Close to 600 World Youth Day pilgrims from Sydney Catholic schools gathered at Holy Cross College Ryde to prepare for their July journey to Poland and a deeper faith.
After a welcome and prayer, musician and seven-time World Youth Day veteran Steve Angrisano made light of the need to follow directions at the event which attracts millions of young people through a game of ‘Simon says’. This was followed by songs with lyrics that reflected the 2016 event’s mercy theme.
Guest speaker Jason Evert gave students a humorous and personal, faith-based perspective on being chaste in a hyper-sexualised world, and encouraged students to be authentic and respect themselves and others. “Take your time, find yourself and love will find you,” he said.
The event was also a chance for students to meet the others who will travel with them on one of 16 buses and four pilgrimage routes – Holy Land, Rome to Florence, Venice to Rome, and Prague direct, all coming together in one large group in Poland.
Good Samaritan Catholic College Hinchinbrook Year 11 students Jade Boreta and Jack Morgan-Jones will take the Rome to Florence pilgrimage before the group gathers in Poland for World Youth Day week and a retreat in Zakopane at a place that is a ski resort in the winter months.
“It’s a good experience,” Jade said of the day. “This is the first time we’ve met our bus groups for World Youth Day, so it’s a nice opener. My friends have countdowns on their phones and there are 59 days until we leave. It’s daunting especially because a lot of us haven’t travelled away from the country without our parents. We’ll have to be responsible for our own passports and boarding passes.”
Of Evert’s talk she said: “It was nice to get his perspective. To have him talk about it in a way that was so open and blunt was great. It was very honest.”
The mercy theme does make me consider ‘Am I doing all that I can to be a good person?’
Jack, 16, said it was useful to get to know the other people he would be travelling with ahead of time, as he was usually reserved with other people.
“I’ve mainly chosen to go to World Youth Day to meet new people and travel with friends. The mercy theme does make me consider ‘Am I being nice to people and am I doing all that I can to be a good person?'” he said.
Jerome Taulaga, 16, is the only student from De La Salle College Revesby Heights who will attend WYD 2016. He said he was looking forward to knowing more about the birth countries of family friends from Poland and Italy.
“My sister went to World Youth Day in Rio and she said it was a life-changing experience,” he said. “My family is quite religious so I always want to take any opportunity to be closer to God.”
Mount St Joseph Milperra Year 11 student Caitlin Hua said she was looking forward to seeing Italy. “I like travelling,” she said. “It’s a different experience and it makes you see things from a different perspective.”
The group celebrated mass in Holy Cross’ school chapel after the Angelus, and ended the day with ice-breaker activities in their bus groups. The first World Youth Day pilgrim groups depart on July 16.