World Youth Day 2008 Blog

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World Youth Day has Begun!

CathedralToday started the official World Youth Day and I can tell you that the city of Sydney was electric!  We woke up this morning and it was chilly!  The volunteers here at St. Christopher had our breakfast ready to go for us – cereal, pears, juice, granola bars and coffee, tea and hot chocolate to keep us warm.  We took a 45-minute train ride into the city where we were had a 9 a.m. appointment to tour St. Mary’s Cathedral, the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

The cathedral was beautiful!  The biggest highlight was the body of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in1925 at the age of 24.  He is thus considered the patron of young adults.  For World Youth Day his body in a simple wooden coffin was flown from its place in Turin, Italy to Sydney to be on display in the cathedral.  The chance to pray in front of his coffin was a moving moment of many of our youth. 

Another highlight was the newly unveiled painting of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Help of Christians.  The painting looks almost life-like; like a photo any one of us could take.  I have sent pictures of it, that I hope you will be able to see what I mean. (Click here for a photo gallery)

Opening MassAfter the tour of the cathedral, everyone was given a couple hours of free time to check out the World Youth Day displays all around the city.  We all met at noon down at Darling Harbor, the site which is at the heart of World Youth Day. 

We walked as a group to gather our lunches. When we received our registration credentials we were given our meal tickets for the entire week.  For lunch and dinner, we find one of the meal sites located around the city and go as a group.  They distribute hot lunches in groups of six, in other words – you and five other people have to be in a group, collect your meal tickets together and turn them in to get six lunches.  It is done this way because the food is served family style and also to cut down on the number of people waiting in lines.  Instead of six people, it is only one person.

We ate our lunch in our spots for the opening Mass, which was held outside right along the harbor.  We were assigned a section and had to go there and claim our space. It was a pretty fun atmosphere in our section.  Some read, some played cards, others met and talked to pilgrims from all over the world.  Finally, at 4:30 the opening Mass began.  Cardinal Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney was the main celebrant for Mass.  Besides being cold once the sun went down, the Mass was incredible and a great way to kick off  World Youth Day. 

All in all, it was a terrific day.  The city is now full of hundreds of thousands of people – waving their countries flags, singing songs, and being witnesses to Jesus Christ.  What more can you ask for?  Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – pray for us!

See the photo gallery for this post

Posted by Katie Berger at 10:01 a.m. on Tuesday, July 15, 2008


First Catechetical Session

Youth prayingToday began the catechetical sessions in many different sites around Sydney and beyond.  We are fortunate that our assigned location is at St. Christopher’s, where we are staying.  In addition to us and those staying with us, hundreds of other pilgrims joined us for the session.

We have pilgrims at our site from Papua New Guinea, two groups from Melbourne, Florida, Western Australia, Brisbane, New Zealand, and local youth from Sydney. Each of the three mornings in each of the over 200 sites around the city, there is a different bishop who delivers a different talk, all about the Holy Spirit followed by Mass. 

At our site, Bishop Denis Browne of Hamilton, New Zealand delivered a talk on today’s theme, “Called to Live in the Holy Spirit.”  In his talk he addressed who is the Holy Spirit by looking at several Scripture passages as well as explaining the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Following his talk, he took questions from the group and then wanted to pose for a picture with all the young people in the room. (Click here for a photo gallery)

Our archdiocesan group has some added responsibility at our catechetical site, as we’re pretty much responsible for running each of the mornings.  Father Meyer and Paul Sifuentes were the emcees for today and the next two days. They led the entire group in both prayer and fun.   Our group is also responsible for coordinating all the aspects of the liturgy – the music, servers, finding readers and greeters.  It really went well!

Lunch today was served at our site at St. Christopher, which was nice.  After lunch, the group had the rest of the day free and could to decide what to do.  There were literally over a hundred different choices – including concerts, talks, forms, movies, adoration, and reconciliation.  Groups went off in every direction.  From what I hear, many of our group went to the Opera house and to hear Fr. Stan Fortuna, a Franciscan priest who raps.  As I type this, the groups are returning back to St. Christopher’s to head to bed for the night.  The wonderful staff and volunteers have hot drinks, soup and other snacks out for us when we return each night.

Really, the city of Sydney has been amazing!  Everywhere you turn in the city there is a band performing or people gathered.  It is so exciting and beautiful to witness the faith of all these people gathered in this city.  The city is bursting with energy and I can’t say enough about the great Aussie people we have met.  They are willing to answer any questions, point us in the right direction or get us back on the right path.  The overall impression I get from our group is one of excitement.  Yesterday, I kept overhearing talk of being amazed at the size of the crowd and how much they loved being around all the groups from different parts of the world.  It’s hard to describe unless you can truly experience it.

On a personal note, I want to thank all of the pilgrims for their warm birthday wishes. Today was my birthday and they really made me feel like I was at home with my family…cake and all!  I was really blessed. 

Tomorrow morning will be similar to what we experienced today except that tomorrow afternoon the youth of the world will greet Pope Benedict when he publicly arrives in Sydney.  We’re hoping to figure out a good place to go to hopefully get a glimpse of him.

See the photo gallery from our first catechetical session

Posted by Katie Berger at 10:55 a.m. on Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Second Catechetical Session

Youth praying before the World Youth Day CrossToday was day #2 of the catechesis at sites all over Sydney.  We began just as yesterday – with some fun and praise music before hearing our speaker.

Today at St. Christopher’s, our bishop speaker was Bishop Patrick Zurek from the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas.  In his talk, he addressed the theme of today, “Holy Spirit, Soul of the Church.”  He emphasized that the same Spirit that John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa and other holy men and women possess, we also possess.  He also said something else that I found to be really interesting, “The Spirit is to the Church what the soul is to the body.”  Following this presentation we again had Mass and then lunch. (Click here for a photo gallery)

After lunch we ate lunch at our site and then the entire archdiocese group took the train into Sydney.  We spent a little time in Hyde Park which is right next to the city’s cathedral and at the heart of the city.  We kind of just stumbled upon a tent in the park which contained the World Youth Day cross and icon.  As you may know, the cross has been all over the world and prior to each World Youth Day journeys to the next site.

Then the group walked over to an area called the “Domain” where they waited for the arrival of the Pope.  Pope Benedict was first on a boat which went up the Sydney Harbor, then stopped at another venue for a formal welcome.  They had large screens set up for viewing, so we were able to watch it all.   It was packed with people all waiting to get a glimpse of him as his papal motorcade went through the crowd.  Then at about 5:30, the time came and in a blink of an eye he was already past.  I was standing on the front row next to the rode because I got to stand in the media section, but can you believe – even in the front row his motorcade was too fast to get a picture! 

Following the Pope passing by, groups dispersed throughout the city to various venues, similar to last night.  As I sit in the international media center now at Darling Harbor, there are still thousands of people outside more energized as ever.  The arrival of the Holy Father added some extra energy to the city and to the pilgrims – as if that was even possible.   Still so exciting here in Sydney!

See the photo gallery from our second catechetical session

(Check back later for larger versions of some of the group shots in the above gallery)

Posted by Katie Berger at 9:22 a.m. on Thursday, July 17, 2008


More Group Photos

The gallery below contained several good photos of various groups of youth and chaperones.

Katie also got another picture of the whole group together, which you can view by clicking on the photo below:

WYD 2008 Group Photo
(Or, click here for an even larger version -- 1.5 MB)


I've resized the rest so that you can view copies that are larger than appear in the gallery. Click each image below for the larger version.

WYD 2008 Group PhotoWYD 2008 Group PhotoWYD 2008 Group Photo

WYD 2008 Group PhotoWYD 2008 Group PhotoWYD 2008 Group PhotoWYD 2008 Group Photo


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:23 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, 2008


WYD News and Papal Speeches

So much has been going on in Australia and the large scale (outside of our group) that's it's hard to know where to start. Below I've listed a few news stories and speeches that may help!

