Saying ‘Yes’ to God post-World Youth Day

By Mary Brazell, 12 January 2024
Diocese of Parramatta World Youth Day pilgrims are seen during their one-month reunion in Blacktown in September 2023. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Over three weeks in July and August, 170 pilgrims from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains experienced the wonder and joy of the global Catholic Church at World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal.

As the six-month mark approaches since coming down from the ‘mountain-top’, we ask five young people how they are living the joy they witnessed at World Youth Day in the families, schools, workplaces and parishes.


Tony El-Ghossein

World Youth Day pilgrim Tony El-Ghossein. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Young adult pilgrim from St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill

I was blessed to meet someone in Portugal who taught me that the word ‘Catholic’ means ‘Universal’ in Portuguese and that Jesus is for everyone.

Living out the joy of WYD meant sharing the incredible experience of encountering Christ through others – in the workplace, amongst friends, and with family too. It is understanding that Jesus is for everyone and to not be afraid of sharing Him with those in need of hearing.

WYD has encouraged me to follow in the footsteps of Christ and look at how I can offer myself in sacrifice and service of others. It also challenged me to say “yes” to more opportunities in the Church, just as Mary responded with faith and brought forth the Saviour of the World.


Anna Todhunter

World Youth Day pilgrim Anna Todhunter. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Young adult pilgrim from St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens

Post-pilgrimage, I felt this emptiness that God was done with me. But we are always in the process of being transformed through His grace. God has not abandoned you. He is working on you, with you and for you.

I was praying in Assisi and felt convinced by the Holy Spirit to start a Bible reflection group for young women – I saw it as my contribution to the community. We accompany each other socially all the time, but I wanted to connect spiritually as young Catholic women.

Whether you are working on your interior or exterior life, in the words of Bishop Barron, waste time with God, because then and only then, will you find joy and peace which transcends all understanding.


Bryce Vinensig

World Youth Day pilgrim Bryce Vinensig. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Student pilgrim from St Luke’s Catholic College, Marsden Park

Before pilgrimage, I really struggled with trying to understand and discern what God is saying to me, what are my own thoughts and what do I want for myself.

Allowing WYD to be a transformative experience for me, I have found a greater appreciation for those reverent parts of Mass and Adoration where everything falls silent and discerning His word is all I can do.

I also have a much more eager mindset when it comes to serving God. I have made great efforts in having live music for our school Masses and events, encouraged students to be involved in the hymns we sing in prayer and use my musical talents to lead worship at Mass at Holy Family Parish, Emerton.

As Bishop Robert Barron said, “When you pray, silence all that is in your heart and mind, and whatever is risen in your heart is the voice of the Lord.”


Armani Barakat

World Youth Day pilgrim Armani Barakat. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Teacher pilgrim from St Monica’s Primary School, North Parramatta

It is our mission to live out the Gospel values. I strive for this every day. I prioritise my faith. I attend Mass every Sunday and morning weekday Masses before school. I find myself wanting to make time for the Church and I teach it with such passion.

Through this WYD experience, I formed connections with the mission leaders of Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese and in the wider diocesan community. As a teacher, I aspire to work closely with Catholic Youth Parramatta and our Parish Priest, Fr Ephraim, to bring our students closer to God.

I strongly believe that these relationships are of great importance, and I strive to enrich them through open communication, learning opportunities and prayerful experiences to build a synodal Church in the Diocese of Parramatta.


Mindy Mercado

World Youth Day pilgrim Mindy Mercado. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

Group leader from St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta

I practice mindfulness in my day-to-day life, which allows me to find my pockets of joy and, in turn, brings me back down to earth to remind me I am a child of God and all that we do is in and through our great and awesome God.

I practice gratefulness in thanking the Lord each time I see His goodness or have achieved something – for the day’s work meeting, for the strength to reach my steps goal, for the conversation I’ve had with a work colleague and for learning more about someone today.

I remind myself of the wisdom of St Thérèse of Lisieux – “Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.”


This article was originally published in the 2023 Advent and Christmas | Summer edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can read the digital version here or pick up a copy in your local parish.


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