The purpose of the day for pilgrims was to:
- acquaint themselves with their fellow Maitland-Newcastle pilgrims;
- share their hopes, fears, joys and anxieties about the pilgrimage to Perth;
- listen to former pilgrims about their experiences with ACYF; and
- encounter God both personally and as a new faith community preparing for the pilgrimage to Perth.
Fr Anthony Coloma of St Patrick's Parish, Singleton led the event, kicking things off by asking participants to recall moments in their lives when they have "recognised the presence of God’s kindness in their lives."
Following this, Fr Anthony invited the steering committee of Maitland-Newcastle’s ACYF pilgrimage to introduce themselves to the group, which included Mary-Anne Deluca (Mission and Outreach Officer), Teresa Brierly (Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries), Renata Powell (Religious Education Coordinator, St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether), Bernadette Gibson (Head of Religious Education and Spirituality) and Alexander Foster (Digital Communications Officer).
“I’m like the matriarch of the group,” Teresa explained. “I stay behind to make sure everything goes smoothly for you from back home.”
Fr Anthony then invited the group to participate in an icebreaker exercise titled, ‘The Titanic is Sinking,’ which involved everyone splitting off into small groups based on their answers to multiple choice questions such as “Who do you prefer - Beyoncé, Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber?” In their small groups, they were then tasked with additional activities like collectively singing a song by their chosen artist.
Once everyone was acquainted, past pilgrims, Jessica Laczkowski and John Leao, were invited to share their experience of ACYF in past years.
“It was so inspiring to see so many young people from all over Australia having a shared experience like that - it gave me hope for the future of our Church,” Jessica said of her pilgrimage.
Of his experience, John said, “Being around so many people feeling the same things was a spiritual experience. It really did strengthen my relationship with God.”
After sharing in Jessica and John’s stories, pilgrims broke off into small groups once again to share why they decided to join ACYF, what excites them about their upcoming pilgrimage, as well as any concerns they may have about it.
“I guess my only concern would be that I’ve never done anything like this before,” one pilgrim said.
“I was concerned about what the group would be like, but seeing how nice everyone today has really eased my mind,” another said.
The pilgrims then regathered to discuss the theme of this year’s festival, ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’.
“One of the ways we listen to the Spirit is by listening to each other and reflecting on what we hear,” Fr Anthony said. “We have been doing a lot of this in the Church recently and the festival continues to be a place to celebrate young people and to listen.”
This exercise was followed by a closing mass so pilgrims could share their first spiritual experience together as a group.
A second Formation Day will take place 16 November to give pilgrims the opportunity to further develop relationships with one another prior to their journey to ACYF in December.