As a fundraiser for World Youth Day, Holy Family Parish pilgrims sold hot dogs last summer.
At St. Albert's Holy Family Parish, a dozen young Catholics are already pumped about seeing Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Brazil in late July.
"We have this new exciting pope, which we didn't know about when we first started planning," said Felicia Krausert.
The experience will be "monumental," Krausert said as she and the others prepare for the July 23-28 WYD which roughly two million young people are expected to attend.
"I've heard from relatives and friends who have gone before, and they all said it's been a great experience," said Josh Goselwitz, another pilgrim.
The Holy Family pilgrims range in age from 18 to 25, and several of them have already made new friends without even leaving St. Albert.
"The main thing I've got out of it so far is meeting a whole new group of friends in my church that I never would have talked to otherwise," said Krausert.
Goselwitz said he knew half of his parish's WYD pilgrims previously, either from high school or through the parish youth groups, Verve and Unite 4 Christ. Through the planning and fundraising process, they have become an even more closely knit bunch.
Leading the St. Albert contingent is teacher Tricia Murphy, the parish council representative for youth ministry.
"Right now I'm super excited to see Pope Francis because there's so much media attention and talk about him. I think he's a pretty cool guy," said Murphy.
Both Murphy and Krausert admitted they don't know what exactly will happen in Rio de Janeiro or what the daily itinerary will be, but they are confident the experience will be meaningful.
"You're going to see the pope, and you're going to be in this community with all these other young people who share your faith," Krausert said. "It's reinforcing to see I'm not the only one, and there is this great global community of Catholics that are my age and have my same problems, and we're all celebrating together."
Murphy added, "I think that I speak for all when I say that we're going because we know that this will be a unique experience. We hope that it will give us a deeper faith."
Aside from fundraising and the travel plans, faith development remains their top priority, Murphy said. The group prays together and is making efforts to learn more about each other.
Krausert said Holy Family Parish is accustomed to having a group of its youth attend World Youth Day and has been behind their fundraising efforts.
"Definitely, raising money is a challenge," said Goselwitz. "It's hard because everyone has a busy schedule, and people are in school. It's hard to get everyone together at a specific time."
They have sold chocolates, held bottle drives and raffled off a ride on a hot air balloon. There was a pub night and silent auction at O'Maille's Irish Pub, which raised $2,000. Holy Inspirations Art Sale was held April 27-28.
The last big fundraiser is a Brazilian night, tentatively slated for early June. This will be a dinner and silent auction with a Brazilian theme.
Murphy says that with all the planning and fundraising just getting to Brazil is the toughest part of the journey.
"Once we get there it will be smooth sailing – or at least I hope so," she said.