“Just do it!” “Take that leap of faith!” “You will definitely not regret it!”
These are some of the words of encouragement hundreds of young people from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains heard about journeying to World Youth Day.
With less than 12 months to go before departure, the Diocese of Parramatta celebrated its pilgrimage to the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, with an evening of music, dancing, prayer, encounter and Adoration at St John XXIII Catholic College, Stanhope Gardens.
In announcing the Diocesan journey to Lisbon via France, Spain and Italy, Qwayne Guevara – Manager, Catholic Youth Parramatta, and James Camden – Head: Mission Engagement, told the over 500 students, teachers, youth leaders, young adults and families that previous World Youth Day pilgrims described it as a “pivotal moment of their faith journey.”
“World Youth Day is one of those experiences where you think about what you’re going to do with your life, whether that be your profession or your vocation to any sort of religious life, whether it be marriage, single life or consecrated life – this is where it happens,” James explained.
“Seeing millions and millions of people come together for one reason, Jesus, literally changed the course of their lives,” Qwayne added.
One of those people whose life was changed through World Youth Day was the Diocesan Director of Priestly Vocations, Fr Christopher del Rosario.
“I’ve been to three World Youth Days – Sydney, Madrid and Kraków – and my highlight would have to be Madrid, because Madrid was where I heard God call me to be a priest,” Fr Chris told the audience.
“I wouldn’t be standing here, wearing this collar, without World Youth Day.”
Fr Chris then encouraged potential pilgrims to “take that leap of faith” and join the pilgrimage, saying “you don’t know how good it is until you are actually there.”
Fr Rob Galea: “We are called to share the love of Jesus with everyone”
Supporting the Diocesan World Youth Day launch was Diocesan favourite, Fr Rob Galea and the FRG Ministry team, who lead the audience in praise and worship, sharing with them the joy that is to love Christ.
In a modern take on the Prodigal Son, Fr Rob explained that it’s not just a biblical story, it’s the story experienced by humanity today.
“Sometimes we don’t understand just how much God loves us and how God has called us to His own, no matter how much we mess up, we are still children of God, and we need to, like the Prodigal Son, to make that decision to go back to the Father’s heart.
“If we really knew who God was, we wouldn’t be afraid of God. And if we really experienced the embrace, the hug of God, we’d be telling the world about it, because we would have experienced unconditional love.
“Are you ready to run to the Father? Are you ready to come back to the love of God?”
Students learn about what it means to be a pilgrim
Ahead of the World Youth Day Launch, the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Mission Team held a formation session for students and teachers about pilgrimage and how a pilgrim is encouraged to develop a closer relationship with God and others.
“Pilgrimages require us to move out of our comfort zones of what is comfortable and familiar,” the Mission Team explained.
“When we go away on holiday as tourists, we often expect to come back to our homes the same, but when we come back from pilgrimage, our home is quite different because we’ve grown in closer relationship with God and others.”
Students heard from previous school-based pilgrims about their experiences and what they were able to bring back to their schools and parish communities.
Blake Bano, youth ministry leader at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown and former student pilgrim, said World Youth Day gave him a great sense of finding himself, finding out who he is as a person and where he fits in to God’s plan.
Kayla Hernandez, university student and former student pilgrim, said that she was able to truly focus on her faith during World Youth Day and enjoy the new friendships she made. She also encouraged the students to stay open and curious whilst on the pilgrimage.
Isabella Plust, Religious Education teacher at St John Paul II Catholic College, Schofields, said that even if they are not travelling overseas, schools and communities can get involved in going on a pilgrimage. She recommended that people try and have a spiritual journey and take time away to spend time with God and deepen that relationship.
Youth leaders from 18 parishes also attended the launch to invite the young people to find out more about their local Catholic youth group and to reconnect following the disruptions of COVID.
One youth leader from Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill, which has three youth groups, encouraged young people in the Diocese to strengthen their faith through joining a group. “When you join with other young people of faith, you realise you’re not the only one,” she said. “Joining a youth group can be the start of something much bigger.”
Key information about the 2023 World Youth Day pilgrimage to Lisbon:
- Registrations are not open until October, however, you can express your interest to join the pilgrimage at parrawyd.org. This will keep you in the loop so that when registrations open, you will get the information.
- School students are encouraged to start talking to their parents and their Religious Education Coordinators or Directors of Mission at their schools.
- Parish young and young adults are encouraged to speak with their families and parish priests as their parish communities will be a pivotal part of their pilgrimage journey and formation.
- If pilgrims are serious, they should start saving and developing their fundraising strategies now. The Diocese of Parramatta will not be offering the Diocesan raffle for World Youth Day, so fundraising will be the responsibility of each pilgrim. Resources and strategies for fundraising will be provided by Catholic Youth Parramatta in the coming weeks.
- When registrations open in October, pilgrims can secure their place with an $800 non-refundable deposit. That will indicate your intention to go on the pilgrimage.
- The Diocese anticipates that the pilgrimage will cost between $8000 and $9000, all inclusive. Travel insurance will be additional, and Catholic Church Insurance will again create a World Youth Day policy option.
- If anyone is interested in being a small group leader, applications will open in October, with an interview process to follow. Group leaders must be willing to support young people in their formation over the next 12 to 18 months.
- Stay tuned for more World Youth Day Information Nights, run by Catholic Youth Parramatta, where there will be an opportunity to receive the latest details and an extended Q&A about the pilgrimage.
To find out more information about the Diocese of Parramatta pilgrimage to World Youth Day or to express your interest, visit www.parrawyd.org.
For parish and youth-based enquiries, contact James Camden, Head – Mission Engagement on email@example.com.
For school-based enquiries, please contact Andrew Wilson, Acting Head Mission, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta on firstname.lastname@example.org.
View images from the WYD Launch here or below: