World Youth Day 2016 High Notes Article
Over the past three weeks Cameron, Maxwell, Felix (Year 10), Oliver, Anthony and William (Year 11), Mr Anthony Munro and I had the great privilege of attending World Youth Day 2016 (WYD) that was held in Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately, Riley Sanders who was set to come to WYD fell ill and had to pull out from the pilgrimage. Our bus group consisted of 6 from Marist, 3 from St Mary’s Cathedral and 14 from St Vincent’s College, the smallest bus from 17 buses in Sydney Catholic Schools.
Prior to attending World Youth Day events in Poland, our pilgrimage gave us the opportunity to explore the Saints of Italy. We started our week in Venice where we eventually moved through to Assisi, Florence and finally Rome.
World Youth Day homilies in some of Italy’s most beautiful churches spoke for mercy, the Catholic faith, and its enduring relevance. Fr Daniel Russo, who was ordained mere weeks before the World Youth Day pilgrimages began, acted as our bus chaplain and has touched the hearts of many of the pilgrims in our bus group. His homily in Florence allowed pilgrims to see the flaws of the Church along with the value of the Catholic faith. Fr Daniel said the call of the Gospel was timeless, and World Youth Day was a chance to look beyond our current situation. His words touched the hearts of a number of our pilgrims.
Next stop was Krakow, Poland where we joined with all 17 Bus groups from Sydney Catholic Schools. The Papal welcome at Blonia Park on July 28 drew a crowd of hundreds of thousands despite the rain. In our stylish WYD ponchos, the faithful gathering had the air of a concert before a Gospel reading and Pope Francis’ address to the young people present. Surrounded by Italian, French, Filipino and other pilgrim groups, the Sydney Catholic Schools crowd drummed, danced, talked and swapped national tokens including hats and flags before tuning into the English translation on radio as Pope Francis spoke. It was an amazing scene, as many young pilgrims were truly touched by the message of the Pope. The full translation can be found here.
The highlight of the World Youth Day week was marked by the traditional pilgrimage walk and sleep out.
With blisters, tiredness, and other minor ailments common by now among the pilgrims, many opted for a 6km tram towards the site before walking with large crowds the final eight kilometres to section A. It was here that pilgrims set up camp for the night. Even though food supplies were low and we were experiencing very hot temperatures, the night Vigil and Pope Francis’ speech was a highlight for many of the pilgrims. As the sun set, pilgrims lit candles for the evening vigil. In his homily Pope Francis urged pilgrims against being apathetic or caught up in videogames and material comforts, calling “couch happiness” a silent paralysis.
He continued to call for young people to live out the Gospel within their daily lives, and while embracing their individual talents.
The truth is this, dear young people: we did not come into the world to vegetate, or to make of life a couch that puts us to sleep. We came for another purpose – to leave a mark,” he said. “If you do not give the best of yourself the world will not change. It is a challenge. Our times do not need any more young people who are couch potatoes. The world today needs you to be pretenders to history, because life is beautiful so long as you choose to live it.
MCNS pilgrims were among the 3 million people who camped overnight at Campus Misericordiae to celebrate Pope Francis’ final World Youth Day Mass in Krakow. Medics were on call as pilgrims wilted in the heat during the main event on July 31. As the day progressed, spirits remained high. Pilgrims looked after each other’s well being, providing shade for each other with tarps and staying hydrated in the high temperatures with supplied water. Their patient attitude also helped on the return journey, when some tram lines closed until 2pm, and the heat gave way to patches of rain on the long walk home.
With World Youth Day festivities ending in Poland, we finished our final days of our pilgrimage in the beautiful Polish town of Zakopane. It is here where Pope John Paul II would retreat for quiet time and reflection and where we reflected on our own pilgrimage. Pilgrims delved into the deeper questions of our faith and discussed the new experiences they encountered over their pilgrimage. After a fast-paced few weeks of pilgrimage in Italy, and Krakow, the town seemed an ideal spot for reflection and was a picturesque way to end our pilgrimage.
The next World Youth Day will be held in Panama in 2019.
Michael Dela Cruz
Youth Ministry Coordinator