The Bishop’s Letter: WYD13 Rio ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’
|In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI came by boat through Sydney Harbour to meet a few hundred thousand young pilgrims.|
From Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop of Parramatta
Published in Catholic Outlook, July 2012
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that we were hosting the world in our parishes, schools and churches, on our harbour, streets and racecourse, for World Youth Day 2008.
Certainly it seems like only yesterday that we were working so hard to get as many as possible to WYD Madrid in 2011. But believe it or not, we’re only a year away from the next festival of youthful faith and joy, WYD Rio in 2013.
This week-long marathon of grace, invented by Blessed John Paul II, allows the young people of the globe to unite and give witness to their faith in its true Catholicity.
“Incredible, amazing, staggering, phenomenal, overwhelming”: that’s how one American bishop and his pilgrims described the happiest and holiest week in the history of our city.
“Sydney was better than anyone expected,” he said. “A real experience of God’s Spirit in our lives. A real chance for young people to embrace their mission to give public testimony to their faith.”
Bringing the Holy Father by boat through Sydney Harbour to meet a few hundred thousand young pilgrims was one of the great moments of my life. It was a highpoint in many ways, including in the relationship between Church and society.
Everyone pitched in to help it happen, not just Catholics, not just Christians, but all sorts. Our Prime Minister paid tribute to the place of faith in our past and our future. Expectation built that our very own Mary MacKillop would soon be a saint. And many of our young people set themselves on a similar trajectory of grace.
It was an extraordinary time for our country, for many young people and one old pope. The theme was fulfilled: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8).
Next stop Madrid – under the title: Planted and built up in Christ, firm in faith (Col 2:7). Amidst challenging crowds there were beauty and tradition and so many graces.
Now to the not-so-new ‘New World’, to Brazil. From 23-28 July next year millions will gather amongst astonishing natural beauty and heart-breaking poverty, amongst architectural tributes to an ancient faith and evangelical challenges to a young Church.
Having received the Holy Spirit in 2008 and been built up in faith in 2010, our young people will gather under the missionary mandate: Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).
I hope and pray that more than ever of our young people will go, with the help of their families, schools, parishes, chaplaincies, ecclesial movements, diocesan agencies. We’ve launched a Pilgrim Volunteers Program to encourage all those sectors of our Diocese to sponsor pilgrims and to encourage would-be pilgrims to get more involved in those aspects of our Church. We’ve got our planned pilgrim routes up on the web at www.parrawyd.org
Of course, only a tiny fraction of our young people will go. They are the fortunate ones. Hopefully, it will make a difference not just in their lives but in those they touch on their return. But in the process of fundraising and formation for the next cohort of pilgrims, in the viewing of the great events through the old and new media, and in hearing the excited reports of the returnees, many more will be affected. That, at least, is my goal.
One of the most beautiful teaching moments during the World Youth Day in Sydney was the Vigil at Randwick. It began in darkness, and was gradually illuminated by a light taken from the Pope by a young Aboriginal woman out to the crowd. Fire as we know, is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit, “the artisan of God’s work”.
Come Holy Spirit we prayed and pray again in this Year of Grace. Come fill the hearts of your faithful with the fire of your love. The Holy Father called on us to “Let the Spirit’s gifts shape you. Let them transform your families, communities and nations.”
Such was the hope of the Second Vatican Council whose Golden Jubilee we celebrate. Such is the hope of our Year of Grace. That a fire will be lit again in our hearts. That we will each contemplate the face of Christ and start afresh from Him. That the Spirit will renew the face of the earth and remake the face of the Church as the image of Christ.World Youth Day does great things for young people, bringing their faith to life, enlarging their sense of belonging to the Church, setting them free to love and give themselves to the adventure of the Gospel. I pray that many of ours will make it to Rio so that they can in turn inspire the rest of us to be living Gospels for Western Sydney!
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