TOWNSEND -- A pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013 is in the future for a Townsend-based group.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," parent organizer Diane Oittinen said.
WYD is held in a different part of the world once every two or three years.
Although no promises have been made, usually the pope attends the celebration, said the Rev. Jeremy St. Martin, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Townsend.
St. Martin has led groups to WYD in Germany, Australia and Spain. His first experience with WYD was in Toronto in 2002, where he served as priest for the group led by a youth minister.
This is the first time the Townsend parish has participated, Oittinen said. Six high-school and college students plan on making the trip with three or four parent chaperones along with St. Martin. The cost is high. Right now the trip, including travel, room and board is estimated at $3,800 per person.
"We're going into this with our eyes open," Oittinen said.
Major fundraising is one of the group's first challenges, she said.
They washed cars and barbecued burgers. Donations received at a weekly coffee hour held Wednesday morning at 9:15 go to the trip. They raffled Red Sox tickets and sold cotton candy at the Ashby bonfire during the July 4 celebration. They ran games at the church picnic in August.
The group will sponsor a vacation bible school April 20 to April 24, 2013. More raffles are
"We don't want to exclude anybody. We're a very inclusive group," she said.
Other parishioners help with fundraising. The parish youth ministry has been involved, Oittinen said.
Most of the potential travelers come from Townsend and surrounding towns. One young woman is from West Bridgewater.
"We are a group. We meet weekly," Oittinen said.
The group will need to be strong and cohesive to meet the challenges the pilgrimage will present.
"It's a pilgrimage, not a vacation. We intend it to be a challenge," she said.
Knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses will make it easier for the group to succeed in walking long distances and standing for extended periods of time waiting for the pope, she said.
Although July is winter in Rio, Oittinen said the heat will potentially be another challenge to overcome.
Townsend pilgrims will also experience Brazil's poverty up close. They plan to piggyback with programs run by Rio parishes, St. Martin said.
Oittinen sees the journey as a life-changing event.
"There's just a longing for what a pilgrimage will do spiritually," she said.