‘Pilgrims and not tourists’ was the main focus of the final World Youth Day pilgrims formation meeting last 23rd of June.  Hosted at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Highgate, the gathering had over 60 pilgrims present and was also attended by Bishop Don Sproxton.

A highlight of the evening was a Skype session with Anna Nowicka in Poland, a young lady who is one of the main organisers from our homestay parish, Mother of Mercy Church during the Days in the Diocese in Warsaw from the 20th to the 24th of July. 13466086_1072565916163370_1797113655142309084_n

Days in the Dioceses are a time that pilgrims spend in selected dioceses of the country that organises the meeting of young people. For the pilgrims the Days in the dioceses are an invitation to discover the richness of the Church and of the country that they visit, as well as to meet families and young people who want to receive them. For the hosts it’s an opportunity to take part in the feast of faith and joy together with young people from all over the world. (Source: www.krakow2016.com)

She said that her parish is very much looking forward to hosting Australians and that they have planned exciting activities and works of charity for the Perth pilgrims.

All pilgrims in attendance received their WYD document wallet from Cosmos (Official  WYD Tour Operator). They also received their green national WYD T-shirt and a bright red local WA T-shirt which they tried on enthusiastically on the night.

Karina Prentice, a WYD pilgrim said, “It was so exciting to receive my travel documents and pilgrim shirt at the meeting. Having the chance to Skype a parishioner from the Polish parish that will be hosting us was incredible. It made me realise the magnitude of the preparations for the pilgrimage.”

Pilgrim Coordinator, Anita Parker, gave a summary of topics from previous WYD pilgrim meetings which covered the lives of the late St John Paul II, Sr Faustina of Kowalska, the Divine Mercy and the significance of the Black Madonna.

She also spoke about the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, “the man of the beatitudes” and rousing those present to chant repeatedly, ‘I am a pilgrim, not a tourist.’

And reminding them that during the journey they must abide by the pilgrimage code of, ‘pray, click, buy’ to have a full spiritual experience of the trip. This simply means, when visiting religious sites the pilgrims are encouraged firstly to take some time in prayer and reflection before they proceed to take pictures and buy souvenirs.

Bishop Don Sproxton left a resounding message to all pilgrims towards the end of the evening. He expressed his delight that he will be attending his fifth13466331_1072565952830033_1485452346660050710_n World Youth Day and urged the young people to chat with the Bishops throughout the pilgrimage.

He said, “Archbishop Tim and I are looking forward to spending time with the young people journeying with us on this faith trip. Even if we are sitting in the bus with dark glasses on sleeping, we will still wake up and answer your questions.”

For many of the Perth pilgrims, it’s their first time to attend the biggest international youth gathering in the world. For others it’s an opportunity to witness the universality of the Catholic Church and to see Pope Francis, but for the majority, it’s an opportunity to grow in faith and learn about mercy.

Matt Bogoni, first time pilgrim said, “I want to go to World Youth Day to deepen my faith and become closer to God, so I can show others mercy as God has done for me.”

And for whatever reason it may be that they’re attending World Youth Day, there’s one thing that is certain – that the pilgrims will return home to Perth this August stronger in faith, with a transformed heart and a readiness to be witnesses of God’s mercy and love.

The first group of CYM Perth pilgrims will depart on the 13th of June, travelling first to Rome and Turin, Italy before they meet the rest of the Perth Pilgrims in Warsaw, Poland who will depart Perth on the 19th of July. For more information on WYD visit http://www.krakow2016.com/en/

Please keep the pilgrims in your prayers.

Written by Vincent Haber
CYM Perth Full time Youth Ministry Worker, Communications Coordinator and cake lover.