Through pilgrim eyes

27 Aug 2008

By The Record

After World Youth Day was over The Record asked pilgrims to write about what they felt they got out of the
experience, or what made it special for them. See how our readers answered the call and what they wrote about being there…


















Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi pilgrims started an initiative at World Youth Day with our group of 22 which we termed Pilgrim Night Prayer.
Each night upon returning tired and weary to our accommodation in Marayong at about 12.30-1am we held a group gathering praising and thanking God for the challenges and highlights of the day.  Throughout World Youth Day we continued this prayer with our final group prayer in the airport lounge awaiting a flight to Perth on July 20.
We are lucky to have weekly contact with our group and continue Pilgrim Prayer every Thursday at lunchtime in the park across from our school or in the college’s Student Ministry office and our numbers are growing as other pilgrims hear of the group and come to spend time to support each other in the daily challenges of life.
As Jesus said in Matthew’s  Gospel: “Whenever two or more gather in my name I am there in their midst” and the Holy Spirit is certainly alive and active in our small group and flourishing within the community of Corpus Christi.
This time allows pilgrims to continue witnessing their faith and strengthening their awareness of the active presence and power the Holy Spirit has in their lives.
– Bernice Roche





Jeanette and Angela D’Castro’s story
It all began around Easter when I saw Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass in Rome and again when he visited the United States and celebrated Mass at Yankee Stadium.
These two events were the deciding factor for me to go to World Youth Day.
Not only did I change my mind and now want to go but I also managed to convince my sister to come with me.
What more could I ask then to share this experience with my best friend?
The only hiccup we had is that my brother and his family told us they were coming to visit.
So to try and satisfy both, we decided to go for the weekend.
Finally we arrived on July 18.
Sydney had certainly rolled out the red carpet weather-wise and the locals were extremely friendly and helpful. My highlight of the weekend was the evening Vigil where His Holiness led us in prayer.
A sea of candlelight and a feeling of peace and joy were expressed by all. It was wonderful to participate with people from all ages, cultures and backgrounds who share the same faith. Sunday’s final Mass was like icing on the cake.
My suggestion to people who question: Is this really for me? Will I fit in? Should I go? I would definitely say YES. We met some wonderful people along the way and it was a fantastic experience, a special time that I’ll never forget.


Matthew Peter O’Neill – Lake Grace pilgrim, Maria Regina Catholic Parish
World Youth Day 2008 was an amazing experience for me – much greater and more powerful than I expected. The atmosphere in Sydney was something you had to be amongst to believe, so much life and spirit from so many  different people, from all over the world praising the same God.
Walking among the pilgrims was an experience within itself, from joining in with smaller groups singing and praising in their foreign languages, to chanting ‘Benedetto’ in crowds of over 100,000 people.
Being at World Youth Day was a real eye opener to how strong our religion is, and there will be so many youth embrace our God and carry it on to the next generation.
To me, the week in Sydney felt like you were in a small country town, except for  being with a thousand times more people.
There was no hesitation walking up to a stranger and giving a hug, or having a chat.
It was hard to skip the “free hug” signs that so many people wore around Sydney I must admit.
The thing that made this whole experience so peaceful was the fact that everyone knew they were part of one family, and treated each other accordingly.
World Youth Day 2008 was so much more than I thought it was going to be, and I would definitely consider attending the next one. It has given me a great outlook on life, showed me where I want to be and how I want to live the remainder of my wonderful journey through life. 


Maria Lisa Hill
I want to thank all the organisers and volunteers who made World Youth Day so successful. The Leaders of our group from Personal Advocacy in our Parish, and the special people Leonie, Jocelyn, Alan and Patrick, who were so generous and caring throughout the Pilgrimage.
Since WYD I feel different and feel blessed and so lucky to be in the Group of loving people, come together as one, sharing happy and prayerful times, helping us to come closer to God in our hearts and touched by the Holy Spirit.
A special experience was with other young people from so many different countries and cultures, all united in our Catholic Faith and guided by the Holy Spirit. I felt so proud of my Catholic Faith.
Of course Our Holy Father’s presence was very, very special. The Closing Mass at Randwick was an occasion I will never forget.






Chris Andrews – Dianella
So many images are with me as I reflect on WYD which my husband and I had the privilege of attending as companions to a young woman, Stephanie.
Being a pilgrim, walking in a sea of people in perfect harmony, picking up our bags of food and sitting with the world eating their contents, exchanging small souvenirs with perfect strangers who felt like family, praying, living, singing, dancing together, accepting the help of volunteers who gave it with such love and care, experiencing the extraordinary liturgies and seeing our Church revealed to the whole world through them feeling the pride of that, listening to the wonderful teachings.
Above all we marvelled at the commitment of the young who walked the journey all week with such joyful and prayerful dedication.
As my husband and I stood in the grandstand on Saturday night after the evening prayers and looked across at the 400,000 youth of the world tucked up in their sleeping bags, sleeping in perfect safety and trust of one another, I saw the possibility of a new world where loving kindness and respect is the base from which all people come – wouldn’t that be wonderful.
We continue to pray for each and every one of those who were there that their dreams for our Church and our world come true and along the way may they be supported and respected as the future leaders of our Church and our world by all they encounter.
We heard from several sources that people who live in Sydney experienced “something in the air” over that week, those of no religious persuasion felt that something had changed and it was hard to put a finger on but it had the feeling of peace… as believers we know it was the Holy Spirit of Jesus alive and well amongst us.
When 400,000 people come together to pray, it changes the environment around us – prayer works!
An image that stays with me is that of three bishops standing down at Circular Quay eating icecreams chatting to the pilgrim youth of the world.
They were quite calmly eating their icecreams with their pink sashes and pink skull caps on and long black habits.
Many religious were doing the same thing being visible and accessible and it was wonderful to be there to see it.
The Vocations Expo was another example of how proactive our Religious were as they joyfully called out from their attractive stands to “come and see” and offered their advertising and gifts to encourage the young to Religious vocations.
Their friendliness and joy were infectious.
Finally congratulations to the World Youth Day Committee, the City of Sydney, the Archdiocese of Sydney, the many sponsors and businesses and all of those who supported the event from all over Australia and beyond. You did a wonderful job – the organisation was brilliant.
We couldn’t fault a thing.
God, you are awesome – your power was evident in everything.
All those who spoke in your name reached their mark – from Pope Benedict, through the catechesis teachers, through the liturgies, through the Stations and the Prayers, through the Religious and the lay, through the kindness of the organisers – we feel our Church is in good hands – a genuine encounter with Christ – Alleluia!


