By Paul Gray
The rural township of Goulburn in New South Wales is set to experience a Catholic youth takeover with 2000 pilgrims from around the world flooding in for a four-day forum before World Youth Day.
An international ecclesial movement, the Emmanuel Community, is organising the International Youth Forum for 1600 people in conjunction with the sole local parish in Goulburn.
The Forum will be opened by the new Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto.
Other diplomatic dignitaries will also mark the youth forum with their presence, in another sign of the developing international interest in World Youth Day and its related activities.
Those expected in Goulburn include Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia, who is coming to greet an expected cohort of Indonesian Catholic pilgrims, numbering around 40.
Goulburn is a 170-year-old township, 200 kilometres from Sydney. Its current population is about 22,000.
The youth forum will run from July 9-13. It is being organised along the lines of similar international gatherings organised by the Emmanuel Community during the approach to earlier World Youth Days.
Sydney lawyer and Emmanuel Community member Dominic Cudmore has been travelling extensively between the harbour city, Goulburn and Canberra in recent weeks to help with the extensive planning for the event.
He says World Youth Day and related events represent the community’s principal mission to the young. The group hosted 5000 young pilgrims at the last International Youth Forum, before World Youth Day in Cologne.
Organising for the Goulburn forum began informally in 2005 when a number of Emmanuel Community members met the parish priest of Goulburn, Fr Tony Percy, and found they had a common interest in holding such an event.
Fr Percy is shortly to become Rector of the Good Shepherd seminary in Sydney.
The Forum organisers are expecting 600 Dutch pilgrims and several bishops from the Netherlands to attend.
Others who have registered for the forum include Colombian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Brazilian and North American pilgrims.
The large number of pilgrims from the Netherlands reflects the fact that the Dutch bishops have chosen Goulburn as the principal Australian location for their youth to spend time before World Youth Day.
Overall, the forum participants, Cudmore says, will be just “ordinary kids” who are keen to come to World Youth Day. They range from members of the Emmanuel movement, to their friends, to young people who have “no allegiance” to any particular church group or tendency other than the Catholic faith.
Cudmore says during their days in Goulburn, pilgrims will have a “genuine experience of the Lord.” Activities will include adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, serious mission and evangelisation sessions, fun, entertainment and meals together.
Cudmore quotes the words of Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Mark Coleridge who has described World Youth Day as a combination of “prayer and party.”
Youth forum pilgrims will meet for their morning sessions at the Goulburn showgrounds and later in the day, converge on the park in the centre of the town in what will be a clear sign to all who see it that the Church today intends taking its faith on to the streets.
Already the World Youth Day cross and icon have visited the same park in Goulburn, with 2000 people attending in welcome.
Cudmore says such happenings highlight the stage that Catholic mission has reached in Australia. “I think the time has come to take it into the marketplace,” he says.
Cudmore says he’s confident, in light of experience from earlier World Youth Days, that good relationships will be built up in the long term between local residents and pilgrims who stay in Goulburn next month.
The Emmanuel Community was founded by Frenchman Pierre Goursat in 1976 and numbers more than 6000 committed community members worldwide. These include 140 priests and 120 seminarians.
At a global level, the Emmanuel Community also plays an important role in looking after the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre in Rome. This work is carried out under the aegis of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
The Emmanuel Community’s statutes were recognised by the Vatican in 1998, seven years after the death of its founder.
The Community consists of ordinary lay members, priests and consecrated lay persons. Australian members of the Community presently include one priest and one seminarian who is studying in Belgium.