I was 20 years old: A full-time student studying event management; a youth leader in an evangelisation group called Youth for Christ; a catechist at two schools; and I was working three jobs.
Although I grew up Catholic, I very often found myself in situations where my faith was challenged; where I struggled to understand my purpose.
I decided to try to create a community in my parish for other youth going through the same struggles, but it seemed every step took me further and further away from reaching the goal.
I became disheartened and lost any passion I had for it; my involvement becoming dull, routine and monotonous.
One night, I stayed back after Mass, reflecting on the verse: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
I Googled it and Pope Benedict’s announcement of the theme for WYD 2013 popped up: an invitation for us to “go make disciples of all nations” (Rejoice in the Lord always was the theme for WYD 2012).
“Accept Christ’s love and you will be the witnesses so needed by the world,” Pope Benedict said. “Let yourself be drawn to Christ and experience this encounter along with all the other young people who will converge on Rio for the next WYD.”
My heart was full of excitement and eagerness.
But there was one major problem: only five weeks left until the payment deadline. I took out my calculator and calculated how much I needed to make it possible. It seemed an impossible task.
And, yet, somehow I sat there without any trepidation. I knew that if God wanted me to go, all I had to do was show Him that I really wanted to go. I was confident I was going.
The next few weeks looked like this: Wake up, morning shift, catechesis, college, afternoon shift, overnight shift – repeat.
It was two weeks ’til deadline when I began to panic. I was not even close to reaching the required funds.
It was then that my parish priest stepped in and insisted that he would pay for me (for which I will be forever grateful).
In a month’s time I was off: a four-week pilgrimage with a group of people I had never met, to a country I had never been, celebrating the gift of WYD.
The pilgrimage was, in many ways, a physically, emotionally and spiritually gruelling experience.
But I felt God’s grace and was inspired by other Catholics who had their own stories to tell and was able to learn so much more about myself.
I witnessed God’s love and abundance in different cultures (WYD is a cultural melting pot like no other), and I realised how little I was compared to the world and, at the same time, how important my mission was; the importance of our earthly pilgrimage – that we are made for greatness.
The Archdiocese of Sydney is preparing to send 1000 young people to WYD in Krakow in 2016.
This is a very special WYD because we are journeying to the “City of Mercy” – the home of the father of WYD, St John Paul II – in what Pope Francis has declared will be a special Year of Mercy.
There are four different pilgrimage experiences on offer, all of which will unite in Krakow to celebrate the WYD week with Pope Francis and millions of young people from around the world.
If you are a young person (up to the age of 35), I hope that you will be one of them, or that you will support someone to go.
Their lives and our world – including our Church, here in Sydney – will be so much better for it.
Fundraising for your WYD experience? Click here to find out how The CW can help.
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