Young people from across the Diocese of Parramatta demonstrated how strongly they value faith and community as they joyfully walked 23 kilometres on the annual Catholic Youth Parramatta Good Friday Night Walk.
The pilgrimage, open to young people and their families across the Diocese, stops at six local Parishes, starting at St Patrick’s Church, Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown and finishes at another St Patrick’s – our Cathedral in Parramatta.
From the offset, pilgrims expressed how excited they were to see over 500 young people coming together from all areas of the Diocese. Rebecca Reynolds, a parishioner from St John XXIII Parish, Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, was assisting on the registration desk. She told Catholic Outlook that “it was really cool to see people of all different parishes, ages and schools joining together to journey with each other through Good Friday and to journey with God as well”.
Before beginning their pilgrimage into the night, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, blessed the pilgrims, sharing his joy at participating in the pilgrimage after a few years of disruption due to the pandemic.
“The Walk reminds us of the spiritual journey through life that we embark upon together. Pilgrimage requires a sense of surrender, because you have to step out of your comfort zone, your familiar home ground. You are venturing into someone else’s territory, and you need to be open to their hospitality and avail yourselves of the goodwill of others,” he said.
“This evening, as we walk, we realise that we are not complete in ourselves, we need the companionship of others, and we need to be open to the reality around us and to participate intentionally in the journey. That way, even if there are obstacles along the way and moments of difficulty, we can overcome them together.
“Be on your way knowing that God is our companion and that on this journey, we can grow, and we can, together, be a force for good in the world,” he said.
The theme of journeying together as the people of God spoke to many young pilgrims. Throughout the night, Catholic Outlook had the opportunity to speak with several walkers about their experience.
“It’s so beautiful and encouraging to see the amount of people out here doing this,” said Jasmine Lindley, a first time-pilgrim, who had been invited to the pilgrimage by a friend and fellow parishioner.
She added, “every one is here to support each other, united under one common purpose – we are all reflecting on what Good Friday means and the love of Christ for each one of us which is really cool.”
Among the hundreds of pilgrims were several student pilgrims. Joseph, Jonathan and Jacob from Parramatta Marist High School, Westmead, told Catholic Outlook they were also drawn to participate because of its sense of community.
“I decided to join the Walk because I feel a lot more connected to my faith and coming into this spiritually connected time of Easter, it’s a great event to sacrifice our night to get a snippet of what Jesus felt carrying the cross to Golgotha,” Joseph said.
Jonathan added, “our school preaches community and doing a lot together. It’s really important that we can share this with young people in our community, talking to them and sharing our common faith and spirituality with each other. As we all walk and pray together, we can learn that we connect with him in our own ways, but we all have a similar connection through the Divine Love of Christ.”
Jacob explained, “as a first-timer, I was a little unsure about it, but I’m participating with a group from my school and we all have a connection with our faith and with God, and it’s really bringing us together as one family.”
Christ our cornerstone
When the pilgrims were not walking, they were invited to participate in a time of prayer and reflection at each of the six local Catholic parishes on the way. At each stop on the pilgrimage, young people from local youth groups led pilgrims to reflect upon Christ’s passion. These moments of reflection were inspired by the theme of sacrificial love, taken from the Bible passage John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”.
As the pilgrims arrived at each station they were welcomed by a time of reading, prayer, re-enactment, testimony and music. For some pilgrims, it was the musical elements that helped them to consider the depth and beauty of Christ’s love. For others, it was the testimonies of faith that gave them a sense of solidarity with God, and their brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Meeting a bunch of new people and realising that they are going through similar things as you, the good and bad, is just special to know that you are with a bunch of people who are abiding with you in the faith and same storyline,” said Anne, a young adult attending the pilgrimage from St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill.
At 6am with sore feet, hungry stomachs and full hearts, pilgrims reached the final stop of their pilgrimage, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, welcomed by the beautiful aroma of bacon and eggs prepared by the parish community. Although many pilgrims were ready for a much-needed sleep, they were filled with a sense of gratitude to share this experience with so many other pilgrims.
When asked about what he will take home from pilgrimage, Joseph Hoffmann, from St Joseph’s Parish, Kingswood, said, “It’s good to see how big the Church is, sometimes it feels like it is just you and your parish or youth group and that there are not that many. However, when you are surrounded by 525 young people it really opens your eyes to see the size of the Church in Parramatta.”
The Church of the Diocese of Parramatta is alive, and the hearts of its young people are still burning with love for Christ and their faith communities. We thank all those who attended this year’s Good Friday Night Walk.
View images from the Good Friday Night Walk here or below: