By Joanna Lawson
Sixty eight Sudanese pilgrims will travel from Perth to Sydney for World Youth Day this month.
The pilgrimage, organised by Perth’s Catholic Mission office, will also highlight the plight of children in Sudan.
They have chosen St Josephine Bakhita, an African slave who was canonised by Pope John Paul II, as their patron.
They are being led by Perth Priest Fr Albert Saminedi, chaplain to African Catholics for the Archdiocese.
To prepare for the event, the group has undertaken a program of spiritual formation, including prayer meetings and celebrating the Journey of the Cross and Icon.
The group is made up of members of the African Catholic Community in Perth, who come from Bedford, Mirrabooka, Girrawheen and Morley.
Named after St Bakhita, the first Sudanese to be canonised, the group will undertake a 15 day pilgrimage, starting out in a convoy of buses and visiting regional communities along the way. The trip will take in Kalgoorlie, Port Augusta, Poochera, Adelaide, Mildura and Wagga Wagga before culminating in the festivities of World Youth Day.
The trip will also mark a reunion of sorts for the group. “They’re excited that Cardinal Wako of Sudan (see story below) and youth are coming from their country,” said Fr Saminedi. When they return, the group are eager to evangelise their adopted home of Perth.
“They will share the message of the Holy Father and the Church,” said Fr Saminedi. The festivities do not end there for the African community.
Fr Saminedi invites all parishes to come and listen to the world’s first Sudanese Cardinal make a series of presentations on the Church in Sudan.
Cardinal Wako will visit Perth on July 23 (see separate story below). For many, World Youth Day is the long awaited event the Australian Church has been praying for, an opportunity to rejuvenate a nation which Pope Benedict XVI once called “moribund” in its faith life.
In other parts of the world, in countries where the faithful are vilified and still live in secrecy as Christians did in the Church’s infancy, love for Catholicism burns strong in the hearts of the young.
The youth of nations like Sudan live under conditions that most people would find hard to imagine.
The dangers of persecution or being kidnapped for recruitment as child soldiers are realities that young people have to face.
It is their faith in Jesus that sustains many and provides hope.
“The Church is the only hope for them,” said Fr Saminedi, adding that when the late Pope John Paul II visited Sudan there were several political prisoners, including priests, and he spoke on their behalf.
“The people have remembered that and have a great devotion to the Pope.”
The African community has a large number of parishioners aged between 15 and 35, and with that sizable demographic, having World Youth Day in Australia was an added blessing for their community in particular.
“Youth are very actively involved in the Church because for many of them without their faith and the Church they would have literally died” said Fr Saminedi.