John Paul Collins –
St Patrick’s Katanning
Having been named after his holiness Pope John Paul II, who was the founder of WYD, I would have loved an opportunity to attend a WYD during his papacy and be able to feel his holy presence. 
Although I never had that opportunity I was lucky enough to be able to attend WYD Sydney along with a group of 12 from the combined parishes of Katanning/Kojonup in the Diocese of Bunbury. 
One of the special things about WYD for me was the contrast between the spiritual energy and atmosphere amongst the crowd for the opening Mass, papal arrival and the final Mass and then the sombre atmosphere of the Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoon. 
I thought that Australians could learn a lot from some of the other countries in attendance who were not shy about their love for the Catholic Church and their own faith – expressing their love in song, dance and fellowship.



Melissa Haydon
World Youth Day 2008 was an amazing experience and one of the special highlights was the vigil on Saturday night at Randwick Racecourse.
Through the misty darkness, the altar on the brilliantly illuminated stage could be seen, complete with a monstrance larger than the Holy Father.
As the beautiful ceremony commenced, thousands of candles lit up, tiny lights breaking the darkness.
When the chorus of the WYD theme song was heard, these lights swayed in time with the music, as their bearers sang away the chill of the night.
So many people, from ‘every nation and every tribe’, knelt together to pray and humbly adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
It was a very special experience to share with the Head of the Church on earth as well as thousands of other young Catholics.


Ally Gunnell
My name is Ally Gunnell. I’m a pilgrim. I`m deaf. I thought that I had lost faith. I hadn’t. It was just misplaced.  I arrived in Sydney airport seeing so many people. I had no idea what was in store for me.
Members of the Menai Aquinas College community and other pilgrims from other States and countries welcomed us. It was amazing to hear their experiences of their own parishes and to learn about their lives with God.
I saw Pope Benedict XVI at Barangaroo where he gave a very emotional service in many languages. It made me realise how many people have come here together to celebrate our faith, to celebrate life and to make many new friends.
Then on July 17 my journey with the others stopped, due to a blood clot in  my heart and lung. It worried me at first that I was going to miss out. The Pope visited the hospital I was in so I got to see the Pope twice. Close up. I look forward  to World Youth Day  2011.


Adrienne Downes
Perth based youth ministry, Youth Impact, was fortunate at World Youth Day to facilitate two catechesis venues in the Sydney CBD.
Catechesis was an opportunity for spiritual instruction and formation of the pilgrims prior to the Randwick vigil and closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI.
Nelle Caddy, a Youth Impact leader, said that for many of the pilgrims “it was one of their highlights. It made the experience a lot more personal and a lot more accessible being able to speak to bishops one on one.”
Catechesis ran over three mornings, each containing a Bishop’s presentation on a specific topic, question and answer time, Reconciliation and Mass.
This all being complemented with young people facilitating the sessions by adding music, personal sharing and lots of fun and interaction.


La Salle College
Twenty five La Salle College students and five staff members arrived at Bondi Beach on July 12 for an experience in their faith development and an opportunity to be part of a very special event.
Our first Mass in Sydney was held at St Patrick’s Parish in Bondi and a special welcome was given to all the pilgrims from around the world by Fr Tom.
Following the Mass, a special morning tea was organised by his parishioners where new friendships were made and talk of the excitement and experiences to come were shared.
During that week, we were all touched at some point of time by the Holy Spirit and the memories and experience will remain with us always. 


Matthew Hodgson – Pastoral Project Officer, Perth WYD Office.
There were many touching moments during my one-week pilgrimage to Sydney for World Youth Day.
Like most people, July 20 was a personal highlight, but not for the reasons that one would expect.
After the papal Mass had concluded, I still had one thing left on my to-do list for WYD08: a visit to the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
In August 2007, a friend and I had the opportunity to travel to Turin and visit his tomb for the first time.
This came at an interesting time, since it was still undecided if Pier Giorgio’s family would give permission for his body to travel down under for World Youth Day.
Many Pier Giorgio devotees and WYD organisers were praying hard that permission would be granted and there we were: standing in front of his chapel in Turin.
So of course, there could not have been a better time to get down on our knees and put this special request to our Heavenly Father.
Soon after we started praying, the cathedral cleaner spotted us kneeling at the gates of his chapel and in a moment of divine providence, unlocked the gates and invited us forward to pray with our hands on his tomb.
I have never prayed the Rosary as intensely as I did during those brief moments!
Fast forward 11 months to World Youth Day in Sydney and our prayers had been answered: the relics of Pier Giorgio Frassati were available for veneration in St Mary’s Cathedral.
There was a beautiful ambience inside the cathedral, truly befitting the “Man of the Beatitudes”.
The presence of the relics gave all pilgrims the opportunity to reaffirm their beliefs in the resurrection of the body and in the intercession of the Saints. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: pray for us!


