Viva Spain and Italy WYD Blog List
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Executive Director of Schools Greg Whitby speaks Parramatta pilgrim Claire Brown, who was one of 12 young people selected to share a meal with Pope Benedict XVI during WYD...
"It was a fantastic experience, an honour and a privilege to be in the presence of the Holy Father with youth from around the world. It's something that I will never forget," Claire says."He called us all to bring back to our parishes and our nations the love of Jesus Christ to share with the world."
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By Fr Suresh Kumar, Director Catholic Youth Parramatta
Viva Spain and Italy pilgrims were quite excited to take off to WYD pilgrimage as it happended to be that they were to leave lastly. the count down began long back especially the tension built up rapidly when the other pilgrim groups left the country.
10 August arrived at last! The flight was to Dubai and to continue the jouney onwards to Madrid. Harvest blocked the seats in one area for all of us. (may be to reduce the noise in other parts of the plane from these pilgrims!?).
After the checkins and tearful goodbyes to parents and friends, we headed off to the waiting room to board the plane. For a moment we were like Hollywood stars or rather Bollywood stars with those flashes of camears before we entered the 'Departures'. Some of us were flying for the first time in life!
"Cabin crew please prepare to take off", was heard from captain Steve, now it's real...we are on our way to the pilgrimage to which we have been preparing for more than a year.
For a quick second, the whole year of preparation, formation, bookings, merchandise, promotions, medical conditions etc etc came to mind in a lightening flash and disappeared. Where are heading to? Who will be there to pick us up? Why are we going? questions came to my mind and vanished. World Youth Day is a vocation. Though the invitation is for everyone, its not all were chosen or not all did not choose. Its a time of Grace. I could feel it.
I could see some of became silent after take off. But this silence had a deep meaning. A soul searching for meaning. After all, Jesus is the tour operator of this trip. He is the chief organiser. He will look after me wherever I go. If I were to sleep on the floor rather than my cosy bed, so be it!
Emirates looked after us very well with all the food, entertainment...(I have been thinking of watching Pirates of Caribbean and it's being done now. The facility to call one another was bit handy for me to keep in touch with other pilgrims esp those who are flying for the first time in their life).
Food, movie, nap...food, movie, nap...we reached Dubai. Its a beautiful airport but the Mohul architecture spoke very well that we are in a Muslim country. Two hours of break was quite enough for me to freshen up and have a hot chocolate :-) Dubai was spirited up with WYD pilgrims from different countries. The Queenslanders (not sure which Diocese) were in colours with 30 or so pilgrims. They initially thought that were just 28 of us from whole of Parramatta Diocese. I had to set them right by revealing that we are not just 28 but 300. The whole army is out and about in France and Holy Land!
The onward journey began again with a bang! Three of us including me were upgraded to Business class! Now I know why people speak of business class...I was really pampered by the cabin crew. Champaigne on arrival, three-course meal etc etc.
Though the journey was really long, we forgot our tiredness when we reached Madrid. The airport was alive with so many pilgrims beginning to arrive from all over the world. It took me back to 2008 when we went to the airport to welcome the pilgrims from overseas.
We were welcomed by Maria from the Diocese of Coria Caceres. The coach took us to Coria. Again a long journey for 4 hours...very dry land....Maria explained on the way on the culture and life style of the people. (Spanish love to talk!). We reached Coria after almost travelling for 24 hours. We went straight to the Cathedral for Mass. Here, the climate controls the culture. It's 10pm and its still bright. We were welcomed by the Principal celebrant (a French Bishop) in Spanish. We met with the Direct Madrid pilgrims who also had a long and tiring journey.
We were taken to a near by Diocesan centre to meet the home stay hosts. It was a time to say good bye to our friends and entrust them to the care of the home stay hosts. They will be now part of that family for the next couple of days. (One of the great things that teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and He is the one who unites us). Ryan Manalili, Ben Ruiz, two seminarians frim Lismore and myself were accommodated in the Diocesan seminary. It's a huge building with only eight seminarians.
I am tired and waiting to hit the bed. See you tomorrow. Stay tuned...
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Parramatta Catholic Youth Director Fr Suresh Kumar will be leading a group of young pilgrims from the Diocese on the 'Viva Spain and Italy' World Youth Day (WYD) pilgrimage from Wednesday 10 August.
The pilgrims will be taking part in the WYD “Days in the Diocese” in Coria-Caceres in Spain, where they will be welcomed by a Catholic community rich in history, faith and hospitality.After the WYD celebrations in Madrid, the 20-day pilgrimage will move onto Italy, visiting Rome and Assisi.
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