by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--Months of preparation are starting to give way to nerves and excitement at the chance to see Pope Benedict XVI in person.
"I don't think we really know what to expect. We just know it's going to be a life changing event," 19-year-old Elizabeth Mueller, a sophomore at Midland College, said.
Elizabeth, Christina and Zach are just three of the 17 members of the Saint Stephen's Youth Group getting ready to board a plane and fly to Madrid for World Youth Day 2011.
According to Elizabeth, "We've been preparing for about a year now. I can't believe it's almost here. We leave in two days and it's hard to comprehend that we're actually going."
"I'm sure we think we know what's going to happen, but none of us really knows what experience we're going to take out of this," 18-year-old Christina Flores, a recent graduate of Midland High, said.
Zach Santonil is from Midland, but attends the University of Dallas. He added, "It's definitely a stressful experience but there's a lot of anxiety. We're all really excited and the community has been helping us out a lot and our parish has been doing a lot of stuff for us to help get prepared for our trip."
Part of that support has come from the church community itself. Along with items donated by Monsignor James Bridges, the parish has been behind the youth group 100 percent. That means a lot to the kids, since the trip comes with a price tag of just over $80,000.
"I gave them one of my antique vehicles to raffle. I gave them some of my art work, that they might have a silent auction to raise a great deal of money. My investment is very little. I praise and admire the investment the youth themselves put in," Bridges said.
The group believes the time they've spent together over the years will help them get through the next few days in a foreign country, since most of them are going for the first time.
"I think we spend enough time together that we can say we're almost like family. We butt heads occasionally but I think the majority of it will be us just enjoying the trip," Zach said.
Each of these young adults has his or her own idea of what to expect. But all pretty much are looking forward to the same thing.
"Seeing the pope, Benedict XVI," Elizabeth said.
"He's such an inspirational person and he leads such a willing-full life that it's just going to be really neat to be able to see him," Christina added.
When it's all said and done how many people their age can say they got to see the pope in person?
"I've always wanted to," Zach said. "I've always dreamed of doing it. So, hopefully, I'll do what I can to meet him."