Early risers in the Diocese of Parramatta may have seen 500 young people walking the streets before dawn on Saturday morning, 3 April.
These were young people from the Diocese taking part in the annual Good Friday Night Walk, a pilgrimage reflecting on the Stations of the Cross. Starting out at 10pm on Friday 2 April, the walkers journeyed as a group from St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Blacktown to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, stopping for prayer and reflection at the Catholic Churches of Our Lady of Lourdes, Seven Hills; St Anthony of Padua, Toongabbie; Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Wentworthville; and Sacred Heart, Westmead.
Related story: Bishop Vincent Long’s Easter Message for 2021
The event is an annual event in our Diocese, although it was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. In 2021, organisers, Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP), were required to limit the usually 1,000-plus event to a maximum of 500 people.
Registrations quickly filled and it was an excited and grateful group of young people who met at St Patrick’s Blacktown to start the journey at 10pm.
Before they set off, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, spoke with the young people about how much he looks forward to joining them each year. Pilgrimages, he said, have been a part of Christian tradition “since time immemorial,” and are about “our faith and love of God, and an expression of that love.” They are an act of companionship, he said, “because you need to walk hand-in-hand, metaphorically, with your fellow pilgrims in order to reach your destination.”
Feeling closer to Jesus
By 5am Saturday morning the walkers had reached Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta where an obligatory group photo took place before they made their way around the corner to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta. Despite their fatigue at being awake all night, the young people felt happy about taking part.
This was the second Good Friday Night Walk for Madeleine, aged 15 from Nagle College, Blacktown. “It’s a good sacrifice,” she said shyly about why she walked and reflected all night.
Isaiah, aged 21, from Our Lady of the Rosary, St Marys, agreed. “I’d rather be sleeping,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it is a good sacrifice.”
Josh, aged 18, from Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Greystanes was with his old school friends, having left school last year. The friends agreed it was a good time to reflect and strengthen their faith. “I feel like I’m following in the footsteps of Jesus,” said Josh.
Dalahoy, aged 22 from The Good Shepherd at Plumpton, also participated with Jesus’s sacrifice in mind. “I want to experience something similar to what Jesus went through,” he said.
Making sense of suffering
Gen Lee, Co-ordinator of Catholic Youth for St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, spoke to the young pilgrims at the Cathedral, acknowledging that sometimes the biggest challenges are when we have no control over the situation and are struggling to make sense of our suffering. She drew on her own experience of losing her father.
“What do we fill that void with?” she asked. “Sometimes we need to let go, we need to give God the chance to speak to us,” she said.
Qwayne Guevara, Local Engagement Leader of CYP felt grateful the event could go ahead this year.
“I think coming off the back of COVID, there is something quite sacred about coming together in this way,” she said. Reflecting on how isolating the COVID restrictions were for young people, who are naturally inclined to make meaning of their lives through being around their peers, she said “This event is a powerful way we can remind young people of faith they are not alone in their pilgrimage through life.”
Ziairina, aged 24 from The Good Shepherd Plumpton, and Andrew, aged 25 from St John XXIII at Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, met at a CYP retreat, and are soon to be married. They plan to continue attending the Good Friday Night Walk for as long as they can – even quipping if it means bringing babies they might have in the future. While Andrew has participated seven times, this was Ziairina’s first. “It was easier than I thought it was,” she said. “During the walk, I was reflecting on how Christ suffered. That made it easier.”
See the Flickr album of photos from the Good Friday Night Walk 2021 by clicking on the link below.
Information on Easter Mass times in the Diocese of Parramatta can be found here.
Links to livestreaming of Easter services from St Patrick’s Cathedral can be found here.