Some Tampa high school students returned home Tuesday from overseas, to a lot of hugs, and with a deeper understanding of their religion.
Brothers Jose and Alejandro Foradada spent two weeks in Brazil with Jesuit High School students learning about their religious roots, experiencing the culture and celebrating mass with Pope Francis for World Youth Day.
"I basically should not be ashamed to be called a Catholic, and I should go out there and be proud of my Catholic identity," said 20-year-old Jose, who went as an alumni chaperone.
"This was very eye opening. I wasn't a very strong Catholic when I came into this; I really grew in my faith," said 16-year-old Alejandro, a student at Jesuit.
The trip was not a luxurious one. Students slept in sleeping bags and spent a night on Copacabana Beach before seeing the Pope.
"We built a wall, but we built it at low tide and when high tide came, it went over and swept away half the people and their stuff," said 16-year-old Tanner Vogt.
Of course, everyone was okay -- and some even said it was even a blessing, because the mishap got them closer to Pope Francis.
"I felt like he really trusted us. He didn't have the bubble on the ‘pope-mobile,' " Tanner said.
They went to Brazil to hear the Pope's message, and they came back home to live it.
"They now understand, I think, in a very tangible way, that the path of discipleship is a path of freedom and joy," said Jesuit President Fr. Richard Hermes.
Their trip to Brazil is now a part of them forever.
"This is a moment for me to say, hey you grew stronger in your faith earlier. Keep that strength," Alejandro said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?