WYD Panama: Australian pilgrims on key messages and key-rings

23 January 2019
Diocese of Parramatta pilgrims Len Lara and Jess Missio and Engagement Manager Adrian Middeldorp. Image: Vatican Media.


Pilgrims from the Diocese of Parramatta were interviewed by Vatican News. Read what they had to say below.

One of the young pilgrims in Panama for World Youth Day is Adrian, the Communications Manager of Australia’s Parramatta Diocese, who chose to embrace the life of a pilgrim this week, over the screens he’s otherwise dedicated his life to.

Adrian, who does not live “just around the corner,” explains why rather than take advantage of the screens that come with the social media he works with, he decided to travel the 14,000 km from Parramatta, Australia.

“These moments,” explains Adrian, “enable us to experience cultures in a way in which we’ve never experienced them before.”

No screen can offer a hug

Adrian tells Seán-Patrick Lovett about why he believes Pope Francis chose the theme for the 2019 Communications Day to be “Online communities to human communities.”

It is precisely this WYD “unique experience,” he says, that creates the connections that social media is reducing. Though social media creates “a certain form of connection,” it is increasingly doing the opposite: disconnecting people.

“You see fights break out online,” says Adrian. The human interactions like those experienced here in Panama help you to “understand what the person really means… the nuances,” which he says are so often lost.

This “interpersonal communication” is something that “social media just doesn’t offer.” Perhaps this is what Adrian is referring to when he says that coming to Panama “gives you the ability to put our arms around each other.”

Happy and hoppy

Accompanying Adrian is a group of young people, and as the pilgrim tradition states, they too brought gifts from their hometown to exchange with other pilgrims.

For one member of the group, their gift has already created unforgettable memories. He talks about “a man standing outside the Church, saying ‘skippy’ and ‘hoppy’.”

It’s the joy that the local man got from receiving the 5 cm kangaroo keyring – (“Skippy.. otherwise known as Kangaroo”) and the way in which “his eyes lit up, and he began to hop” – that this young Australian will never forget.


With thanks to Vatican Media and Francesca Merlo and Seán-Patrick Lovett, where this article originally appeared.


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