Ellen explains, “I was there in Melbourne and Adelaide as a youth leader with Pure Flame (ministry to youth). I was asked to go to WYD2016 as the health and wellbeing nurse so I had a specific role, and Jarrod was going. I thought it would be a good thing to do together.”
For Jarrod, it was simpler, “I wanted to see the Pope!”
It’s not surprising then that this pair is heading to ACYF Sydney in December.
“I’ve been before and to WYD, and I’m going to as many as I can before I’m too old to go. It’s like having a coffee; it wakes you up. If your faith has stagnated, then these types of events can remind you to get back on the horse,” says Jarrod, 21, a full time-student at the University of Newcastle, majoring in philosophy and political science. “I also work part time as a trolleyologist.”
Ellen describes ACYF as “a short, intense experience to be with so many enthusiastic Catholics in one spot. To me, that’s the main attraction. Even though it’s geared for youth, for me it’s a privilege to be able to go, because if I wasn’t a group leader, I wouldn’t be in the age group and would miss out on it. The first time I went it blew me away. It was one of the things that encouraged me to go to WYD. Once I had experienced ACYF it encouraged me in that it was a taste of what WYD would be like. It’s very hard to describe.”
Looking back, Ellen recalls “walking to the Mass with the Pope” as a highlight. “Walking 17kms, the vigil, that whole 24-hour experience, really felt like a pilgrimage. The mass of people walking along, singing, just the feeling of good will, even as people were dropping like flies from the heat and the crowd! Just coming together as church.”
Jarrod “really enjoyed sitting down and eating with people from different countries, in between events, swapping things, getting a little glimpse into their world”.
Of course Ellen and Jarrod didn’t share every aspect of the experience. Ellen thinks it worked because of the “natural giving and taking of time and space. There were times we just hung out, particularly towards the end, when we were tired. We spent the last three days together in Vienna. The secret was knowing when we needed to spend time together and apart. We were really two pilgrims.”
“I didn’t think twice about it,” said Jarrod, “and I don’t think she did either.”
Jarrod and Ellen are keen to encourage others to register for ACYF Sydney. Ellen looks forward to “revisiting those mountain top experiences, you have a whole arena full of people and the powerful experience you have in that moment. It’s not accessible at any other time. You have the opportunity to experience the uncommon. There’s something that happens when people travel a long way and come together with a common purpose. You have this magnification effect of faith. Anyone who comes along in the right frame of mind will be strengthened by it. It’s not just somewhere you go for a good time. If you go because of faith, you are absolutely guaranteed to come out stronger.”
Jarrod acknowledges that it can’t all be ‘mountain top’ experience. “At WYD I went through times where I wasn’t particularly happy at all, and one time I was sitting in a big cathedral somewhere in Italy, by myself, and the bishop came up and told me some stories. That really helped me.”
There will be storytelling bishops at ACYF Sydney, including Bishop Bill Wright, and in fact, everyone there will have a story to share.