In the Local Government Areas where our Diocese of Parramatta sits, current pandemic restrictions have limited exercise to 1 hour a day.
However, a new Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP) initiative is encouraging people across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to use that time to give their exercise a spiritual boost.
The 30 for 30 Walk with CYP Challenge asks participants to walk for 30 minutes during the 30 days of September and to pray and reflect on a new petition each day. Although it is a youth initiative, the invitation is open to everyone across the Diocese.
Every evening, participants will receive an email with a prayer petition to keep in their minds during their walk. The petitions, submitted by those who sign up, will also be shared on the CYP social media accounts.
Participants are then free to complete their walks, being mindful of local restrictions and adhering to regulations i.e. wearing a mask outdoors.
Qwayne Guevara, Manager, CYP, told Catholic Outlook that the challenge provides an opportunity for the community to come together in prayer whilst our churches remain closed.
“This challenge is in response to the stories we are hearing from young people and their loved ones,” Qwayne said.
“We recognise that there are mental and physical challenges during lockdown, and we also recognise the desire for communal prayer.
“Since we are not able to gather together to pray, we hope that this challenge encourages wellbeing and an opportunity for us to pray together.”
Over the past eight weeks of lockdown, CYP has been proactive in keeping young people engaged and remaining positive during these difficult times. Youth leaders regularly meet to discuss the highlights and lowlights of their youth gatherings, they recently had a half-day retreat with seminarians from the Diocese’s Holy Spirit Seminary, and they are coming to the end of a photo-a-day challenge through Instagram.
Qwayne described that lockdown for her has been a challenge, but she hopes that the challenge will give people the motivation to dedicate time in their day to prayer.
“I’ve had moments of despair and frustration. [But] I’ve been able to find encouragement through the help of family and friends who remind me that God still calls me during this time in isolation,” she says.
“In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying my best to find ways to connect and offer spaces of prayer and conversation.
“This has moved me to build a routine of prayer because I know that I cannot offer what I do not cultivate and I pray that that is hope and joy during these times.”
To get the most out of the challenge, Qwayne recommends three things – do it with others, plan ahead and schedule the walking time in advance and find a way to document your experience, whether it be tagging Catholic Youth Parramatta on social media, or sharing their experiences in a Facebook group that is to come.
She stressed that despite the challenges we face in our lockdown lives, it is important to remain physically, mentally and spiritually healthy in these times.
“Human beings are relational beings. We know that we are not an island. Therefore, even in lockdown, we must strive to find ways to connect to help us see this through.
“Similarly, our bodies need to be taken care of – our bodies are gifts and so eating well and engaging in exercise will help our capacity to be present, work and serve under our current restrictions.
“It’s not easy, I know. That’s why we must be willing to reach out.
“Perhaps we can find consolation in knowing that we are not alone, that we belong to one another, and that during this challenge, we can offer up this time of great struggle to God.”
Register now for the 30 for 30 Walk with CYP Challenge by visiting https://parracatholic.org/cyp-30for30-walk/. Keep an eye out on the CYP Facebook and Instagram pages as they share people’s journeys and reflections.