World Youth Day (WYD) has come to an end, and our Maitland-Newcastle Pilgrims are now reflecting on their spiritual encounters both here in Portugal and in the Holy Land. They are tired but happy, and they have a lot of stories to share with their Parishes, Schools, and the broader community upon their return later this week. WYD is a global Catholic event that brings together young people from all over the world to celebrate their faith with the Pope. It is a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, and an expression of the universal Church. The theme of this year's WYD was "Mary arose and went with haste" (Lk 1:39), which is a call to young people to rise up and be the light of the world.
Our pilgrims arrived in Lisbon with a renewed sense of purpose. They had just spent one week in the Holy Land, where they had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. They were inspired by the sacredness of the Holy Land and the power of the Christian faith. WYD kicked off with an Aussie gathering of over 3000 pilgrims. Our very own Summer Harrison spoke about her time in the Holy Land. She was only one of four Pilgrims in Australia to be invited to share her reflections of her Pilgrimage. Summer's talk was inspiring, and it helped to set the tone for the rest of WYD. The first day ended with a welcome Mass in Parque Eduardo, presided by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Clemente.
Each morning of WYD, our pilgrims engaged in catechesis and had opportunities for prayer, reconciliation, and sharing their faith and Eucharist with Catholics from all over the world. They reveled in the opportunity to be alone with Jesus during these WYD experiences.
The Pope was welcomed to Lisbon on Thursday by excitable Pilgrims chanting ‘Esta es la juventud del papa!’ - this is the youth of the Pope. On Friday, we immersed ourselves in the Way of the Cross with Pope Francis.
During our formation sessions, a lot had been spoken about the Pilgrimage to the place of the Vigil. Batteling forty degree heat, some Pilgrims walked the entire 11km to Parque Tejo, whilst others, along with what seemed to be hundreds of thousands of Pilgrims, packed Lisbon’s metro to escape the weather. On arriving to our area, we found that there was not much reserved space left. As such, we were split into two groups for the sleep out. The WYD vigil and sleep out was a powerful and moving experience that was a highlight of World Youth Day. The Vigil on Saturday evening was a time to come together with Pope Francis in prayer and song, to reflect on our faith, and to prepare for the closing Papal Mass. The sleep out was a challenging but rewarding experience. One comment that was heard from various Pilgrims was “I was a little nervous about sleeping out on the hard ground but I do not regret it and I am so happy I did it!” On Sunday morning, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with over 1 million young people from all over the world. His message was clear: "No tengan miedo" - do not be afraid. He urged young people to be bold in their faith and to spread God's message to the world. The Papal Mass was a fitting way to end WYD. It was a time of great joy and celebration, but it was also a time of reflection and renewal.
As a Diocese, we should be very proud of our pilgrims who have represented the Diocese on the international stage with grace and dignity. They have shown the world the power of young people and the beauty of the Christian faith.
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