Llandilo local and Xavier College student, Stephanie Galea, and her best friend, fellow student and netball teammate, Lucy Keene, went out on a limb and put themselves forward to travel to the other side of the world with millions of other young Catholics. Now that ‘crazy idea’ is becoming a reality as they prepare to leave Australia on the Diocese of Parramatta pilgrimage to World Youth Day.
Backed by their families and school communities, they will travel to France, Spain, Portugal and Italy in July and August alongside students, teachers and Catholic leaders from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains on a trip which will see them at a giant Mass with Pope Francis in Lisbon, Portugal.
Growing up on an acreage in Llandilo and attending the local church every Sunday, 16-year-old Stephanie was thrilled to be accepted into the life-affirming experience that is World Youth Day.
A trip backed by the whole community
“My friend Lucy and I had a crazy idea to apply, our parents said yes and here we are,” said Stephanie. “Since I was little, our church has done fundraisers for World Youth Day and Mum has always loved the idea of it, so when the opportunity came around, we decided to apply and now I’m actually going.”
The whole school community at Xavier College is also excited about this huge opportunity for the students and has been supporting them in the lead-up to World Youth Day through various fundraising initiatives.
“Our school has been great. They did a Valentine’s Day fundraiser and a Mufti day last week to raise money for us,” said Lucy. “Our friends and teachers are very excited for us. They just want me to send heaps of pictures to them and update them every single day of what I’ve done and things I’ll be doing while I’m over there.”
Experiencing a transformative experience together
“It has kind of just hit us that we’re going so we’re getting very excited now,” said Stephanie. “I’m excited to make friends from all over the world, meet different people and experience five million people in the same place.”
Most of all, Stephanie and Lucy are excited to experience this transformative adventure together.
“Knowing that there’s somebody there with you, that you already know and have a good friendship with, it’s comforting. It just makes any nerves go down a lot,” added Lucy.
Given that it has been four and a half years since the last World Youth Day in Panama due to COVID-19, a whole new wave of young people is eager to experience one of the most significant global events for Catholics that celebrates the joy and youthfulness of the Church.
Follow along the saints trail with the pilgrims from home
The Diocese of Parramatta pilgrimage to World Youth Day leaves on 21 July, and will follow a trail of saints through Paris, Lourdes, Ávila, and Fátima before arriving at World Youth Day in Lisbon on 1 August. The full itinerary is at parrawyd.org
You can follow along with the young pilgrims by signing up to the newsletter which will share videos, photos and stories about the trip. Register at the link on parrwyd.org