The faith, mental health and sense of community of the young people in the Diocese of Parramatta received a significant boost on Good Friday night, as around 600 Catholic youth walked 20 kilometres through the streets of the Diocese of Parramatta on the annual Catholic Youth Parramatta Good Friday Night Walk.
Walkers came from 36 Diocese of Parramatta parishes, with members from another 20 Sydney parishes also participating. Around 20 volunteer youth leaders and other adults also supported the Walk.
The pilgrimage, which began at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Blacktown at 10pm on Friday 15 April, stopped at a further four churches for reflection and prayer intentions, before finishing at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta at 6am on Easter Saturday
Before the pilgrims set off on their journey, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, told them he was proud of the tradition of the Good Friday Night Walk, something that is unique to our Diocese.
“It is an expression of our faith. We walk the walk with Christ, we express our solidarity with Christ who continues to suffer in our brothers and sisters suffering from war and conflict right around the world,” he said.
“As we walk, we pray for peace, we pray for an end to all forms of violence, we pray for a greater respect of human life in the world.
“May the blessing of God be upon us from the point of departure to that of arrival and may this exercise enable us to grow in awareness of the call to follow the footsteps of the humble Christ.”
Along the way, Catholic Outlook spoke to participants about how the pilgrimage helped deepen their faith.
“I found it challenging spiritually, but being around people my age made me realise I am not alone,” said Supileo aged 24. He found that amongst people he had met, others were also feeling that way, particularly as they make the transition from Catholic schools to the more secular world of university and work. “Being around other faith-filled people has helped me strengthen my relationship with God.”
Groups took turns to carry a large wooden cross. One of those who carried it, Kyle aged 17 of St Patrick’s Marist College Dundas, who was also at pains to point out the cross was not as heavy as Christ’s actual cross, said it gave the young pilgrims a sense of Christ’s physical struggle on Good Friday.
“It has helped me appreciate Christ’s struggle a bit because it wasn’t in vain, there was a reason for His sacrifice, for our salvation,” said Kyle. “This cross represents a lot for our faith. It is our faith our tradition, it is who we are.”
Fr Joseph Maria Buckley OSPPE, assistant priest at St Margaret Mary’s Parish, Merrylands was ‘extra prepared’ for this year’s Walk, bringing along with him his own wooden cross. Fr Joseph was also on hand to providing Reconciliation to pilgrims along the walk.
“The first pilgrimage ever walked was by Jesus from Jerusalem to Calvary. He did that for me, I feel that even though the night’s going to be tough, it’s worth doing,” he said.
“In the early hours of the morning, when everybody gets very quiet, it’s a really nice time to reflect and meditate upon Christ’s own journey that He did.”
At each of the parishes, the young pilgrims were welcomed with reflections, music and an opportunity to record their prayer intentions. At St Oliver Plunkett’s Parish, Harris Park, Anna Amos shared her own story of faith with the message, “Do not be ashamed of the Cross.” She shared how once her curiosity around God was aroused and she grew to love God, she was ashamed to show her faith amongst her peers, being scared of rejection. Over time, by observing and mixing with other faith-filled people she learned to overcome her fears and realise that God would forgive and love her.
Maria, aged 31 found the lockdowns meant it was difficult to stay connected with her faith. She praised the opening theme of Divine Mercy, as it allowed people to share their past, the impact of COVID restrictions and how they got angry with God. “This was a good opportunity to reopen up again and come back into the house of the Lord,” she said.
It was especially good to be back after COVID said Nikomanu aged 21 from the Good Shepherd Parish Plumpton. “We all experienced so much during COVID,” he said. He found the past two years “really tough”. “It was just the isolation, being at home, it was just a real challenge. The walk is my reset, my reconnection with God every year,” he said.
Husband and wife, Steven and Stella Buhagiar volunteered as marshallsmarshals for the event. Their children participated as well, including Luke aged 15. “It was excellent being here,” said Steven “We need to see the Church being alive again. We need these events to ‘get the motor going again’. We also appreciate seeing our kids back in action.”
At the conclusion of the walk at 6am just as the pancakes made by the St Patrick’s Cathedral social committee were being served, Lusia, 17 of St Oliver Plunkett’s Parish, Harris Park expressed her relief she had completed the walk. “It was cold and we felt sore,” she said, “but it was good.”
See images from the Good Friday Night Walk 2022 here.