On the 8th of July 2008, a group of 11 of us began our pilgrimage to the other side of the world – Destination Sydney! We also had the pleasure of spending a week in Melbourne enjoying days in the Diocese. There are no words to fully explain to anyone reading this article just how magical and enriching the experience of WYD was for each of us. Our group was full of spirit and abounding with energy. I can honestly say we smiled and laughed for most of our two weeks in Australia….we absorbed the immense atmosphere around us and felt energised in all that we did.
At the very beginning of our time out there we constantly used the phrase ‘we are pilgrims not tourists’ as this was something very important to our group (and was often said in a light hearted manner). We wanted to get 100% out of the WYD experience, to walk closely with one another and Christ. And so we kept Christ at the centre of all that we did!
We were amazed at the friendliness of the people in Sydney and Melbourne; we felt welcomed everywhere we went (especially when we were luckily upgraded to first class flying to Sydney!! ). I felt inspired, even as a young person who often finds it hard to live out my faith joyfully. We came across thousands of other young people like ourselves from all over the world, who would stop and talk with us. Making friends with so many different nations, it was wonderful to see young people across the globe unite in their faith – something truly spectacular and mind blowing!
As a Salesian group we stayed in two wonderful Salesian schools (we did have the odd moan about classroom floors and cold weather, but it all added something special to the experience). It was amazing to meet so many other Salesians from around the world. Together we enjoyed two wonderful Salesian family days, joyfully sharing our faith in celebration and laughter. I remember looking around a hall of 1000 young people gathered in Don Bosco’s name, and imagined him to be looking down on us with the biggest smile. We sang, ate, prayed, played games and watched each country perform a signature dance appreciating the vibrancy and variety of cultures.
During our experience we were able to do some touristy things, such as visiting Bondi Beach, the Zoo and the Aquarium, and took a wonderful dinner cruise. Among the most significant parts of our pilgrimage were the huge services: the commissioning mass, the Pope’s Arrival and the WYD mass. These were celebrated with an atmosphere of excitement, joy, laughter and sincere reverence. It was truly out of this world to celebrate mass with thousands of young people at Randwick racecourse, and we came within inches of the Pope.
The scripture that accompanied many pilgrims on their journey was “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses”. Looking around the fields of people celebrating one faith with our Holy Father was immense, I feel that I received the power of the Holy Spirit, am invigorated and re-energized in my faith, and have complete confidence and joy to be a witness of God’s great love for each individual. I want to thank the group that I went with for their joy and laughter, and also the Salesians for their support for such a life changing experience. I can never fully explain how it feels to be part of something so huge. I can only encourage you to experience WYD for yourselves. See you in Madrid!