By Andrew J. Barnes ’12
Brophy students and teachers did not know what they were getting themselves into when they signed up for the Spain immersion trip that lasted two weeks in early August.
Attending World Youth Day, touring art museums and cathedrals and walking more than 76 kilometers over a five-day stretch were the highlights of the trip for eight students and two faculty leaders.
“It was a life changer,” said Scott Soethe ’12. “Everyone was so welcoming.”
There was “no way to put into words” how amazing the trip was, said faculty leader Ms. Maria Dominguez who led the trip along with Mr. Deacon Joe Stickney.
The trip would not have been possible without the persuasion of a sibling of a student on the Spain trip.
“My brother, Beto Bravo ’06, had the opportunity to travel to World Youth Day while at Loyola Marymount University and as soon as he returned he told me how incredible it would be to send a cohort from Brophy,” said Flavio Bravo ’12.
With the approval of the Office of Faith and Justice, the administration and the help of Ms. Dominguez Brophy was able to make it happen.
After arriving in Spain Aug. 7, the group of participants spent the first week of their immersion adventure walking the “Camino de Santiago,” or “Way of Saint James.”
The group walked past quite a few geographic features while on this 76-kilometer journey, experiencing mountains and many foggy mornings.
The second week of the trip took place solely in Madrid, Spain, where the events of World Youth Day took place.
The Brophy participants slept in a gym at a public school right next to a Catholic parish, so it was convenient for them to be able to attend Mass and catechism sessions in the mornings, Soethe said.
At World Youth Day, many of the almost 2 million people there were holding flags or signs that identified pride for their countries.
Soethe said he did not see any stereotypes that Americans are unaccepted in Europe or across the sea.
Quite the contrary, people wanted pictures of groups with flags, especially Americans.
“It was shocking,” Soethe said.
Security was high at the event because of the massive-sized crowds and the fact that Pope Benedict XVI was in attendance.
That did not hinder the Brophy participants from getting close to the pope as some of them were able to get within 100 yards of him and receive blessings.
There was a period of anxiety during the event as it began to rain pretty harshly, forcing the pope to use an umbrella.
“It was a really, really bad storm,” Ms. Dominguez said. “But it felt liberating.”
The Brophy participants said they learned a lot about different cultures and religions in the world after attending this event as well as meeting new people during their two-week trip.
“I think that there is a perception in the U.S. that the Catholic Church isn’t as strong as it used to be,” Bravo said. “However, after traveling to World Youth Day, I was able to realize that the Catholic Church is incredibly strong on a global level and that their greatest strength is through the people.”