Shannon Kyrwood
The whole journey for me started just after Easter 2007. I decided to convert to Catholicism so I started the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program at my parish. I have been attending St Thomas More, Bateman parish for about eight years now. My sponsor was my sister-in-Law Heather Cooper. I was baptised at Easter 2008 in my parish by Mgr Michael Keating.
For adults who are converting, Confirmation normally occurs at this time also. Not so for me.
I was asked by my parish if it was ok that they put my name forward for the chance to be confirmed by the Holy Father. I said yes, but I never actually understood the magnitude of what I was agreeing to. I was in for the ride of my life. The Vatican chose two people from each of the States/Territories in Australia and also 10 international pilgrims. I was one of the Western Australians chosen hence my Confirmation was held off until WYD. We all had to send off personal information/ID etc. to the WYD Head Office in Sydney as we needed to be accredited to be near the Holy Father. This was quite a long process as we needed Vatican clearance and also NSW Government clearance.
All of the Confirmation candidates chosen and their sponsors travelled to Sydney with their pilgrim groups. During our week in Sydney there were events organised for all to attend. We attended what we could but we also had rehearsals so we all knew what protocols had to be followed and where we were to sit/stand on stage. 
We had two events where we were up on stage – Saturday night for the Vigil Mass and then Sunday morning for the closing Mass. On the Saturday night Vigil, all of us were introduced and we were on stage kneeling in front of the Holy Father during the adoration of the Eucharist. Being in his presence was amazing but this was nothing compared to what was to come on the Sunday. That morning we were all confirmed by the Holy Father, all in a line with our Sponsors behind us. The Holy Father made the Sign of the Cross on our foreheads with the Oil of Chrism. This was very nerve-racking.
The aura around the Holy Father was incredible. It was very hard to keep it all together. It is really hard to explain what we were feeling at this time. You just can’t put it into words. The Holy Father has piercing blue eyes and he looked right into my eyes as he made the sign of the cross. I felt the Holy Spirit wash over me at this time and I got ‘goose bumps’.
Then to have to walk all the way back down to the bottom of the stage was really quite difficult. I just wanted to hug Heather for all her help and support throughout the whole journey but we had to stick to the schedule and get back down to the holding pod. Some people were crying as we were walking back down. I kept it together until I got down the bottom into our ‘holding pod’ and emotion exploded.
Everyone was congratulating each other, hugging, crying and talking about how we were feeling at the time. It wasn’t long after this that we had to walk back up onto the stage to receive Communion from the Holy Father.
We all received a Vatican-approved Communion slip that we had to keep on us at all times. Security was very tight during the whole week and only those with special clearance could get close to the Holy Father.
We all had to kneel to receive Communion from the Holy Father. This was a new experience for me as I have never knelt to receive Communion – I think this made it that much more special.
We walked back down to the ‘holding pod’ and watched the end of the Mass together. After it all finished we stayed around and got some photos of us all then we all headed our separate ways back to our pilgrim groups.
What an amazing experience WYD was. To top it all off I had my family there with me. My sisters travelled with me in my pilgrim group, my parents (who are not Catholic) and fiancé flew over from Perth and my in-laws (who live in Sydney) were able to get tickets to the Mass also. I got to experience this incredible event with friends and family who mean the world to me. What more could I have asked for?
The experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was very humbling for us all. It affected everyone differently which made it all that more special. We are now all friends who will keep in contact throughout the years as we have all shared an experience that none of us will forget.


Dane Ehrlich –
St Francis Xavier Parish, Armadale
What was my experience of WYD? To summarise such an important experience inevitably means leaving a lot out, however for me a summary is easy: WYD08 was the most profound and life-giving spiritual experience in my life so far.
I have always considered myself to have a strong faith, but the power of WYD for me was in changing myself rather than trying to change others.
The most important spiritual developments that I have made personally are a new respect and appreciation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of the power of prayer to positively affect your life.
I truly experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit during the entire WYD week but on a personal level the best experiences were from the Catechesis seminars I went to with my youth group.
There, we met the universal Church and saw what a wonderful diversity of cultures can reach out to praise and worship our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
I feel that in a special way everyone who went to Sydney got to experience the faith of the Church in action and it is truly awesome. I encourage everyone, young or young at heart, to truly consider the call to pilgrimage from the Holy Father. Go to Madrid for the next WYD in 2011, it will change your life.


Michael Evans – Holy Spirit City Beach
I had many concerns about WYD08  before attending, and none so festering as my fear that it would fail, not from terrorism or bad weather, but from apathy from those attending and from Sydney itself. 
The events that unfurled could not have proven this fear to be more irrelevant than if a bomb had exploded at a rain-soaked Randwick Racecourse.
The week provided an enormous variety of ways in which to explore the treasure of Catholic Faith.
But incredibly, no matter how many were around me or where my group was, I could experience the unifying love of Christ and it was this which daily took my, – and, I’m certain, Sydney’s – breath away, though not everyone may have recognised why.  
I felt the peak of this phenomenon occurred during Pope Benedict XVI’s presiding over the Saturday Evening Vigil: the crowd of hundreds of thousands on their knees, together in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, brought me to tears.
I have never felt so blessed, so loved, or so spoken to before; and these impressions were echoed again and again later by our group members from Holy Spirit, City Beach and other pilgrims.
I also realised how much I had to be grateful for; not only those who spent years organising the events at Sydney and around Australia, but for my fellow pilgrims, our parish and its priest Fr Don Kettle, my previous parishes and family, and all those who share our Faith, had all played a part in helping me reach WYD and made sure the event  reached me.


