Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has commissioned Sydney’s World Youth Day pilgrims for their expedition to Lisbon, Portugal, with the promise of a life-changing journey of transformation and an encounter with the Risen Christ.
Preaching to an overflowing St Mary’s Cathedral at the official WYD commissioning Mass, Archbishop Fisher said the hundreds of young pilgrims, along with the clergy and other leaders, were “a living proof that the future of the church here in Sydney is in safe hands!”
The gathering was a final opportunity for the archbishop to give Sydney’s youth his blessing before the first flights leave Australia for pre-WYD pilgrimages.
He encouraged them to be conformed to Christ on their journey, saying that to see WYD as “just about affirming and welcoming people” was “nonsense.”
Celebrating the Mass with his chosen chaplains, who will accompany the youth on their spiritual journey, the archbishop imparted them with their own gift—a handmade purple stole designed specifically for WYD Lisbon.
These vestments, blessed by the archbishop prior to the Mass, are unique to Sydney and will be worn by each chaplain as they offer the sacraments to the pilgrims under their spiritual care.
The archbishop said WYD was far from “Schoolies on steroids with rosary beads.”
Drawing on the Sunday readings, he said Lisbon would instead be the ideal place to cultivate the garden of the soul, making Sydney’s youth the spiritual gardeners of their generation.
“You will join millions of others in being nourished by Word and Sacrament, in celebrating your love for God, humanity and the world, in sharing your high ideals and being encouraged,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“The seed of Gospel faith is for your souls, if you will let it in, watering it by learning about your faith, resisting the temptations and distractions that endanger it, bringing forth fruit in good works, if you will let God the Gardener produce a rich harvest in you. He will!”
Following the Solemn Mass, the newly-commissioned pilgrims and leaders gathered in and around Cathedral Hall, where their joyful spirits made for an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.
Law graduate Teressa Bernardo, one of the thousands of Australians attending WYD Portugal, felt energised by the crowds of pilgrims who will share in this life-changing journey towards Christ.
“I’m looking forward to being so close to Jesus, through walking in his footsteps during the Holy Land pilgrimage and being amongst the vibrant Catholic community of Sydney and beyond, especially in the celebration of the daily sacraments,” Teressa said.
“I hope to receive all the graces that God wants to give me, and especially that I would be renewed and encouraged in my faith and transformed more into the person God is calling me to be.”
St Felix Bankstown youth leader Brendan Bourizk was encouraged by the archbishop’s warning against “MTD—moralistic therapeutic deism,” a thin version of faith lived by many young people that amounts to little more than doing what feels good.
“It’s the kind of faith that flags under the scorching sun of real life. It’s easily swamped by the thorny weeds of distractions … You guys are worthy of so much more,” Archbishop Fisher said.
“Serving as a youth leader at my parish I want to be able to inspire in the youth there to not give in to the ‘MTD’ religion that the archbishop had mentioned,” Brendan told The Catholic Weekly.
“I know in my own life that this form of ‘practical atheism’ can creep up and choke the seed of faith that is planted there.”
Journeying for the first time to WYD, Brendan couldn’t wait to travel with hundreds of Sydney pilgrims “to witness the universality of the church that everyone always talks about.”
“I’m filled with anticipatory awe at the thought that I will visit the place where Jesus was born, where Our Lady received her call by the angel Gabriel and even to have Mass in the upper room, where so much had occurred.
“I’m really looking forward to walking in the footsteps of Jesus.”
Before the food and fellowship, the archbishop reminded the pilgrims that Christ is waiting for them in Lisbon, ready to greet them with the great gift of faith.
Pilgrims will tour the Holy Land, Italy and other destinations before arriving in Lisbon for the official World Youth Day program, and will reflect on their experiences at a post-WYD retreat in Fatima.