Sydney Catholic Schools’ pilgrims were among the 3 million people who camped overnight at Campus Misericordiae to celebrate Pope Francis’ final World Youth Day Mass in Krakow.
Medics were on call as pilgrims wilted in the heat during the main event on July 31.
Songs and testimonials about the sacrament of Baptism were broadcast from 6am, once again giving the event a faith-meets-festival air.
As the day progressed, spirits remained high. Pilgrims looked after each other’s wellbeing, providing shade for each other with tarps and staying hydrated in the high temperatures with supplied water. Their patient attitude also helped on the return journey, when some tram lines closed until 2pm, and the heat gave way to patches of rain on the long walk home. All round a day that was definitely POPE (Part of Pilgrim Experience)!
This became a topic of conversation on the walk home. Marist Sisters’ College Woolwich student Sophie Collyer said she would be keen to take on the role of Youth Ambassador at the Panama World Youth Day. Her group escaped the heat quickly when a Bus 9 group leader managed to get the students on a bus and then a tram midway between stations with the assistance of some friendly Polish police officers. Overall, Sophie said the event had been a good experience.
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience and would definitely do it again,” she said. “This morning was so hot and with people getting heat stroke and fainting it was a bit nerve-wracking. We had to keep hydrated, but it was good being able to be with everyone, sticking together at the end and catching the bus.”
Looking back on the journey, Italy was also a highlight for Sophie.
“We were all new meeting each other, so hanging around with my new friends and experiencing Italy for the first time by visiting all of the churches and statues and artworks was amazing.”
After walking Rome’s Holy Stairs on his knees, fellow Bus 9 member and St Joseph’s College Hunters Hill student Will found the Mass an experience to be grateful for.
“There was a lot of walking and it was tiring, but we were very lucky to not have to walk all the way,” he said. “I found the vigil last night was unique. We’ve gone camping at school and I’ve done that a few times with my dad, but that was the first time I had done that on my own, really, with friends.
“I used to think there weren’t very many Catholics, but going out there last night and this morning and seeing that there are a lot of people who believe the same things as me, and I’m not alone in it, was good.”
“I think the Holy Stairs were my highlight in Italy because it’s painful walking up on your knees and you kind of realise that you do need to suffer a bit, as Jesus did, to have a closer connection to God.”
Trinity Catholic College Auburn Year 10 student Audrey Cases is among the largest Sydney school presence at WYD 2016. Trinity students have taken residence on two buses. With the school encouraging of pilgrims who want to attend and two siblings who have attended past World Youth Day events in Madrid and Rio De Janiero, she was still surprised by the experience.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting. If anything, it was better,” she said. “Our principal gets a lot of us to speak about our experiences at World Youth Day and every time another one comes around we bring in people who have already graduated and have attended to explain what it’s about.
“I don’t think you can really prepare for it until you are here. In general the final mass was really good and David, our bus leader, had great plans. Our days have been really full. We’ve done everything on the itinerary and more.”