Peter Valega, Ukrainian Catholics
No one can actually explain to you what this is, if you have not experienced it yourself. No one can convey the emotions and experience they felt on a pilgrimage to one-tenth or even one-hundredth of its enormity. No one can tell you what it was like to go on a pilgrimage – only how it changed them.
There are many moments I could choose to define as the start of this event: The arrival of the Pope in Sydney for WYD. The 9.2km pilgrimage walk to Randwick racecourse for the vigil sleepout and final Mass. Our arrival in Sydney itself. The moment we set off from the Lozyk’s residence on the Malanka bus. The purchase of the bus itself. My journey to Rome for WYD in 2006 as part of the Australian delegation to receive the WYD Cross and Icon. The announcement that Sydney would host this  international WYD.
It’s not important. What is important is that each pilgrim was present, and they have grown from the experience. They have changed and they have also changed others. We sometimes see ourselves in isolation, and forget every single thing we do will impact others, like ripples from a pebble dropped into a still pond. I cannot fathom the lives of all those people I have changed, through my presence, my words, my participation and my frustrations. Simply through my being.
I hope I inspired goodness overall. I never knew what to expect; whenever I do, my expectations are generally proven wrong. I knew I would meet many people, old friends and new. I knew I would see the Pope. I knew I would get tired and cranky and jubilant and inspired, yet the details in how and why were unknowable. And the outcome I could not predict.
I saw many people grow. I saw my relationships change. I found a width and breadth of  experience that I had never experienced before. I saw community. I saw love. I saw challenges and I saw people – so many people, all unique and special. If I could have told every single person, I would have.
I heard beautiful singing. I heard new and interesting music. I heard inspiring words and speeches, and the chatter of pilgrims in many different languages. I heard complaints and suffering and excitement, which is what pilgrimage is all about.
I felt a million different emotions blurring together in a two-week journey that seemed like a  lifetime. I lingered and lapsed, I celebrated and cherished. I lost things and gained others. I am a wiser and fuller person for it. You can read the newspaper articles and speak to the people who were there, but you’ll see most strikingly the way each pilgrim has changed. It’s profound to observe, but so hard to do when you’re in the moment.
And if you’re reading this and wondering if you specifically had an impact on me, chances are you probably did. Actually, I can pinpoint the beginning of this pilgrimage: our journey began at the moment God Himself conceived each and every one of our existence, and it shall end when we are reunited with Him once more. World Youth Day was merely an event on this journey.


Personal Advocacy on pilgrimage
Personal Advocacy Service, an archdiocesan agency that works towards the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities into the life of their local church communities, stepped out recently into a brave venture by arranging its own group of ‘pilgrims’ to attend World Youth Day in Sydney.
Nineteen young pilgrims with intellectual and other disabilities, each accompanied by their own ‘companion’, were part of a group of 42 that set out to see the Pope.
Despite the 29-hour delay in departure time that was reported in The West Australian, this group showed extraordinary patience and maintained their enthusiasm for taking part in all that they could during their time in Sydney.
We watched Nick Palmer, one of our young pilgrims, take part in the Presentation of Gifts at the Opening Mass celebrated by Cardinal George Pell at Barangaroo.
To find ourselves sitting amongst 150 000 people, all gathered to celebrate our faith together, with flags waving from 168 countries around the world was a remarkable experience.
Just as remarkable was the experience of friendship, fun and faith being shared together on the streets of a great city such as Sydney over these few days.
While some of our pilgrims were limited in verbal capacity, language barriers simply did not matter as people greeted each other, smiled, shook hands and exchanged badges. In spite of obvious limitations with wheelchairs and other disabilities, our pilgrims were overwhelmed by the acceptance offered to them by so many strangers who simply saw them as people.
What were the highlights? For a couple of pilgrims such as Melanie and Amanda, it was an opportunity to see Guy Sebastian and join in singing the WYD song with him and 400 000 others at the final Mass at Randwick.
For Danny and Peter, it was ‘seeing the Pope’.
For Nicole, Maria-Lisa and Stephanie, it was meeting their former teacher, Mike Penhaligon, who was there with his own group of pilgrims from Corpus Christi College, and getting a hug.
For Kiro, the highlight was simply ‘the people’. Not just the huge crowds gathered each day in Sydney, but the experience of being part of our own special community, sharing time and space together at our campsite at Wanawong, on the southern edge of Sydney.
For Greg, one of our pilgrims’ companions, “The best part for our friends was being able to soak in the atmosphere and the spirit of friendliness that was just there amongst the crowds”.
Coming together like this showed that we are all part of an on-going story that has been celebrated for 2000 years, and that ‘together we are strong.’
Our 18 months of preparation for this venture now seemed well worthwhile.
Amanda’s question lingers: ‘Why can’t people be like this all the time?’


WYD experience with Morley and Leederville
“WYD Sydney was, for me, an opportunity to experience  commitment to Christ lived and practised by  thousands of people as they sang, prayed and shared together.
I attended with an enthusiastic group of young students and workers connected with the Morley and Leederville parishes.
The walking between venues extended the sense of pilgrimage and  journey – we are all on our way but there are many paths, just as there are many rooms in the Father’s house.
The excitement was evident everywhere – among the  pilgrims, the volunteers and the numerous local people we encountered.
My lasting memory is of the happiness, joy and peace of that week. My challenge is to continue this in my daily life.”
Sister Frances Hayes PBVM  



Silvina Scarfe with US Catholic musician Matt Maher.


