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World Youth Day

15 September, 2023
Flying the flags of Australia and the Diocese of Rockhampton

Before returning from WYD, Bishop Michael asked the pilgrims of our diocese to offer some reflection on the experience. They have kindly agreed to share them with our readers.

April Roth

I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to attend World Youth Day 2023. I was very grateful to be selected to attend. It was a wonderful two weeks full of joy and my faith was only strengthened by the experience. I was certainly challenged during the pilgrimage and in ways that I didn’t expect to be, but I know that is all part of the journey. It is hard to pick a highlight from the trip. I think the stand out has to be the close encounter I had with Pope Francis, particularly as it was so calm in comparison to the event he had just been at. However, the small group time of sharing and prayer also had a big impact on me. It was a time of peace in comparison to WYD and I loved being part of others’ faith journey and learning from them. That strengthened my faith in a way that I didn’t expect. Over the pilgrimage our group became more comfortable together and what each person was willing to share and at times were very vulnerable with each other. I know that I am not the only person from this group who appreciated this time. I have attached a photo from the end of the trip of my small group.

As I have now departed from the group I am able to truly begin to reflect on this experience, something I know is going to take some time and prayer. Loved being with the youth of our Diocese and I look forward to what is next for us.

Louise Effeney

It was incredible to be a part of a crowd of 2 million people during the World Youth Day celebrations with Pope Francis. I was very excited when I had the opportunity to be at the front of the barricade when Pope Francis drove by – the experience brought me great joy! The guided tours of the many amazing holy places of saints and cathedrals filled me with awe. To be immersed in and experience the devotion and faith of the local people where miracles have occurred, and physically be in that same holy place, will be something I will treasure and reflect on for many years to come.

Evelyn Walker

Walking into the unknown of World Youth Day 2023 was a scary but exciting time. Having already experienced my first World Youth Day 15 years ago in Sydney at the age of 17, I couldn’t remember what it was about or what happens. I knew that it was about growing closer to our Lord and becoming stronger in my faith but how I did that had question marks all over it. However, now, 15 years later, I am in a different stage of my life and in my faith journey, and I was ready to experience World Youth Day in its fullness. 

As I journeyed through World Youth Day it became clear to me that my purpose for being here was connection and reconnection with new and old faces. When I let go and changed the way I looked at things, the things I looked at changed. 

Upon reaching the end of the pilgrimage I think back to a quote I once saw on social media. This quote was said by one of my favourite characters, Mickey Mouse: ‘it’s not what you have, but it’s what you give.’ If we give faith, hope love and prayer, we will be rewarded. 

In Pope Francis’ message for World Youth Day 2023 he said, ‘Mary’s haste is thus a sign of her desire to serve, to proclaim her joy, to respond without hesitation to the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ As Catholics we are all called to serve whether it is in our schools, vocations, or workplaces. We called to spread Jesus’ message throughout the world.


Kazzandra Maunder

Gratitude.  If I was going to sum up my World Youth Day pilgrimage in one world it is gratitude. I am so thankful. Thankful to those who made it possible to attend; Marist College, Rockhampton Catholic Education, Bishop Michael. Thankful to those who shared the journey, my fellow pilgrims now considered new friends. Thankful to those who worked hard to organise the event; Mick and those at Harvest. But most of all, I am thankful to God for blessing me with this chance. A chance to stop, listen, and question. To grow deeper in my faith, my understanding of theology, and engage with the Universal Church in ways I didn’t know were possible. Bishop Michael asked why we were called to World Youth Day? My answer is simple, to change my life.

Laura Stanfield

My experience on World Youth Day 2023 can be summed up in 3 words: apprehension, opportunistic and gratitude. Apprehension because I was unsure about going on this pilgrimage right up until the moment I stepped on the plane; opportunistic because of how many opportunities we were presented with; everyday provided a new experience. Finally, gratitude. I am so grateful to have been able to go on this trip (and glad I fought through the apprehension). From exploring beautiful cathedrals in Spain, sharing mass with Pope Francis in Lisbon and completing the Stations of the Cross in Fatima this pilgrimage has enriched and deepened my understanding of faith to new levels. I am excited to explore my renewed faith and greater spirituality.

