all the pilgrims gathered in Madrid will soon echo those same words.
May God bless and protect Pope Benedict XVI and all the pilgrims who have gathered to be with him.

All Is Well

This evening there was some excitement in Madrid as groups of protestors took to the streets protesting the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI.  This protest started as most of the nearly 700,000 pilgrims were around the city eating dinner.  The Madrid  police force was able to quickly separate the protestors from the pilgrims and in the preliminary reports no major incidents were noted.   All of our pilgrims from Raleigh are safe and sound.

There is still a strong atmosphere of good will in Madrid and our pilgrims are enjoying the events,  the religious experiences, exploring the city and meeting new friends from around the world.  Please continue your prayers that the presence of the pilgrims will change the city with our witness of faith and love.  All the pilgrims continue to lift up the intentions of the Diocese of Raleigh as we joyfully await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow afternoon!  You will be able to watch this event live at 6:30am eastern time by clicking on the live streaming link above.

Time Travel (part 1)

First off, I´d like to apologize for being so late in my blogs. Namely, while in France we had no source of internet, therefore, no blogs. Also, since we arrived in Madrid, its been constant motion.  I figured, in order for these blogs to remain some what ¨short,¨ but still interesting I´ll just have mini-posts here. OH, and we took A TON of pictures so I´ll try to post some of those as well…but not all.

August 13, 2011 (written on iPod)

Oh, where to begin?? Today was just about the longest day I´ve ever spent. Now I understand why man hasn´t created time travel; because nature creates time travel on its own when traveling. Haha, can you believe that I´m 6 hours ahead of y´all?   Ok, so you can tell that the jet lag has already hit me, but that is ok. I know that I will eventually get used to the time change before the next time my ¨Time Machine¨ is scheduled to go back into the past!…sigh…that´ll be fun. 🙂

So I believe that the majority of my sanity has left me, however I do believe that I have about an oz. left in me. Otherwise, I probably wouldn´t be here now. No, correction, it is by the grace of God that I´m where I am now. Which by the way is in London, on a British Airways plane, riding atop the taxi run. I don´t know when I will be able to post this, but I´ve decided to write whatever I can on my iPod while it is  all fresh in my mind.

The beginning of my adventure started at 7:00 am (after getting only 4 hours of sleep) not feeling completely refreshed, but very excited. After finishing some last-minute packing, and enjoying a nice warm shower, my mom, sister (Mary Kate, Travis, and I set out around 12:00 am for the 2 hour drive to Raleigh Durham. Upon our arrival, we exchanged dollars for euros, and got checked in. Leaving us A LOT of time to get to know our fellow pilgrims. Oh, and as we were talking Travis and I were approached by a man and his really big camera. Can you guess what he asked? ¨Can I get an interview from you two for the Raleigh website?¨ At fist I was really surprised (and willing) but after watching Travis’ interview I decided that maybe an interview would not be such a good idea. However, it was too late. Travis was finished and I was being pushed in the camera´s direction. I think It went fairly well, despite the fact that my hands were shaking as i held the microphone. Oh well I guess I´ll have to watch it, in order to know how well it REALLY went.

After we went through security everything moved along perfectly according to the plan. It was really nice getting to know all my fellow pilgrims, they are all so kind and friendly. One of the girls (Jordan) is a really sweet person, and I´m so glad that I made Travis switch with her, so that she could sit with me! We probably had too much fun during those (very quick) seven hours. There was a movie playing called ¨Win Win¨ but after ten minutes it got really boring. So Jordan and I just talked and watch what movies we had on our iPods. By the time we decided we should attempt to get some sleep, we turned off our electronics as well as our mouths, and tried for over 30 minutes to get some sleep.  Sleep would not come. Instead, we just stayed up wishing for sleep and talking about anything that popped into our heads, until our dinner came (which wasn´t bad) but the cookies she brought were delish! Even Fr. Mears thought they were really good, of course we made him eat them since he was sitting right in front of us, and would never hear the end of it if he didn´t eat one.

When we finally landed in London we had to go through security all over again, and I almost lost my boarding pass not once, but twice (it was a very hectic time) but don´t worry I made it on the plane. So I obviously didn´t COMPLETELY loose it. To make a long 7 wait weight (in an airport) a short story, most of us just past the time by sleeping on the floors, window shopping, playing games, admiring all the british accents, laughing at all the strange fashion statements, eating, and pretty much chill until it was time to bord our last flight.

I really can´t tell you much about the flight on British Airways (except the flight attendants have really cute accents) because I fell asleep right after we took off, and didn´t wake up until after the 10 minute landing announcements were made. Oh and that if you sit in the very last bench in the back of the plane, you will really experience some really CrAzY turbulence, when landing.