Silvana Scarfe, 19 –
Catholic Youth Ministry Perth
For me, WYD was an experience of the heart. I came to realise that it is not places or things that make a deep impression on one’s life, but rather those special people God brings into your life at particular moments.
I experienced this profoundly at the Fr Stan Fortuna (rapping priest from the Bronx, New York) and Matt Maher (contemporary Catholic music artist) concert organised by the Franciscan Friars at Bondi Beach on the Wednesday of WYD.
During Matt Maher’s performance he ministered to all those present and testified to God’s love – during the testimony, a pilgrim I had not yet met took my hand in his and held mine in a gesture of fellowship.
I began to cry and feel God’s Love at such a profound level that I let go of anything that had previously prevented me from submitting my all to Him.
Through this, God showed me during the remainder of WYD the great joy in being a gift of self to others – by just being there when another pilgrim experienced physical pain, emotional anguish or the awesome love of God and witnessing the Holy Spirit at work through the weaknesses and self-doubt of young pilgrims journeying to WYD.


Spanish pilgrims
During the recent lead-up to World Youth Day, Perth was privileged to play host to many pilgrims on their way to Sydney.
Our parish of Our Lady of Grace in North Beach was especially blessed to host 30 wonderful pilgrims from Spain. 
Most of the group came from or live near a beautiful little Spanish town close to the Portuguese border called Tuy. 
The town of Tuy is also the birthplace of our own Bishop Rosendo Salvado and so the call to see the peaceful town of New Norcia was what drew the Spanish pilgrims to break their long journey in Perth.
The group marvelled at the treasures carefully housed in the Museum and strolled with awe among the stately buildings of this unique town but, their biggest pleasure from the trip seemed to come from an impromptu meeting with the only remaining Spanish Monk – the 97-year-old Dom Paulino Gutierrez. 
They regaled him with some beautiful Spanish folk songs which were sung with so much energy and love. We could certainly learn a lot from our Spanish amigos about taking time to appreciate the important things in life. 
I know that I am definitely richer from the experience of hosting these deeply spiritual and friendly people and I hope that one day soon, our paths will cross so that our journeys continue together.
I think that the impact this special group of people has had on Australia can be beautifully summed up by a recent email I received from one of the Pilgrims:
“If you imagine that 2000 years ago a bunch of fishermen, totally unskilled and poor guys changed the world… why not us the same of course with the help of the Holy Spirit. For that Mission we count also the prayers of all our friends from Australia, we are not alone and we are not isolated and old fashioned people like many people try to show us, like Catholics in the third millennium… we need to be united in prayer and in confidence with God and we can be sure that we can change the world – in fact we have already started to do it.”


Alison Atkins
By Sylvia Defendi
AFTER missing the Opening Mass of WYD08 and shopping for shoes instead, Alison Atkins experienced a life-changing moment.
“We are so lucky to have experienced this in our lifetime and in our own country,” Alison Atkins said to me during World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney.
It was a far cry from Alison’s first WYD experience which she describes as “indifferent”.
Now an employee of the Thomas More Centre in Brisbane, Alison decided to attend WYD in Rome in 2000 after being made redundant when two insurance companies merged. “I didn’t care who the Pope was and used my redundancy payment to go to Rome,” she said.
“I was with a group of 400 from Melbourne and someone said if we run three blocks we can see the Pope passing in the street. I was indifferent to him and then I saw him and it was electric. 
“He captivated me and I started studying the faith. The more I knew the more I loved it and the more I studied.”
Alison then went to study at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family.
Now more of a ‘big sister’ to the new wave of pilgrims, Alison said she hopes to witness a major resuscitation that will not stop.
“We haven’t given up on youth and Christians in this country.
“I saw what happened to me after WYD and I’m excited that what happened to me will happen all over Australia.”
Already in her home city of Brisbane, 20,000 youth converged in the city centre on July 12 for Days in the Diocese in the days leading up to WYD. Now Alison and those she works with are in Sydney to connect with Brisbane youth and bring the benefits of WYD back to their state.
“I can’t stand the idea of enjoying WYD and then letting its message slip,” she said.
The challenge now, she says, is to let the youth of Australia know that the movements of the Church and enthusiasm they experienced here at WYD is available in their own back yard.


Our Lady of the Rosary
Doubleview parish pilgrims
This was a monumental experience for all of us. We stayed at the Dominican Girls’ College in Strathfield which was a 20-minute train ride west of the city of Sydney. Each day was separated into three parts: a three-hour catechesis session at the church involving a lecture from a guest bishop, question time, Adoration and Mass.
The second part of the first day involved the Opening Mass by Cardinal George Pell, followed on the following days by the papal welcome to Pope Benedict XVI and Stations of the Cross.
We were lucky to get within five metres of the Pope as he travelled through the crowd.  The third part of the day was a festival in Darling Harbour.
WYD was not a holiday, it was a pilgrimage. There was nothing so affirming as seeing thousands of people who shared the same faith trying to live it out all together in one huge area.
There’s nothing quite like hearing the sound of nearly half a million people completely silent after Holy Communion at Randwick. You really would have had to experience it to understand it.
Thanks very much to Stephanie, Annie and Patrick van der Moezel, Ben Jacobs, Errol Lim and John Mordini.


