Two Grandview teens traveled with a local group earlier this month to attend a rally and prayer service featuring Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's recent trip to America.

Two Grandview teens traveled with a local group earlier this month to attend a rally and prayer service featuring Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's recent trip to America.

Caitlin Simmonds and Heather Cox, both members of St. Christopher Church and high school juniors, attended the April 19 event held at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y.

They joined other youths who are part of the Columbus Diocesan Youth Council, a committee of teens from various local churches that help organize such annual events as the Diocesan High School Youth Rally.

"It was pretty hectic getting there," Simmonds said.

The local group's bus broke down three hours into its journey and the wait for another bus to arrive meant the group didn't get to New York until about 4 a.m. -- about six hours before they were scheduled to leave for the rally.

"It was really surreal to be there," Simmonds said. "I think I'm still trying to process the experience."

As the Pope entered the grounds, the crowd of about 25,000 young people and seminarians from around the United States greeted him with a chorus of "Happy Birthday," she said.

"It was incredible to be part of this immense crowd, all there to see the Pope," Simmonds said.

The experience, "kind of reaffirmed my faith to me and what it means to me," she said.

"The Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church and to be able to see him in the flesh and hear him speak, it was very cool," Simmonds said.

Cox agreed that attending the event was "an amazing experience," not only to be in the presence of the Pope but to be part of "this great crowd of people who were all there to share and celebrate their faith.

"I felt a need to be there and to share my faith with so many others," she said. "It was more like a refreshing and motivational feeling that I got from being there. It made it more clear why my faith is important to me."

Cox was able to maneuver her way to within six feet of the stage.

"I was able to hear everything the Pope said, although his English was sometimes a little hard to understand," she said. "It's really hard to put into words what it felt like to be that close to the Pope."

She said she was most moved when Pope Benedict stated that the family was the start of the Church and that without a family rooted in God, there can be no Church.

"That part really spoke to me," Cox said. "I felt like it was kind of a challenge, that after being there with the Pope I need to carry my faith forward and put it into practice."

"To be able to say that I saw the Pope on his first visit to the U.S., that's pretty incredible," Simmonds said. "I know the experience will stay with me the rest of my life. It will help strengthen and reinforce my faith. I feel lucky to have been able to go."