After landing in France everything moved along smoother than a china doll´s silks. All we had to do was get our luggage, passports stamped, and sit ourselves on the bus. There was a lot of sleeping, singing, laughing, and games on that 2 hour road trip. We arrived in Lourdes around 8:00 pm that evening. The country there is absolutely breathtaking!! The air is not only cool, but sweet!! If I was given the chance to go there again, I TAKE IT in less than a heart beat!!! After we pulled up to our hotel, and lugged all our luggage off the bus and into the lobby, we were told to leave our suitcases in the lobby, in order for us to eat our dinner. This, however, didn´t quite sit well with everyone. This reaction from all of us pilgrims (I believe might have caused a great offense to the owner) forcing her to drop her dancing french tongue, in order to address us on the matter. She was dressed very stylishly, and had the thickest accent I have ever heard!! At first I thought she sounded angry, but as she continued to explain how safe the hotel environment was, she really began to sound cute in a very very funny way. Thus, off we went to enjoy our very first 3 course meal of tomato and mozzarella cheese with salt and pepper, a crispy chicken, fresh green beans, and a grilled tomato (and FRENCH FRIES) topped with this really good sauce, and a dessert course of fresh lemon pie! To top things off, we were able to share this meal with Bishop Burbidge! The meal was very relaxing. All we had to do was sit down, and wait to be handed our already planed, delicious meal! I felt like royalty. Then after dinner we received our keys from the lovely french owner, and found our very very soft pillows.

To Be Continued…

That will conclude this blog on ¨Time Travel,¨ but If you´d like to read my next blog, ¨Heaven in Lourdes¨ then I strongly recommend you stay in tune. I was planning on finishing all the blogs from the beginning to the present tonight, but alas, it is already 2:20 am and I need my pilgrim sleep. 😀 Don´t worry, I will do my best to log on as often as I can so y´all can get to the REAL stuff!!


“The Grotto was My Heaven”

Lourdes deeply moved me.  It’s been 3 days since our visit there and my heart, soul, and mind are still processing it.  I will be the first to admit that I tend to like the clear cut teachings of the church and keep a certain distance between my faith and anything that might be “unproven” in the eyes of the Church.  But Lourdes is different.  For one, the Church has declared it to be true.  The Blessed Mother truly did visit St. Bernadette 18 times between Feb. 11, 1858 and July 16, 1858.   And the Church in her wisdom tells us that we are allowed to disagree with this statement. It is not a necessary tenet of our faith as other doctrines are.  And as St. Bernadette stated:  “My job is just to give you the message.  It’s up to you whether you believe in it or not.”

The first words Mary spoke to St. Bernadette were:  “Would you be so kind as to come here?”  And the messages that continued were all a calling into a deeper relationship with Christ and a call to pray.  It was and is a call to Love and a pointing towards Christ.  This is the message of Lourdes.  Within several hours of arriving in Lourdes, my thoughts of it were that it was almost as I imagined Heaven would look like– except that of course all the sick would be perfectly healed!  There is such a peace and beauty to the place.  For one, Lourdes is nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains- one of the most exquisite mountain ranges I have seen.  Then there is the river cutting through the town, and the picturesque bridges arching across the waterways.  And there are so many beautiful Churches!  But, its the people and the spirit that most speak to the place.  I can’t begin to describe what its like to see hundreds of people sick and dying being wheeled around in carts.  And they have all made this pilgrimage to seek healing– be it physical and/or spiritual.  They come in faith.  They come to the waters.  They heed Mary’s request that she made to Bernadette.  “Won’t you come to the waters?”  But, the truth is that we are all in wheelchairs, whether they are visible or not.  We are all sinners.  We are all seeking a peace and comfort that the world cannot offer.  We come in faith– trusting that Mary will cover us with her mantle, dry our tears, and gently point us to Christ– who provides a peace and security that this world will never offer.  And I guess in the one precious day that I spent in Lourdes, I truly understood what it means to go on pilgrimage– to come to a place where the soul can rest in Christ… and know that while the body will pass away, our souls will live forever… and the peace that we are experiencing in Lourdes is only a tiny glimmer of the peace that will captivate our whole beings in Heaven.  And I realized that the millions of prayers that are offered up for ourselves and others in this place help sustain the world.  No wonder God chooses to consecrate sacred places as a respite and sanctuary in the world!  The human person longs to make the physical act of travelling to a place, leaving one’s troubles behind, bathing in healing waters, lighting candles that are symbols of one’s prayers lifting up to heaven, and to join with the thousands of others in faith, prayer, and supplication to our very Maker and Creator.  I am at a loss for words to describe the peace in my soul from experiencing one day in Lourdes.  Have my prayers for healing been answered for myself and loved ones?  I don’t know.  They very well might be.  But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my heart grew in love for my Lord and Savior and a new peace entered my soul.  I was able, even if for a moment, to surrender and abandon my life and heart to God.  And I want to go back.  And I understand how whether one is living or dying, coming to the waters is a good thing.  As St. Bernadette said:  “The Grotto was my heaven”… her heaven on Earth.

– Kathryn Diener

Watch the Opening Mass Live!

Our pilgrims are now at the opening mass!


You can watch the mass live HERE

So Close!

Just an hour or so before we leave for the airport, and I’m getting excited! I don’t quite know what to expect, but God will have something amazing planned. I’m looking forward to seeing so many other people (especially kids my age) who share in the Catholic faith. It’ll be cool to pray with so many others in solidarity! I’m also super glad my roommates are nice and can’t wait to hang out with them!

