World Youth Day 2016 is over and what an incredible adventure it has been. It comes to an end but it is most definitely also a beginning. A time away on pilgrimage leaves a person changed, and we have pilgrims returning home to Darwin, Alice Springs, Wurrumiyanga, Nauiyu, Katherine, Brisbane and Rockhampton as different people. In some you may see the difference straight away, in others you may need to delve a bit deeper. But in the hearts of the 46 pilgrims of our group, God has spoken. It has been an absolute privilege to travel with this group of young people, each who contributed in a special way to our time together. I personally feel the presence of more love, more mercy and more truth in the world and that energises and excites me. Below there are some tips for all of us on how to keep the spirit of this World Youth Day alive.
But before then, here is a post from Belinda, reflecting on her experience of the final WYD weekend…
“We started our day on Saturday early at 6am with Mass before heading off to Campus Misericordiae to get our spots for the vigil and the final Mass. We broke up into four groups: fast walkers, slow walkers, fast trammers and slow trammers. I was in the slow tram group so we were left the arduous task of collecting the food bags for the fast group while they rushed ahead to claim a spot. It was a test of endurance, carrying two or three heavy bags as well as our own bags across first pebbles, then stones, then uneven ground and, finally, over sand until we reached A14, our designated area.
After a quick nap, we were busy again erecting makeshift tents to provide us with some relief from the hot Polish sun.
We experimentally ate some food from our food bags and got ready for Pope Francis’ arrival. We were all particularly excited because Olivia Rose (a pilgrim from Alice Springs) had been selected as one of the representatives from Australia and would get to sit in a special VIP section up the front instead of round the back of the stage where we were.
There was a special part of the evening’s festivities (following Pope Francis’ reminder that we are called not to be couch potatoes but to spread God’s love and joy) when we all lit candles. It was beautiful to be in that moment; united with over two million other pilgrims, singing, swaying and looking forward to a better tomorrow. A brief walk through the Campus gave me an idea of the sheer number of people in attendance and made me more aware of how blessed I was to be there.
We bunkered down for what would be a cold but, thankfully, dry night and I drifted off to sleep with the group of Scottish pilgrims in front of us singing ‘Sweet Caroline’. But, it wasn’t long until we were all roused by a mic check at 5:30am. The joy of pilgrimage!
The final Mass for me is a blur of unbearable heat, people collapsing and desperately trying to listen to our last inspiration message from the Pope. What sticks in my mind is the walk back from Campus to our accommodation at a local university “AGH”. Five hours of walking, almost 20kms and three separate thunderstorms made it very memorable. But, as tired and as wet as my body was, my spirit was energised because I knew that these were some of the last few precious hours that I would get to share with my pilgrim friends before we part ways. So, I used my time wisely, asking questions, encouraging and, towards the end, singing.
When we eventually reached AGH, it was time for a hot shower, dry clothes, a hot dinner and, then, an early night. And, just like that, our time in Poland has come to an end. Today, we reflected on our journey and had one last hurrah in the Old Town. Now, bags packed, we off to bed to get a few hours of rest before our marathon journey home. So, from Poland, “do widzenia”!”
Tips for all of us to keep the WYD spirit alive…
- Read and break open the words of Pope Francis here
- Reflect on the stories of WYD on the Xt3 website here
- View footage of all the main WYD events here
- Ask a WYD pilgrim to speak at your parish, school or community about their experience
- Reflect on the mercy of God in your life, for you
- Consider how you can be more merciful in your life