Julieanne Simmons
What a wonderful experience it was to have our pilgrim Britta stay with our family and for us to be involved with such a great group of young people.
The Schoenstatt pilgrims really were appreciative of all that the parish and host families put together for them. Sr Marion, Fr Lukas and Fr Helmut are great role models. 
I am sure there have been some life long friendships made during this short visit. 




Jade and Taryn Mohen
A 12-hour delayed flight and a mix up with our accommodation was not enough to discourage the excitement of a group of 15 young teachers heading to Sydney for our very first experience of WYD.
We were completely amazed by the gathering of young people that were all there for the same reason and beliefs. We hit the streets of Sydney with our WYD lanyards and bright orange and yellow backpacks, feeling completely part of this beautiful event. It was a true privilege to share and learn more about our faith with young people from all countries.
After a week of catechesis sessions, the Stations of the Cross truly moved us and brought many to tears. The culmination of the week was the pilgrimage walk across the bridge and the sleep-out. During the final Mass, the Pope gave us an inspiring message of trust, hope and dreams – something that we brought home with us and will continue to share with our friends and students. 


Livia from Flame Ministries
As Flame Ministries International, we attended World Youth Day 2008 with little knowledge or expectation of what we were about to embark on.  
It was a journey for each of us personally and as a Ministry united in Christ and moved by the Holy Spirit.
Running our catechesis venue at Holy Family parish in Menai was an experience that will remain with us forever.
Remembering the enthusiasm of the pilgrims, God working through each of us and wonderful talks given by the bishops, really emphasised that we were One Body, one family, the Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit and a witness to the love that Jesus Christ has for each and every one of us.
Performing the Freedom album at Tumbalong Park on the Thursday night festival was just as exciting.  Pilgrims flooded the park, embracing their Faith and sharing it with the whole world just as we were through our music.
We enjoyed the crowd singing along with our songs and dancing in the park.  Without shame or reservation we proclaimed what we all lived for, Jesus Christ.








Joyful expectation: Nicholas Palmer, fourth from right, back row, waits with international pilgrims to greet Cardinal George Pell.


By Anthony Barich
A six-hour delay and a flight cancellation before even getting to World Youth Day was all washed away when Swan View youth Nicholas Palmer got to shake hands with the most senior Catholic in Australia.
Nicholas, 26, was one of 42 representatives of Personal Advocacy who were stranded with The Record’s two reporters at Perth domestic airport on July 12 before the flight was eventually cancelled after waiting six hours for what was reported as engineering problems to be sorted out.
While The Record’s journalists managed flights the next morning, shifting the collective flights of 42 people proved more tricky, and Qantas put them up overnight.
But the trouble wasn’t over.
They were sitting on the plane waiting to take off the next day when Qantas told them the pilot had flown too many hours and could not fly.
They were stranded in Perth another day. Nicholas’ date with Cardinal Pell in Sydney was less than 48 hours away.
That night one of the 19 young people with intellectual disabilities who Personal Advocacy assisted in getting to WYD slipped over and required four stitches in their head at Royal Perth Hospital and missed their trip to Sydney.
When they finally arrived it was all downhill from there. WYD provided adequate facilities for the care of people with intellectual disabilities, and the pilgrims – helpers and leaders as well as the youth with disabilities – had a ball.
Nicholas’ job was to bring the chalice which would soon hold the blood of Christ after the consecration by Cardinal George Pell and hundreds of concelebrating cardinals, bishops and priests at the opening Mass at Barangaroo, a disused shipping port in East Darling Harbour.
When the time came, he processed up with several representatives from other countries dressed in their traditional uniforms (see photo). After he presented the gifts to Cardinal Pell, he added a personal gesture – offering the Archbishop of Sydney a handshake and saying: “Hi, my name’s Nick Palmer from Perth. How’s it going?”
Without blinking, the cardinal happily shook Nicholas’ hand and offered a similar remark, and the Swan Christian College café kitchenhand made his way back down the stage, happy as Larry.
“He was really nice; I’m really happy. It was a great experince,” Nicholas later told The Record back at his Swan View home, where he lives with his parents Terry and Ann.
Later in the week, Nicholas and his parents slept in the function room in the grandstand, allocated for people with intellectual disabilities and others, before the final Mass on July 20, when Pope Benedict XVI announced Madrid as the next WYD in 2011.
“The service and help in Sydney was very good – people involved in the rail, trains, police and volunteers gave us lots of assistance,” Terry said.
“Sometimes it was a challenge to find out what services were available, but there was a free taxi service for people with disabilities based at the Hilton Hotel where we stayed.
“At the main events we were looked after. We had chairs and it was an area near the toilets, which is important.”
While some people from his local parish had been to WYD before, Terry says there’s a difference between hearing about it and actually walking and talking with people at the event.
“Even lining up for coffee in Sydney we got talking with a lady from a Sydney school who managed to be on the boat with the Pope, and how great that was for them,” Terry said.


Reflections on World Youth Day from Mercedes students
By Steph Lam
World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney was something that I didn’t expect to be as wonderful and amazing as I experienced it.
The fun and joy of expressing our Christian faith, I learnt, was and is not something to be ashamed or embarrassed of but to be proud of.
To be able to celebrate it with many thousands of youth around the world is amazing.
No words can describe the atmosphere shown through World Youth Day.
Each day was filled with waking up to a lively city and experiencing different ways of expressing your Christian faith from three days of catechesis, prayer vigils, many masses and meeting new people. I remember just walking along the street and someone from another country would just yell out “Hello!” or, “Hey, where are you from?”
It made me feel lucky to be part of our Christian faith to belong and to be someone part of it and not someone just looking on.
“You will receive the power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses” [Acts 1:8].
Every person at this event has received the power and looking upon the hundreds and thousands of people we truly were witnesses of the Holy Spirit in every one of us.
World Youth Day was an event to never forget and I will always cherish the memories that came with it for the rest of my life.

