Our pilgrims return from World Youth Day refreshed and energised

September 14, 2023

It’s not every day you wake up to a DJ priest pumping beats to a field of 1.5 million people. But for CatholicCare employees, Lucy Martin and Petition Chinyemba, this was exactly how their day started on 6 August 2023. As CatholicCare’s World Youth Day delegates, Lucy and Petition joined the Diocese of Broken Bay’s World Youth Day pilgrimage to Lisbon, Portugal. “It was an amazing experience,” says Lucy. “I didn’t think that there would be so many people from so many countries who share the same beliefs.”

When Early Childhood Educator Lucy Martin first heard about the opportunity to go to World Youth Day, she didn’t know what to expect. “What inspired me to go on this pilgrimage was the chance to deepen my faith … I honestly didn’t know how big this was going to be. I had previously been to two Australian Catholic youth festivals and was expecting it to be similar to that.”

For House Supervisor Petition Chinyemba who works in CatholicCare’s Permanency Support Program, she was hopeful that World Youth Day would revive her Christian walk. “I’m a firm believer in Christ but I wasn’t raised Catholic. Working for a Catholic organisation, I was excited about the opportunity to learn more about the Catholic faith and to connect with other believers.”

Lucy describes their first few days in Lisbon as jam packed. “We spent a lot of time exploring and discovering the Catholic history of Lisbon and surrounding areas. An opening Mass was held on the main street of Lisbon, and in the days following we attended Masses in many different churches across the city. Our days would start at 7.00am and finish at 11.00pm. Each morning we attended Catechesis where Bishops would share a message, followed by an opportunity for us to ask questions and partake in dialogue.” Each day of Catechesis focused on a different theme – integral ecology, social friendship, and mercy.

Petition explains how they would walk between venues across the city because many of the train stations were closed. “It was so hot and everywhere you looked there were people. So many people! At times it was hard to walk from one point to another because of all the people, and we’d walk holding hands, so we didn’t lose our group.” Petition says that despite being physically tired, the experience left her feeling refreshed and energised.

One of the highlights for Lucy was the Saturday night vigil and sleepout. “The sleepout is something I will never forget,” Lucy says. “It was amazing to think that there were 1.5 million people gathering together for the same cause. Although it was very squishy and at times frustrating, we managed to get a good spot within our area. We waited and played games but when the Pope arrived the crowd went silent, and it was like the world had changed.”

On the Sunday morning, Petition remembers looking up at the sky to see the words, ‘FOLLOW ME.’ “That morning we had a beautiful Mass with Pope Francis, and it was one of the nicest things I have ever experienced,” Petition says. Lucy remembers the Pope telling everyone to be proud of their faith and to share it with the world.

After the final World Youth Day Mass, Lucy and Petition joined the rest of the Broken Bay pilgrims for a retreat in Fatima. “The post-WYD retreat was something truly amazing,” Lucy says. “We had time to reflect on the last week in Lisbon and to write down our reflections. We also had a tour where we visited the Three Little Shepherd’s House where Our Lady appeared to three children.”

One month after returning home, Petition says that she still feels refreshed by the experience. “My line of work is very hard and stressful, but I have this renewed energy,” Petition says. “What I saw at World Youth Day were many, many young people who were so focused and consistent about the way they practice their faith. I thought, ‘Wow, this is good.’ I had some time to reflect on how I’ll live my faith in my own life.”

Both Petition and Lucy look forward to continuing her work at CatholicCare with renewed vigour and faith. Their World Youth Day experience has given them a greater understanding of how their work connects with the Church’s mission to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.

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