Chaplains hope for ‘touch of heaven’ for WYD pilgrims

By Mary Brazell, 13 July 2023
A composite image of the four chaplains that will travel as part of the Diocese of Parramatta's pilgrimage to the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal - (L-R) Fr Andrew Rooney, Fr Piotr Kruk OP, Fr Gregory Jacobs SJ and Fr Christopher del Rosario. Images: Diocese of Parramatta


As 170 young people from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains experience a trip of a lifetime to World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, they will remain grounded through the support of four spiritual chaplains.

Fr Christopher del Rosario from St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, Fr Gregory Jacobs SJ from Holy Family Parish, Mt Druitt, Fr Piotr Kruk OP from St Joseph’s Parish, Kingswood and Fr Andrew Rooney from Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown, will guide and support the pilgrims spiritually.

They will celebrate Mass each day, guide pilgrims in a variety of prayer forms and offer Reconciliation.

Through putting up their hands to serve the young people of our Diocese, they hope to not only nurture the faith of young people, but to also enrich their own faith and priestly vocation.

Three of the four Diocesan chaplains travelling to Lisbon have experienced a World Youth Day in the past.

In fact, Fr Chris discovered and embraced his vocation whilst on World Youth Day in 2011 in Madrid, Spain. Given the incredible gift he was given through the experience, he was keen to offer and accompany the next generation of young pilgrims. He looks forward to the encounters that the pilgrimage fosters.

World Youth Day pilgrim chaplain Fr Christopher del Rosario (centre left) speaks with pilgrims during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I’m excited to experience the pilgrimage from a different perspective,” he says. “Christ strengthens each individual for mission. I hope by witnessing this, I too will be strengthened to preach Christ with greater courage to bring souls to Heaven.

Fr Andrew Rooney, then a teenager, was part of the choir that performed during World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008. There, he saw the impact that World Youth Day had on the lives of young people and the Church and saw a revival of the Church in Australia.

This will be the first World Youth Day he will get to experience as a priest since being ordained in 2022. He says that working with young people is an essential and life-giving part of his ministry and hopes to accompany them as they experience the “enthusiasm, energy, zeal and joy” that World Youth Day offers.

World Youth Day pilgrim chaplain Fr Andrew Rooney addresses pilgrims during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“The Church has much to offer our youth and society, and our youth have so much to offer to the Church,” he explained.

Fr Greg was inspired to say ‘yes’ to World Youth Day by the lives of the saints that will be the patrons of the pilgrimage.

“I’ve really been inspired by many of the saints like Ignatius of Loyola and St Vincent de Paul, and I wanted to be able to share their stories with our young people.

Fr Greg Jacobs SJ, Pilgrimage chaplain and Parish Priest at Holy Family Parish, Emerton, speaks during the first World Youth Day Pilgrim Formation Session at Novotel Sydney Rooty Hill. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“I hope to be reinspired by the amazing journeys and lives of the saints on our pilgrimage and that I am open to God working through me in a similar way.

“I wish the young people to be inspired by the saints in the same way that I am, and that they experience a deepening of their prayer life and see Christ walking with them in a deeper way,” he said.

Fr Piotr hopes is looking forward to seeing young people experiencing joy through both the big events, but also in the unexpected.

His advice to the young pilgrims is to be open to connect with others.

“Don’t stress about how people are seeing you and thinking about you but enjoy this time to make meaningful friendships with so many different people that are united by the same love of our faith.

World Youth Day pilgrim chaplain Fr Piotr Kruk OP (third left) speaks with pilgrims during a World Youth Day pilgrim formation session. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

“Seeing so many holy places and learning about these great saints can really inspire them, but seeing other people their age who are really passionate about their faith, who love Jesus and Mary, will give them a ‘touch of heaven’,” he says.

“I hope the young people experience how deep, rich and beautiful is our Catholic faith and they experience a revitalisation of their faith, become more immersed in their faith and more committed to their faith.

“The good that we give to people comes back to us and it’s joyful for a priest to see that we are still needed as instrument in God’s hands.”

Follow along with our pilgrims as they travel through sacred sites in France, Spain and Portugal before they arrive at World Youth Day in Lisbon. You can sign up to receive an email with links to videos, photos and articles on the pilgrimage here


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