By Annabel Seow and Bonnie Power
The highlight of our experience was when we were literally metres away from Pope Benedict XVI.
In the morning after the camp-out on the racecourse, Bonnie’s mum told us to go and get hot chocolate. Unwilling, we walked to the other side of Randwick Racecourse and queued in line. 
We started to walk back when we noticed that nobody seemed to be moving.  We ran up to the front of the fence only to find a volunteer saying that the racecourse was in ‘lock-down’ mode so nobody could try to harm the Pope whilst he was entering the race course. 
We tried to explain that our parents were on the other side but we still were not allowed through.  Suddenly loud cheering erupted from close by and there the Pope was driving in front of us and waving. 
It was amazing to be so close to the Pope himself.

By Kin D’Silva
My experience that I have obtained from World Youth Day will stay with me for the rest of my life. Witnessing thousands of people praying, singing and openly expressing their faith proudly, was in itself experiencing Christ. I met so many great people from different parts of the world, and the fact that we were all there for the same reason, left me with a sense of belonging.
Before I attended World Youth Day, one question kept playing on my mind: Could I actually receive the power from the Holy Spirit to become a better child of God?
Since I already thought I was a strong Catholic, it didn’t occur to me that I would experience anything so powerful to change me spiritually anymore. I was wrong.
I returned home feeling stronger than usual and so proud to be part of such a beautiful religion. I proudly share my experiences with others, explaining my unforgettable spiritual journey, which has had an impact on a number of people, who wish to receive what I received.
I believe that the people who attended World Youth Day, were chosen for a reason. In the famous World Youth Day song, “Receive the Power”, there was one sentence that stood out to me the most. “Receive the Power, to be a light unto the world.”
From this, I believe it was a message for those people who attended World Youth Day, to return home in a different state of mind as an instrument of Jesus, filled with Graces from the Holy Spirit to help others realise the importance of our faith. I am so thankful that I  had the opportunity to go to World Youth Day, as it has definitely benefited me in so many ways and I feel like a different person.

By Alyssa Ferrante
“You will receive the power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses.” – Acts 1:8
World Youth Day was truly a life changing experience and a memory that will stay with me forever.
Every Mass, prayer, vigil and catechesis class taught us all to look for the Holy Spirit and to come closer to God. We all did receive the power and felt the Holy Spirit come upon us as a whole group.
The opening Mass and final Mass at Randwick racecourse was a wonderful experience. Seeing hundreds of thousands of youth from all around the world, coming together to worship and be with God was an experience that I will never forget. It was amazing hearing the Mass, the prayers and even waking up to people singing in different languages. It made me realise how many different people had come from all over the world to come together to celebrate this one event.
The lyrics of the World Youth Day song say that “Every nation, every tribe, come together to worship You.” and this is what had happened throughout the whole World Youth Day week. We were all together as one.


St Matthew’s parish, Narrogin
St Matthew’s parish sent 20 young people to Sydney on the WYD pilgrimage to share Mass with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.  This journey was not just the three-hour walk to Royal Randwick, but the 18 months of preparation, fundraising and community building that took place. 
Our group made themselves proud through many efforts which brought our faith community together, including other denominations and members of the town.  We had a quiz night, Christmas pork dinner, chocolate raffles, wood raffles, cake stalls, crutching days, catering for events, mulesing days, and many more.  
Through our hard work and commitment to the Church, we were able to raise around $35,000, which was enough to support our young people in their accommodation and life-transforming experience of World Youth Day. 
We are truly indebted to our parish community and will repay the favour by sharing our experiences and renewed enthusiasm with them. 
This will be through our participation in the Church’s ministries and setting an example for the younger generation to show what they can do by being part of the universal Church.  We want to share with people that the Church is well and truly alive and that we must be witnesses to the Holy Spirit, and spread the good news and never be ashamed of who we are and what we stand for because Jesus loves us all very much.
We are going to step in and take active roles in helping our Church grow.  We must join the different ministries and encourage others to do so to ensure the growth and development of our Parish.
Catechesis sessions were real eye opener to our young people to clarify their faith issues and offered an awareness to see how God works in the lives of the people and how God loves and cares for each one of us individually. Catechesis began in the morning with prayer, song, teaching, questions and discussions and concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist and lunch.  It was wonderful to hear from bishops and about the ordinary lives of the people.  We saw how God touched and transformed them through the pains and struggles of their lives.
WYD is about gathering the young people of the world together to contemplate the face of Christ and His Church and celebrating our common faith that builds bridges of friendship and hope between continents, peoples and cultures.
The WYD theme, “be my witnesses” highlights the promise made by Jesus to set fire upon the Earth by the power of the Holy Spirit which inspires the pilgrims who come to Australia, to believe and be a witness to Him. 


