Young Australian dancer set to perform in front of Pope Francis and millions of Catholics

By Mary Brazell, 13 June 2023
Dancer and parishioner of St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, Antonia Zammit. Image: Supplied


A young Western Sydney Catholic will have the opportunity to express her two biggest loves – dance and faith – at one of the world’s biggest stages.

19-year-old Antonia Zammit from St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, has been selected to be part of “Ensemble23” – a group of volunteer artists and performers that will be a central part of the upcoming World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal.

Joining over 40 people from around the world, Antonia will travel to Lisbon for six weeks of intense rehearsals ahead of World Youth Day Week, where she will perform in front of Pope Francis and millions of young Catholics during the Welcome Ceremony, the Way of the Cross and the Night Vigil.

Speaking to Catholic Outlook after receiving the news, Antonia explained that it hadn’t quite sunk in that she was going to World Youth Day.

“For as long as I remember, both dance and my faith have been two important aspects of my life,” she said.

“I was interested in attending World Youth Day as a pilgrim with the Diocese of Parramatta, but I wasn’t 100% sure. On Mother’s Day, I saw an ad pop up online calling for dancers and performers and I asked my mum whether I should apply, and she said there’s no harm in applying and to just go for it.

“It probably won’t settle in until I’ve hopped on the plane.”

Antonia has been dancing since she was five years old at her local studio and has learnt Tap, Jazz, Ballet and Contemporary dance styles.

Dancer and parishioner of St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, Antonia Zammit. Image: Supplied

Growing up in the Catholic faith, Antonia and her family have been hugely involved in the parish, which she described as her “second home and my second family”.

“It’s a chance to mix two big parts of my life,” she said.

“I think there’s a connection between faith and dance because you’re able to tell stories and express emotions through dance and maybe inspire somebody else through those movements.

“I wanted to share my gifts and passions through my faith with others at such an important event in another part of the world.

“This opportunity will allow me to experience new things whilst creating amazing memories with like-minded people from various parts of the world doing something we love.”

Antonia’s mother, Helen – a Regional Coordinator in the Diocese’s Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and one of the Diocese’s World Youth Day group leaders – was extremely proud of her daughter taking this leap of faith.

Antonia Zammit (left) with her mother Helen. Image: Supplied

“Antonia’s normally an anxious person, so this was a huge thing for her to go out of her way and apply for it. It’s a huge achievement for her to put herself out there.

“I’m so happy to be travelling to World Youth Day for my own faith journey, but it’s special that we’ll be able to experience some of it together.

“This experience is going to be so special for my faith and I hope she gets that same inspiration and she’s filled with the same spirit.”

The Diocese of Parramatta will be sending 170 pilgrims from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to World Youth Day in Lisbon, including 71 parish young adults, 48 students, 15 young teachers, 21 small group leaders from both parishes and schools and four chaplains.

Over 22 days and across four countries, young people will walk in the footsteps of saints who changed the course of history in a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual experience.

Throughout the pilgrimage, Catholic Outlook will be producing articles, photographs and videos to document the journey. To learn more about the Diocesan pilgrimage and to sign up to receive our daily WYD newsletter, please visit


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