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 Our time in San Jose Dos Campos was a delightful experience. We spent time with other pilgrims from Colombia and France, as well with Brazilians. There was time to share with the locals, to visit Catholic hospitals, and centers for people recovering from illness. Brazilians are among the most loving and welcoming people in the world! 

 Each pilgrim stayed with a host family. Our host families took care of all of our needs for a whole week with compassion, love, and joy. Even though we spoke different languages, we all understood each other through the language of love. 

 The Pope was waiting for us! I vividly recall our entrance to Rio de Janeiro. We traveled by bus for six hours after making a stop at the National Basilica of Our Lady of Aparecida in the city of Aparecida. In Rio, there were rivers of people in the streets. Everybody spoke a different language. Everybody carried a different flag. They were all singing and dancing: “Esta es la Junvetud del Papa” (This is the youth of the Pope). My heart pounded. Even though I have been a Catholic from my earliest memories, I have never experienced the universal Church in that magnitude! It was breathtaking to witness millions of young Catholics eager to have an encounter with God. 

 People waited for hours to get a glimpse of Pope Francis passing in the Popemobile, regardless of the weather conditions, the lack of food or the lack of sleep. The most moving example was to witness people with special needs, especially the love and commitment of their support group, the people who assisted them all the way to Rio to meet the Pope. It was truly the ultimate example of love and humility.

 The Pope was waiting to meet all the youth from the world who had traveled miles to be with him. I keep in my heart the memory of Pope Francis’s kind smile, and I keep in my mind the words he spoke to the youth. They are engraved in my soul. As Pope Francis urged us to be “Saints of the New Millennium,” he said:

 “We need saints of jeans and sneakers. We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and wander with friends. We need saints who put God first and to excel in the University… We need saints who drink Coca Cola and eat hot dogs that use the Internet and iPods. We need saints who love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to have a beer or a pizza on the weekend with friends” 

 Pope Francis words were simple, but powerful. He understands the youth of today. He spoke in a way that relates to us. He spoke like a friend. He is the person our Church was waiting for, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him in Rio de Janeiro! 

María José García is the Coordinator of Pastoral Outreach to Hispanic Young Adults for the Diocese of San Bernardino.