Corpus Christi College Education Support Centre
Three students from Corpus Christi College Education Support Centre attended the 2008 World Youth Day activities in Sydney during the July holidays. Nathan Hughes, Kellie Jones and Courtney Rochford with three carers, Mr Penhaligon, Mrs Marini and Mrs Basley, attended most of the activities on offer.
One of the exciting moments was realising that we were going to travel on the same boat as the Pope was going to use to get to Barangaroo for the Papal arrival.
The three students actually got to meet a Captain Cook look alike before seeing the sights of Sydney. All of the students had their own very special memories. Courtney’s finest memories were firstly of the trip to Sydney – she needed to be brave because she was leaving her mum and dad. She was very excited about the Pope arriving on the same boat as we had travelled on earlier in the week. The highlight for her was the Papal arrival at Barangaroo and the concert on the Tuesday evening when her “Idols” Guy Sebastian and Damien Leith entertained us.
Kellie’s fondest memories were receiving a personal wave from the Pope whilst we were stopped at some traffic lights. She loved the boat trip, especially the food and the scenery, and was very excited to see the Pope arrive on the same boat for the Papal arrival via the Boatacade!!!  Kellie also said it was great to see and hear Guy Sebastian and Damien Leith singing songs for us in the evening.
The best memory for Nathan was the Stations of the Cross.  He said it was a long time but fantastic. He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world and the fact that he could watch the rugby on the Saturday evening.


Notre Dame University Pilgrims
Jacinta Elder
WYD was a wonderful experience where I was able to share my faith with so many people. WYD showed me how the Holy Spirit can guide us in our actions to be witnesses to all. 

Brian Robinson
What can I say about WYD? A lot of people have asked me about it and I could only manage “amazing”.
It was amazing but it was also an opportunity to experience the cultures of the world and their strong belief in their faith. From all walks of life and all cultures we mixed as young Christians all seeking to show the world that the Catholic Church is still very much young at heart.
One moment I will never forget is the coming together of a group of American pilgrims and Iraq pilgrims and their flags flying in unison.

Kyle Tucker 
WYD was a once in a lifetime experience; especially having the privilege of being in our beautiful country.
The atmosphere was extraordinary; seeing people from all walks of life expressing their faith was incredible.
Every step of the pilgrimage walk filled me with pride; especially as we walked over the Harbour Bridge.
The experience meant a lot more to me as I was able to share it with those close to me.


Joanna Waloszek
By Sylvia Defendi
As shouting pilgrims sang songs of worship and chanted loudly, one pilgrim suffered from a lack of voice and discovered the beauty of Adoration.
Joanna Waloszek, a 22-year-old psychology student from Melbourne, lost her voice on the first day after an energy-filled drive from Melbourne to Sydney for World Youth Day. She travelled as a group leader for Melbourne’s Divine Mercy Polish youth group.
Having experienced WYD in Rome and Toronto, Joanna said it was a blessing to host the international youth event in her own home.
“It was great to have the time to get to know people in my group properly. I recognise people’s faces at Mass but we really connected here at WYD and it was great seeing them change as the week progressed,” she said.
Personally, Joanna also feels WYD offered her a unique experience. “The fact that I lost my voice on first day challenged me. I really needed patience to communicate with the masses of people,” she said.
In her relatively quiet WYD experience, Joanna realised she needed Adoration as part of her prayer life. “I realised I needed that down time with God, in my charismatic life,” she said.
Asked how WYD would change her group’s activities when they returned to Melbourne, Joanna was excited to share her vision. “Our youth group now have a warehouse with an old chapel in it. We received a large donation to fix it and run a youth group in it.
“It will be for all but particularly for those who attended WYD in Sydney, who have had a taste of what is possible and want more,” she said.


WA rocks Sydney @ WYD

The overall involvement of West Australians was outstanding for WYD08. Some interesting WA facts:
– Over 3000 WA pilgrims registered. Many more West Australians also attended WYD by simply being in Sydney that week.
– 60 Priests from the Archdiocese of Perth attended WYD 08.
– 8 Catechesis sites were led by WA groups.
–   4 musical performances featured purely WA performers at WYD 08.
– 2 candidates who were confirmed by the Pope: Shannon Kyrwood, David Proudlock.
In addition to the confirmation candidates, the following also received communion from the Pope at the Papal Mass: Heather Black and Heather Cooper, the sponsors of WA’s two Confirmation candidates David Proudlock and Shannon Kyrwood.
n Michelle Jack, from Mt Lawley Parish, was a part of the International Liturgy Group that prepared and served at the WYD liturgies.
-35 choristers from Perth were involved with the World Youth Day Choir at all official ceremonies,
-Seminarians also assisted with the Papal Mass:
Christian Irdi, a young Perth man studying for the priesthood in Sydney, was in the Scholar Choir which sang for the dedication Mass on July 19, and was on the Sanctuary assisting with Pope Benedict XVI’s Mitre for the Papal Mass on Sunday, July 20.
All the St Charles Seminary students from Guildford and Redemptoris Mater Seminary students from Morley assisted with the distribution of Holy Communion at the Papal Mass.
n Youth Festival sites were also run or assisted by Perth groups:
Love and Life Site – Perth’s Respect Life Office,
WYD Cross and Icon Tent – Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community and Youth Mission Team,
Act Today Change Tomorrow Workshop and Various Sites – Young Christian Workers (YCW) and Young Christian Students (YCS),
Social Justice Concert – Young Vinnies
Caritas site
The Domain event post-WYD by communities of the Neo-Catechumenal Way.
-The West Australian Vocations network hosted a stall at the Vocations expo.
-Involvement of Anita Parker,
Perth WYD officer:
EWTN Interview Monday July 14,
Receiving Holy Communion from Cardinal George Pell at the Opening Mass at Barangaroo on Tuesday July 15,
Hosting Goliath comes to Sydney youth festival event Wednesday 16 JulyPapal Boat ride Thursday July 17,
EWTN live broadcast interview Friday July 18,
-A number of West Australian volunteers also assisted at a variety of events during the WYD week.
-The seminarians and young Religious attended a special Mass with the Holy Father.
– Info provided by the Perth WYD Office