By Anthony Barich
Over 3000 young people pledged to change the world through their love for Christ at the climax of Perth’s Days in the Diocese festival on June 12.
With over 110 priests and ten bishops present from around the world at the Commissioning Mass for World Youth Day pilgrims, Perth’s Archbishop, Barry Hickey, asked the same question of the 3000 local youth and 600 international pilgrims that Jesus had asked Peter in the New Testament: “Do you love Him?” The answer was a resounding ‘yes’, with all the emotion fermented over six big days of festivities that kicked off with the ‘blessing of the fleet’ of buses travelling over 3000km across the Nullarbor to Sydney for WYD 2008.
Archbishop Hickey called on Perth’s youth and those from the other countries present to evangelise other young people with their love for Christ.
He said that when Jesus asked Peter to be his apostle, he did not say, “are you a good speaker, or financier”, or whatever their talent is; he said “do you love me?”
In an emotional address that saw many pilgrims reduced to tears, Archbishop Hickey said many youth of today feel much emptiness, and fill the void with pre-marital sex, material possessions like the latest phone or flat-screen television.
These, he said, do not bring freedom, only enslavement.
The only thing that can fill their hearts, he said, is Christ – and young Catholics are the ones to help other youth find Him.
Three days earlier, Archbishop Hickey launched Perth’s Days in the Diocese youth festival, welcoming international pilgrims on their way through to Sydney on July 10.
The festival drew much interest in the various Catholic agencies like True Love Waits, Caritas, Young Christian Workers and the Respect Life Office, which will provide avenues for youth to continue their formation beyond WYD08. Pilgrims from Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, the United States, Vietnam, Ghana, India, East Timor, Italy, China, Pakistan, Scandinavia, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Germany and Gabon converged in Perth to discover the universality of the Catholic Church and its distinct flavour in Australia.
Young pilgrim Nacho Quijano from Santander, Spain, likely spoke for many of the international pilgrims when he said his trip to Australia is not as a tourist, but to “encounter the Catholic reality in Australia and to meet Catholics from around the world”.
Nacho, who travelled to Perth with a group of 30 others from Spain, said they have prepared for months and travelled 2000km to “discover that the message of the Church is universal”.
“I look forward to meeting the Pope, receive his message and make it my own,” he said,
The key to the success of both Days in the Diocese and World Youth Day has been prayer, and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from New York facilitated a marathon 40-hour Eucharistic adoration at All Saints Chapel in Perth’s central business district.
A lay youth group called Sent Forth, from Orange County, US, helped the Friars run the 40-hour adoration, which is a timeless, ancient form of worship, according to Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, Brother Columba Jordan.
Brother Columba, 30, who had a thousand youth wrapped around his finger at the Days in the Diocese youth festival in Perth involving them in his songs, said adoration is a powerful way of helping youth realise Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
“Pope Benedict XVI asked young people in his WYD message to pray for a new Pentecost for Australia, and young people can’t do that without spending time with Christ,” said Brother Columba, who found the courage and clarity to follow his calling at WYD 2000 in Rome.
“The whole point of WYD is helping young people to have an encounter with Christ. If not, it’s pointless.”
Brother Columba says that even in his previous life as a web designer, he always felt the calling to Religious life, but lacked the courage until WYD. Like the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the Sent Forth group derive their strength from prayer and a communal experience.
Sent Forth leader Amador Vargas, 30, hopes the group draws more spiritual nourishment at WYD08 to continue their mission of evangelisation and work with the poor. “Those with the fire continue to enkindle it,” he said.