What comes with spiritual unity? Friendship, of course.
Pilgrims returning from World Youth Day in Sydney made a big impact on the 6pm Mass at St Simon Peter Parish in Ocean Reef last Sunday.
They provided a 10-member choir, undertook the readings and collections, and provided enthusiastic post-Mass hymns of praise before adjourning to the Parish Centre for a pizza meal.
Most of the parish contingent of about 30 young pilgrims attended, determined to witness to the parish and to maintain the friendship and spiritual unity they had developed over the last 12 months.
Joseph Laundy, one of the leaders of the organising and fund-raising committee, said he had been surprised when 30 young people turned out for the first meeting held last year.
With some adult support, but with the young people doing most of the work for ten fund-raising events, the parish raised nearly $28,000 to pay the airfares and transport for pilgrims, including $3000 to help a group of Polish pilgrims.
“It was a great witness to the parish of the importance and value of the young people in the Church,” he said.
For Joseph, the highlight of the Sydney experience was connecting with the Pope at a personal level rather than as a distant figurehead. “When he spoke about violence on TV and its effect on youth, he was a real Father, caring for the youth of the Church.”
His brother Patrick Laundy shared WYD with his wife Sarah and said that it added a different dimension to the experience. He found it immensely encouraging to see so many people sharing one faith and having one leader, the Pope. “For everyone from around the world, the Mass was the same; it had the same meaning and they all knew where they were. It was a genuinely universal experience,” he said.
Sarah, a teacher, said she loved the real sense of family and community when meeting people from all over the world. “You could talk to anyone; it was totally friendly and safe,” she said. Christopher West’s talks were the highlight of the catechesis program for her.
Brothers Matthew and Cameron Little have already begun the task of trying to keep in touch with the new friends they made in Sydney, including the very generous host families.
“It was amazing to see how many people came together for the same cause, supporting the Pope and the Faith,” said Cameron.
Matthew said that looking over the crowd and the display of national flags at the Randwick Mass gave a great sense of the unity in such a huge number and variety of people.
Melissa Franke, a student of classical singing and musical theatre at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, was asked by Fr George SDS to take a lead role in a play exploring the meaning of the Our Father at the last Mass at Gosford before the pilgrims moved to Sydney.
“The Bishops loved it,” she said.
“Spiritually it was such a journey, even in the first week. We received the Holy Spirit to bring back to our community, and we are doing that,” she said.
Fernando Baptista said he was delighted to encounter so many different ways to praise and worship God, including the exploration of the Our Father at Gosford. Getting to know so many young people from the parish during the pilgrimage was a lasting highlight for him.
For Prendiville College student Michael Graham the highlight was the great sense of unity. “There were so many new people celebrating the same things; everybody was into the Faith, the catechesis, the prayer, and everybody was so friendly and supportive,” he said.
Peter Babinski, who came to WA from Poland six months ago and is a student at Sacred Heart College, Sorrento, said that going on the pilgrimage he had wanted to meet Jesus in his heart, and to make new friends who are Catholics. He had gained both.
The spiritual experience of so many forms of prayer had given him a real meeting with Jesus in his heart.
Daniel Reed (20), who has an ambition to be a golf pro, said he was amazed at how everyone was so “friendly, peaceful and very happy”. “They were so loving and approachable, singing, chanting and rejoicing in their faith and in one another.”