The power to inspire: one pilgrim’s Encounter with faith

By Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Mission Team, 21 June 2024
Madeline Wade (far left) from St Columba's Catholic College, Springwood, with other World Youth Day pilgrims at Encounter, in Penrith. Image: CSPD/Supplied


Year 12 student Madeline Wade from St Columba’s Catholic College, Springwood, had the opportunity of a lifetime when she went to World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023. But coming down from the ‚Äėspiritual mountain top‚Äô straight into the busyness of life and school meant she didn‚Äôt have time to truly process or reflect on her life-changing experience. That was until she was asked to give a personal testimony almost nine months later at a new ‚ÄúEncounter‚ÄĚ event for our primary school students.

Held in mid-March, 3000 Year 6 students from 58 primary schools across the Diocese gathered in Penrith over four days to be formed in their faith and hear from teachers, parents, priests and other students like Madeline. This is her story:

My World Youth Day pilgrimage was one of the most impactful events in my life, shaping me in ways I couldn’t foresee.

Returning was a whirlwind. Three weeks away from school meant facing a barrage of assessments upon our return. I vividly remember immersing myself in studies, striving to catch up on missed material, grasp new concepts, and prepare for upcoming exams. It was a daunting task, but I found solace in the strength of fellow pilgrims. Together, we navigated the challenges, clinging to the shared desire to relive our WYD23 pilgrimage. Amidst the frenzy, reflection took a backseat.

In March, an opportunity arose for me and several others to share our experiences. We were invited to speak at Encounter – a fresh formation event – where we were tasked with shaping testimonies centred on our journey, particularly our participation in World Youth Day.

Madeline Wade (left) from St Columba’s Catholic College, Springwood, with her pilgrim group during the Diocese of Parramatta’s World Youth Day pilgrimage. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

I grappled with where to begin. Regret set in quickly for neglecting my diary, a promise unfulfilled amidst the excitement of pilgrimage. With apprehension, I delved into the guidelines provided by our leader, Qwayne, carefully shaping a checklist from which to structure my thoughts.

Yet, when I attempted to pen my testimony, I found myself at a loss. Turning to my photos and half-finished scrapbook, a flicker of confidence ignited within me. Soon, words effortlessly emerged.

What was meant to be a single-page testament turned into four, filled with reflections on my evolving faith and the transformative impact of World Youth Day. Despite my efforts to condense, my narrative overflowed, a testament in itself to the depth of my experience.

Public speaking had never been a challenge for me, yet the prospect of addressing 900 Year 6 students induced an energy of nerves. Nevertheless, as I stood before them, I drew strength from the conviction that my journey held the power to inspire. With each word, I felt a surge of confidence, reassured by the knowledge that I was not alone in sharing my faith.

Madeline Wade (third from left) and other pilgrims presenting their World Youth Day testimony at Encounter. Image: CSPD/Supplied

Central to my testimony was the profound realisation that emerged from my World Youth Day experience: an understanding that God indeed has a personalised plan for each of us.

Amidst the uncertainties of Year 12 and the academic pressures, this revelation served as a beacon of hope. Encounter provided not only an opportunity for reflection, but also a reaffirmation of my path and purpose.

In reconnecting with my WYD self, I found solace and direction for the journey ahead. Armed with newfound comfort and a renewed commitment to sharing my faith, I now embark on the next chapter of my life, trusting in God’s guiding hand.

This article was originally published in the 2024 Ordinary Time | Winter 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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