Ally Warby

A pilgrimage is different to a holiday and for that I am thankful for. A holiday to Spain and Portugal would never have given me the same Graces this Pilgrimage did. For starters, the people who we were on pilgrimage with all taught me something different, each one of them so steadfast in their love for our Lord.  Walking and journeying with Saints Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Jacinta and Francisco and Holy People like Lucia and Our Lady of Fatima has been incredibly humbling and special. We celebrated Mass at the tomb of Saint John of the Cross and at the exact spot where Mary appeared to the three Shepherds of Fatima, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia. It was very special when Bishop Michael presided at the apparition site. We saw the places where Saint Teresa was born in her parents’ room which has now been turned into a chapel.  We visited the churches where she and the three  Shepherds were baptised.  Our Lady’s presence has been particularly felt during this pilgrimage and I cannot wait to come home and share all I’ve learnt and felt.   Being in the presence of the Holy Father was incredible, I will never forget the day I was 5m away from him and he waved right at us. The emotion I was overcome with is something I have never experienced.  I would like to encourage those who have never been on a pilgrimage to do so, you will be challenged spiritually, emotionally and sometimes physically but you end up learning so much about your Faith, yourself and others you travel with.

Anja Winch

Travelling somewhere you have never been before is always exciting, but travelling there as a pilgrim is like nothing else you will ever experience. Flying to Spain and Portugal for World Youth Day was no exception to this. Witnessing the universal church in such a unique setting was a privilege. As a “new Catholic” (I went through RCIA in 2022), I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the lives of the Saints and especially loved my experience in Fatima.
World Youth Day in Lisbon was filled with crowds, packed trains and daily encounters with God and the Gospel. Seeing hundreds of thousands of young people, living and proclaiming their faith, was unlike anything I have ever seen.
Although the adventure of WYD was incredible, I cannot help to reflect most on my time in Fatima. The story of three shepherd children, visited by Mary, has replayed in my head almost daily. Even more special, the fact that I could come home and share this story with my students – children of similar age to little Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta. The stories of Saints and miracles has always seemed so distant, but this is a 20th century story.
I am so thankful for the experience of this pilgrimage and I feel its effects will continue to be felt by those who experienced it, for years to come.

Anthony Warby

Before this trip I was confused, unprepared and not knowing of myself and my Faith but  going through this journey I now know myself, my Faith and purpose. Enlightened, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Visiting Avila, Segovia, Salamanca, Lisbon and Fatima. The Cathedrals, Convents, the sites, the culture, seeing and learning the stories and history of St Teresa, Saint John, St Ignatius of Loyola and even Our Lady of Fatima has been life changing.

My overall faith journey has been a fulfilling one to say the least after seeing/hearing the pope and now knowing why GOD chose for me to go to WYD.  I want to dedicate my life after this pilgrimage to be a better Catholic and serve GOD through his practices and my vocation of marriage.

Father Andrew Hogan

World Youth Day is an experience without comparison. The sheer numbers alone are hard to fathom, but the fact that they are comprised of young people who are proud, excited, and on fire with their faith creates an atmosphere and experience that only serves to build up and strengthen your own personal faith as well as being a very real and visible witness to the entire world.

While you may have seen photos of excited young people enjoying what Lisbon and the surrounds had to offer and you may have seen videos of excitement reaching fever pitch when the Holy Father arrived at various events, what eventually became abundantly evident was that the focus of these days was in fact Jesus Christ and what he was doing in the lives of the young people gathered. This was most evident when a crowd of about 1.4 million fell silent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

World Youth Day was a wonderful celebration of faith. Just as important as the journey to Lisbon was, the greater journey is what occurred in the life and spirit of the pilgrims. I pray and hope that they can bring even just a little of that joy and excitement that they found at World Youth Day back with them into their lives at home.

We all need ‘mountain top’ experiences in our life to buoy us up and encourage us along our journey. I encourage the young people in our diocese, that when this opportunity is presented again, to take it up. In the meantime, there are a few home grown events such as Ignite, and the Australian Youth Festival which are wonderful events to gather with other young people and celebrate our Catholic faith and identity.