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UST Pilgrims for World Youth Day
American Chemical Society Affiliates Student Photo

Preparations are well on their way in the University of St. Thomas Campus Ministry Office for a three-week trip to World Youth Day in Spain next summer.

Sr. Damien Marie Savino, FSE, chair of the Environmental Science and Studies Department and UST Chaplain Fr. Mike Buentello, CSB, are taking 12 students on a pilgrimage across Spain, culminating at World Youth Day in Madrid.  They will begin in Leon, Spain, and walk nearly 200 miles on a 9th century pilgrimage route, the Santiago de Compostela, until they reach the shrine of St. James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, carrying backpacks and sleeping in hostels along the way.  After completing their two-week pilgrimage they will travel to Grenada, and then to Madrid for World Youth Day, which will take place August 15-21, 2011.

 “We’re not going to Spain as tourists,” Fr. Buentello said. “We’re going as pilgrims. We will be walking in the footsteps of other pilgrims who have walked the same path for hundreds of years.”

The students include Claudia Arguelles, Joseph Bedell, Charles Borromeo, Michael Enriquez, Andrew Hite, Jennifer Monroy, Mayra Morales, Luna Oliveira, Jennifer Orellana, Veronica Randolph, Stephanie Rivera and Dominika Snodgrass. 

Because the trip will include extreme physical exertion, the pilgrimage group has gone on several long hikes and a weekend camping trip over Fall Break to become physically prepared.  They have more hikes and camping trips planned to further prepare and build community among the group. 

 “You achieve the spiritual through the physical, through the training we’re doing, through our group, through the liturgies we will experience,” Sr. Damien Marie said.  Our preparation is the activity that will lead us to the spiritual.”

They intend to prepare spiritually for their journey by reading Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Youth Day, as well as some of the Holy Father’s other messages to youth. They will study the history, culture and faith of Spain and they are learning the Our Father and Hail Mary in Spanish so they can pray the rosary in Spanish as they travel.

World Youth Day, initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985, is celebrated internationally every two or three years.  It attracts hundreds of thousands of Catholic youth from across the globe and is a witness to the unity and vivacity of the Catholic Church. 

To offset the cost of their international travel, a variety of fundraisers have been planned by the group.  They have already had much success with a pig roast cooked on Fr. Mike’s famous Holy Smoker, a campus wide chili cook-off and a Thanksgiving turkey sale. In the spring they will host a paella night fundraiser and are looking for sponsors to give pledges for their “Camino Del Golfo” practice hike from Angleton to Surfside.

“The fundraising is important, but seeing the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, will truly be the icing on the cake,” Fr. Buentello said. “There will be so much joy in that.”

For more information about the World Youth Day trip or on how to donate to their cause, contact Fr. Buentello at or 713-525-5001 or Sr. Damien Marie at or 713-525-3894.