More later when we get there:) God bless!


Lauren G

The Packing Challenge

Can you believe that there is only 1 more day until we leave for Europe?! I sure can’t. Every time I start thinking about it, I begin to feel the same butterflies (from the day I heard we were going) re-enter my stomach.

Well it’s Thursday and I haven’t even started packing (until this morning), unless you want to count getting all my laundry washed. However, I have “met” my two awesome roomies; Emma and Lauren. Well, met them on Facebook, at least. I think they both said that they too are posting blogs, so you should read what they have to write! I cant wait to meet them on Friday!

Ok, I went off track for a second there. So I do have reason for being late in my packing process. As some of you may not know, I’m a lifeguard at one of the pools in Hampstead. Well, due to one of the guard’s sudden departure, there are now only two of us to watch the pool. Therefore, a lot more shifts. Oh, and to top that off, I just got another job as a waitress at a newly opened restaurant. So, that too has been time consuming. You may be asking yourself, “Why doesn’t she just pack when she gets home from work?” Haha, it’s not all that easy. I’m a very organized person, thus in order to arrange and plan in an organizing fashion, I have to be in a clean and organized environment. My room, however, is not. Those of you who know me, are well aware that I would never allow anything to remain out of it’s place any longer than a day (at most). So what could be the cause of such a chaotic mess? Well, think about what usually happens around this time of the year, when supplies are bought, boxes are out, clothes are laid out, and old junk is “sorted.”. Have you guessed it yet? If I said that it has to do with a certain family member who comes home for holidays, and takes over your room all summer, would that help your guess a little more?? Ok if you haven’t guessed it, then I’ll just tell you. My complete opposite in almost every way, Mary Kate. Yes, just about everything imaginable that a college student should (and shouldn’t bring) is all over the floor, bed, dresser, and even the bookshelves. Haha, the ironic thing is, despite both of our differences, my sister and I are surprising very close, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She told me today that she will have the room “right as rain” by the time I get home from work (I sure hope so) :p

So far I’ve told three of my friends (who won’t be able to go) that, if they want to come, they would have to travel via my suitcase. BIG mistake! Why? Because, when I was at our WYD meeting, last Wednesday, all the pilgrims were informed that the weight limit (for the ONE checked bag) will be limited to 50lbs!! How on earth am I going to fit ten days worth of clothes, and other essentials, along with three friends in one bag, under 50lbs?!?! This may sound impossible, but that’s what I live for, to make the impossible possible!…well, all that is within my ability.

One of my friends, Molly, lives further south and told me that if I don’t get her to fit in my suitcase, then there is nooo way I’ll be able to fit in hers, when she visits her home in Kazakstan, Russia. “Oh you of little faith” I will make this packing process a prelude to the “Adventure,” and I will be happy!!! 😀

My break is well over, so I will leave you (for now).

Haha!! I just thought of something. How awesome would it be to end every blog with “To Be Continued”?!?! It may sound corny, but oh who cares!

To Be Continued…

~*Emily Seymour*~

Final days of Packing and Prepping!

Well here goes!  My first attempt at blogging. I can’t promise you it will be entertaining or funny but rather a first hand recap of my experiences on this trip of a life-time to Madrid, Spain for World Youth Day.  Just 3 days to go and I am already feeling tired from the mental preparation for the trip, the planning, pre-packing, packing, unpacking, repacking.  So many decisions to make!  Should I wear skirts, shorts (over the knee), pants, long shorts or short pants? Which shoes? Let me tell you, this has been the topic of discussion amongst our little group from St. Thomas More for at least 6 months!  We will be doing a lot of walking and have been warned (rather strongly encouraged) to bring very comfortable shoes.  So, take a break cute sandals and bring out the tennis shoes and Clark sandals with air vents and lots of cushion.  My feet will thank me later.

As with the other chaperones on the trip, many of us are leaving behind some part of our family, whether it be a spouse, as in my case, or 4 children and a husband, as in Georgie’s case.  There are bills to pay ahead of time, laundry to do (so we have clothes to pack), frigs to clean out, desks to clean off, school supplies to get (school starts just 3 days after we get back!), sports practices to get to, pets to arrange boarding,…you get the picture.

Regardless of all the preparation and planning to get to this point that we plotted and planned a year and a half go, I am truly looking forward to this journey and pilgrimage.  A friend of mine at work said that maybe it will light a fire in my faith.  Though I feel I already have a strong faith, I think we all get to a point in our lives where we need that extra “umph”.   We sometimes need to step away from the everyday normal  to see the big picture, to see if we are on the right path and to gain some focus.  I don’t know what to expect and have no real expectations other than to be tired, somewhat overwhelmed, completely open to experience new things, HOT, and somehow knowing I will be changed from this trip.

I take this trip with my daughter, Emma (who is also blogging at, 3 other lady friends and 7 other kids from St. Thomas More along with a great group of  pilgrims from the Diocese of Raleigh.  Please keep us all in your prayers as we make this journey as we will keep you in ours especially during our visit to Lourdes, France.



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