World Youth Day
Journeying to the City of Mercy
In the final week of the July school holidays, Louise Vincent of Year 11 and I joined a group of approximately 230 pilgrims from the Diocese of Broken Bay to travel to Krakow in Poland, the City of Mercy, to attend World Youth Day 2016. World Youth Day, an initiative of Pope John Paul II, is held every year on Palm Sunday, but is celebrated as an international event every 3-4 years in various cities around the world. The international events are comprised of a number of elements including three days of catechesis, a youth festival, stations of the cross and an overnight vigil before the final Mass celebrated by the Pope.
En route to Krakow, the diocesan group divided into four smaller pilgrimage groups with Louise and I joining 37 other pilgrims following in the footsteps of St Paul in Greece. Joining with young adults from the Diocese as well as students and staff from St Leo’s, Mater Maria and St Augustine’s, we visited locations such as Thessaloniki, Philippi, Corinth and the Athenian Aereopagus, where we were able to listen to the words of St Paul in places where he ministered, offering a powerful insight into the words so familiar to our faith tradition.
In addition to these religious sites, we also took some time for relaxation: cruising around some of the Greek islands, visited the picturesque monasteries on the mountaintops of Meteora, acknowledged the contribution of ANZAC troops in the battles of World War II at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Athens, and learnt about a much older war as we visited the site of the Battle of Thermopylae.
A particular highlight for me during our time in Greece was celebrating Mass on the river bank in Lydia, the site outside of Philippi where St Paul baptised the first European woman. During Mass in this beautiful and peaceful location, we renewed our own baptismal promises before then walking through the river waters used in the sacrament by St Paul so long ago.
Leaving Greece, we flew to Poland, where we joined with an estimated 2.7 million young pilgrims in celebrating World Youth Day. While in Krakow we were given the opportunity to visit the shrines of Pope John Paul II and the Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II’s birthplace in Wadowice, the shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa and the Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. While exploring the city, we had a surprise encounter with the Pope as he drove by on his way to meet with the Polish bishops, and enjoyed the opportunity to meet young pilgrims from all over the world as we participated in the traditional World Youth Day practice of swapping souvenirs from our home countries.
During the World Youth Day celebrations Louise and I ran into a number of ex-Loreto students in a variety of contexts, proving beyond a doubt that the Loreto Normanhurst community is wide spread and long lasting.
Both Louise and I would like to thank the School for making this opportunity possible as well as to all those in the Loreto community who offered prayers and well wishes for our journey. The next international World Youth Day will be held in 2019 in Panama and will certainly be a must attend event! In the shorter term however, a youth festival will be held in Sydney this December which will be an exciting way for many of our students to get a taste of the World Youth Day experience a little closer to home and perhaps inspire them to begin thinking about the possibility of attending World Youth Day 2019.
Ms Patti Taaffe
Teacher, Year 7 Team Manager