Diocese of Parramatta pilgrims including Qwayne Guevara (back far left), Kathleen Hernandez (centre right) and Chantelle Ocsan (right) during the 2019 World Youth Day pilgrimage. Image: Supplied
In his invitation to young people across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains to join him in journeying to World Youth Day in 2023, Bishop Vincent says for young people, the worldwide celebration of faith has a “profound impact on their relationship with Jesus, their prayer life, their lived mission and their relationship with others”.
Qwayne Guevara, Manager – Catholic Youth Parramatta, explains that “past World Youth Day pilgrims have returned to their local communities taking up leadership and service opportunities in their schools, parishes, workplaces, pursuing further theological study and some discerning their vocation.”
As the youth of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains consider journeying with Christ on World Youth Day, we asked pilgrims from previous World Youth Day pilgrimages to reflect on what called them to this amazing mountain-top experience, and how they share the love of God with their local faith communities.
Chantelle Ocsan, parishioner of Holy Family Parish, Emerton
While I entered World Youth Day hoping to always be surrounded and be comfortable with people I already knew, throughout the pilgrimage, WYD taught me the beauty in virtuous friendships. WYD allowed me to create friendships with the other pilgrims knowing that we were all on the same faith journey but just at different points in our lives.
On pilgrimage, I learnt how much I love serving the people around me, and it is through making sure I showed a Christ-like joy every day, even when I wasn’t feeling 100%. It was the ability to recognise that in any circumstance, God is trying to call out to me.
World Youth Day is a continuous pilgrimage where every day, I learn how God is trying to call me to be His servant. My faith was strengthened throughout World Youth Day to emulate this unwavering yes Mama Mary gave to God; inspiring me to do what I can to make sure I answer His call in my day-to-day life.
Dale Ahern – Head of Learning, St Clare’s Catholic High School, Hassall Grove
There are people that I would not have met without this experience who are people in my life I can count on for anything. I very much cherish the friends I have made along the way, some I know will be in my life forever.
I remember in Panama being near the beach with two other groups and in that moment, we decided to share how we were feeling in that moment and prayed together. After we prayed, I remember feeling this calm come over us – I felt like Christ was with us. It felt as if we were all meant to be there in that moment, sharing and appreciating the world around us.
As a teacher, I have had many opportunities to share my experiences and my own faith journey after WYD.
Kathleen Hernandez, parishioner of St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill
During WYD week in Panama city, there was a ‘Fiat Night’ which centred around the theme of WYD. There were talks and a time of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. When I looked at Jesus in the tiny host in the monstrance, I felt His gaze upon me. In my vulnerability, I knew deeply that God’s love was for me.
In the procession of the Blessed Sacrament that followed, I heard deeply in my heart the words, “Come back to me, my love. Come back to me, my love. Come back to me, my love.” It felt as if Jesus and I were speaking the words to each other – heart to heart – and I was drawn into a deeper intimacy with Him.
I entered a new season of my life after World Youth Day. I gave the year to God, fell more deeply in love with Him, and felt called to step out to join a religious community. I discerned Religious Life for two blessed years and recently felt called to come back home.
Abigail Diaz, parishioner of Good Shepherd Parish, Plumpton
No day was the same on pilgrimage – there was time for prayer and reflection, great friendships and fellowship being developed with each experience, lots of food, excitement, music, learning, moments of laughter, vulnerability, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
During the pilgrimage, I crossed paths with some fellow parishioners whom I only ever knew as a face in the pews prior to WYD. Our encounters during the pilgrimage soon lead the way for deeper friendships. These friends are a source of hope and continue to inspire me and my faith journey.
The Diocese of Parramatta pilgrimage to the 2023 World Youth Day is Lisbon, Portugal, takes place over 22 days from 21 July to 11 August. Across four countries, young people will travel in the footsteps of incredible Saints who changed the course of history.