The following Year 10 students, Madeleine Clifford, Eliza Sheldon, Ceili Harding, Tegan Burns, Harriet Nolan, Emma Steinborn, Emmanuelle Macken, Sophie Martin, Carla Field, Charlotte Alexander, Elizabeth Law and Kara Wiltshire accompanied by Mrs Berlage, Mrs Sircelj and myself returned last Saturday night from WYD16. The pilgrimage was more than we could have anticipated with highlights including, praying at the Shrine of The Black Madonna of Częstochowa, visiting and celebrating Mass in the beautiful Cathedrals of Prague and being within 5mtrs of Pope Francis at the Welcome Ceremony. Daily afternoon storms could not dampen the joy and adventure we all experienced. Below is some initial student reflections:
We were told from the outset this trip was not a holiday as it was going to be full of challenges and take you out of your comfort zone, but we knew that it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. And it was just that! Time flew by as we sang and danced in Prague and Krakow with over 100 nationalities from all over the world and then hiked the mountains of Zakopane and before we knew it we had walked over 200 kilometres. Our journey wasn’t just physical but spiritual as well. Not only did we grow closer to those that we travelled with, we grew closer to God. We screamed “Papa Francisco” with thousands of others as Pope Francis warmly smiled and waved within 5 metres of where we were standing. One of the most special moments was in the Jasna Góra Monastery where we stood in awe of the beautiful image of the ‘Black Madonna’ a painting that was cherished and admired by Saint John Paul II. In Zakopane we were given the opportunity to think about our lives as we hiked the mountains and reflected in prayer whilst asking ourselves how we could contribute to our communities back home. Whilst the trip had its challenges, a packed schedule, queues and crowds, and some ‘interesting’ food, it taught us not to take things for granted and to appreciate the people around us. It helped me deepen my faith, and try and be a better person. World Youth Day 2016 was an unforgettable experience so bring on Panama 2019!!
As a result of my World Youth day journey I want to do three things. Firstly, I want to practise my faith a lot more when I am by myself, and interact more with the Masses and prayer we do at school and at home. Secondly, I want to take the message of Pope Francis- use your youth to change the world- and apply this to my life, taking part in activities such as Brekky Van and community service. Finally, I want to share my experiences. There is a stigma associated with religion amongst youth, and being a part of it can be perceived as uncool or ‘stupid.’ Certain dogma associated with the church can make people turn away from religion. I want to be able to tell the community that you do not have to accept everything about the church, but to get to the core; find your spirituality and connect with elements of the church that you believe to be right and true- such as Jesus’ moral messages or our mission to change the world. In doing so, I hope to bring some youth back to the church and our religion. I loved WYD and I am so grateful for every opportunity and experience that I have received.
The atmosphere is indescribable; the love for one common faith by multiple nations that gathered was incredible. We overlooked a sea of smiles as the music blasted and our best dance moves were showcased. The most challenging factor on this pilgrimage for me personally was being able to confidently talk to / approach others that I have never met before. At first I was very shy, but as the pilgrimage progressed it became extremely easy as everyone wanted to share his or her own happiness with each other. More than often we would get approached by people of different nationalities, eager to know where we are from and our experience so far. As a result of WYD I have become more involved in my faith through private reflection and prayer. I have a more positive outlook on what is next to come and I look forward to helping those who may need guidance in their faith.
Sharon O’Keeffe (Ms)
Director of Mission (K-12)