Among the group is 22-year-old Laura Blancato who has been waiting for this day since signing up for the pilgrimage in 2008.
An Orlando resident and recent graduate of the University of Miami, Blancato has been meeting with other young people to prepare themselves spiritually for the week-long journey and a Papal Mass by Pope Benedict XVI – where Blancato has been assigned a front-row seat.
“I’m just very excited,” she said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be huge. To be in the presence of Pope Benedict is just going to be astounding.”
Each of the young people has been asked to carry prayers from friends and family to Spain, but also to think of one specific request to ask the Lord. Blancato is asking for guidance. When she gets home, Blancato will start an internship as a therapist at the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, using music to work with people suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
“We know from research that music can stimulate a certain area of the brain. When working with bipolar and schizophrenia, we use a piece of music to help them tell what is real and what is not,” she said.
Blancato will be seeking guidance as to whether she should pursue a life of as a music therapist, further her education, or follow another direction.
“Through this pilgrimage, I’m asking the Lord to lead me to where he wants me to be,” she said.
Noonan, who served as a high school principal and seminary rector before becoming Orlando’s bishop, is one of 60 U.S. bishops attending World Youth Day.
“World Youth Day is a wonderful opportunity to be with so many young people from around the world for a faith-filled experience,” Noonan said. “It will have a major impact on the lives of the people who go and their faith will be invigorated and that enthusiasm is brought back to our parishes and shared with many other people.”