Having come down from the physical, mental and spiritual mountain top of World Youth Day, members of the Diocese of Parramatta Chancery team have shared their favourite memories with their colleagues at a special formation session on Friday 25 August.
As part of the 170-strong contingent from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, 10 Chancery staff attended the three-week pilgrimage which followed in the footsteps of the saints through France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
Reflecting on his time during World Youth Day week in Lisbon, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, spoke about his involvement in the catechesis sessions for the young people, which this year were known as ‘Rise Up Encounters’.
In previous years, a Bishop would catechise the young people based on a doctrinal theme, but in Lisbon, each session reflected on major themes of Pope Francis’ pontificate: Integral Ecology, Social Friendship and Mercy.
“Pope Francis wanted World Youth Day to be an opportunity for an experience of a synodal Church. Calling them ‘Rise Up’ sessions referred to the World Youth Day theme ‘Mary arose and went with haste’ (Lk 1:49), which is a metaphor for our faith in action,” he explained.
“These encounters were done in a more dialogical and interactive way. During my catechesis, I spent time listening to the pilgrims in small groups and then I would summarise the fruits of the discussion and I would give my own input on the basis of what I heard.”
For Helen Zammit, Hills Region Coordinator for the Diocese’s Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), shared how blessed she was to have been chosen as a small group leader.
“Throughout our formation sessions, one word that was emphasised was ‘accompaniment’ and it wasn’t until World Youth Day that I understood what this truly meant,” she described.
“I came back with this real sense of journeying with these young people and sharing with them the experience.
“I really felt that my group was an example of what faith can look like in young people.”
Qwayne Guevara, Manager, Catholic Youth Parramatta, and one of the pilgrimage leaders, told Chancery staff of the impact that World Youth Day has to young people across the Diocese beyond the three-week pilgrimage.
“The impact that World Youth Day has on their lives and the way in which they go and witness and make choices about their faith is beyond anything that we could possibly offer at a local level,” she explained.
“For a young person to witness [WYD] come back with this fire to their communities, our role in the Mission Enhancement Team and CYP is how do we accompany them and continue to encourage them to share their gifts and explore the ways in which they can impact their families, school, friendship groups and realise that discipleship is not something when you enter the doors of the church.
“Our call now is how do we create opportunities of encounter and development of their leadership skills so that they see themselves as agencies and catalysts for change in our Diocese.”
All Chancery pilgrims were invited to select an image from the pilgrimage that represented their experiences, with many commenting the visit to the Sanctuary of Lourdes was a strong highlight.
To read and view the stories, reflections, images and videos from this life-changing experience for our young people in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit parrawyd.org or check out the WYD23 category here on Catholic Outlook.