In 1984, Pope John Paul II, called for a gathering of youths and to everyone’s surprise, 250 thousand young people from countries across the world attended the gathering. The very next year, the Holy Father announced the institution of World Youth Day (WYD) and since then, 16 WYDs have taken place, including one in Australia in 2008. This year, WYD 2023 took place in Lisbon, Portugal and in communion with our overseas pilgrims, a group of young adults joined together to journey on a local WYD pilgrimage.
The local pilgrimage began early in the morning on 6 August and took the pilgrims through Morpeth, Largs, Bolwarra, Maitland, and East Maitland. This region has deep historical significance to the early church in our Diocese as it was where the first few notable priests assigned to the Hunter Region began their ministry of building churches, schools, and parishes.
One of the biggest highlights of the pilgrimage was the camaraderie that was fostered among the pilgrims. As they walked, they shared stories, laughter, and moments of reflection along the way. One pilgrim shared how hearing the life of others has helped make sense of their own life’s journey and experiences. Another pilgrim said “I loved every minute of this pilgrimage. God was with us on this journey like He was with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Our backs ached and legs burned from the day long walk, but our hearts were set alight from the day’s activities which centered around our Lord.” The pilgrimage concluded at a youth mass in St. Joseph, East Maitland.
Last week’s local WYD pilgrimage provided an amazing opportunity for an encounter with Christ through faith, prayer and community. As the pilgrims return to their daily lives, the memories and lessons from the pilgrimage will undoubtedly continue to nurture them on their life-long faith journey.
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