SAO PAULO — They came together as a group to attend World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. The nearly 50 people in their early to late 20s occasionally attended church on Sunday, but more as a habit than anything else.

After hearing Pope Francis speak at the event, these young adults, from what is considered the richest neighborhood in Sao Paulo, decided to form a youth group.

"There was a consensus among the group for the desire of a greater, more active participation in the church," said Rafael de Andrade, 34, organizer of the youth group for the Parish of Our Lady of Brazil.

After several meetings and discussions with parish leaders, the group was officially created earlier this year. Its first meeting was Feb. 2; about 55 interested Catholics attended.

"I think what attracted these young people to a deeper discussion about religion and the world around us was the clear, simple speeches made by Pope Francis," said Andrade. The 34-year-old sales executive said the greater enthusiasm also has been shown by the parish's priests.

"We all (parishioners and priests) now feel we are getting through somehow ... they (in the church) are listening to us," he said.

In its first month, the group planned a performance of the Stations of the Cross for Holy Week and a mission trip to the Amazon region in January.

"If we, living in one of the richest places in Brazil, can't give a little of our time to help those in need, than who will?" asked Andrade. "This is one of the effects World Youth Day and Pope Francis' speeches had on the group ... of helping others."