Sydney Catholic school pilgrims were among the 900 people to attend the evening Sydney Archdiocesan Mass celebrated by Bishop-elect Richard Umbers at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Zakopane.
After a final morning of reflection and a short, steep tram ride to view the Zakopane area and Carpathian mountains from higher ground, pilgrims made their way to the church.
The gathering was an extension of the community spirit that has been a hallmark of the World Youth Day pilgrimage, concelebrated by each of the bus group chaplains.
In his homily Bishop-elect Umbers alternated between humour and seriousness as he urged pilgrims to persevere with prayer, and to share their World Youth Day experience with friends calling Australians in general “an unbelieving lot”.
“In these days we’ve lived with people who have a lot of faith,” he said.
“In this nation of Poland we’ve seen people who really believe. I was very taken when we went to Auschwitz, a place that would seem to be a real challenge to the faith …and they still believe. That’s the kind of faith we can learn from the Polish people, and bring back to Australia.
“You’re going to go back and talk about all the wonderful things you’ve seen and done – that you saw the Pope and it was awesome, and we sang and there was great music – and for many of you you’re going to feel a bit alone.
“We need to be humble in our prayer, and give Jesus the opportunity [to intervene]. Sometimes he grants straight away – we ask and we receive. Other times he holds back so we learn to be patient.
“Persevere with your friends, pray, and bring them on the journey with you.”
Before and after the mass, About Catholic Schools asked pilgrims to reflect on their faith journey. Read their responses from August 12.