First are a handful of Catholic News Service stories that we've run in the past week regarding World Youth Day (listed newest to oldest):

The Vatican also has resources available, from news bulletins to speeches:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 2:27 p.m. on Thursday, July 17, 2008



Final Day of Catechesis

Youths at a catechetical sessionToday was the final day of the catechetical sessions and for our speaker, we had Bishop Anil from Jullundur, India.  The topic which he addressed was today’s theme, “Sent out into the world:  The Holy Spirit, the principal agent of mission.”  He spoke about the famous missionaries who came to India, such as the Apostle, Thomas, the person responsible for bringing Christianity to India and St. Francis Xavier who came and brought the western ways of Christianity.  He also talked about the influence of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and how she was a huge force in evangelization. (Click here for a photo gallery)

The bishop’s words were inspiring and challenging, reminding us that it is not easy to be a witness.  He said that all people are called to be missionaries, maybe not missionaries like we might think, but rather missionaries within our own context; evangelizing in our own settings.  With that call to evangelize must come courage, he said.  He reminded us of the words of the late Pope John Paul II, “Be not afraid” to stand for Christ and the teaching of the Church.

After we finished catechesis, Mass and lunch, the group again headed to downtown Sydney.  Today was Stations of the Cross day.   At many different sites throughout the city there was a dramatic portrayal of the Stations of the Cross.  All the World Youth Day groups were assigned to one of several locations throughout the city to watch the Stations.  The stations then were done throughout the city, some happening at each place.  We were assigned to Barangaroo, the site of the last several stations.  For all the other Stations happening elsewhere we were able to watch them on the large screens.  Though a little cold because we right on the harbor, it was an inspiring look and the Passion of Jesus through skits and song.

After the Stations, groups went off and did various things.  My group went over to the Sydney Opera House in hopes we could go to adoration.  There was over an hour wait to get in to adoration so unfortunately we couldn’t stay because tonight everyone was supposed to be back at St. Christopher’s at a fairly decent hour.  Tomorrow is the big day – we do our hike to Randwick raceway, the site of the overnight vigil and final Mass with Pope Benedict, so we all have to pack tonight everything we need for out on the field.  In the morning prior to the hike we will be attending a Mass with all the American pilgrims, celebrated by Cardinal George of Chicago.  Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

See the photo gallery from our last catechetical session

Posted by Katie Berger at 9:52 a.m. on Friday, July 18, 2008


No Posts from Sydney Today

Katie called me today to let me know that she would not be able to posts photos and updates from the field today because of the difficulty of accessing the Internet.

I imagine that they are asleep right now after having a long evening keeping vigil with the pope, praying, signing and talking. When she called it sounded like a rock concert -- some kind of band must have been playing.

I believe that the pilgrims return to their lodging tomorrow, so hopefully we'll have news and photos by then (and definitely by Monday morning).

In the meantime, here are the texts from the pope's recent homilies/speeches:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 1:53 p.m. on Saturday, July 19, 2008


Vigil and Mass with the Pope

Youth prayingI apologize again for the delay.  I was unable to post anything while we were out at the overnight vigil but here’s a long update for Saturday and Sunday:

Yesterday morning (Saturday) we packed up all the belonging we wanted to take with us to the vigil and headed in to Sydney to the “Domain,” the site where we also watched the Pope come into Sydney.  There, for the first time ever at World Youth Day, there was Mass for all the pilgrims from the United States so all the bishops and cardinals who were at World Youth Day, along with thousands of U.S. pilgrims came together in prayer.  It was a neat thing to be gathered with other Americans – to get us energized before we made the hike out to Randwick Raceway for the vigil.

At the Mass, popular Catholic musicians Steve Angrisano and Matt Maher led the music ministry team.  Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago was the main celebrant.  In his homily he reminded the young people of Pope Benedict’s message on his visit to the United States in April about searching for the Truth.  He talked about the importance of surrendering to the Lord, which would allow us to become more free; a message, he said, that is of particular importance in a land such as the United States in which many are taught to be independent and self righteous.  He encouraged the young Americans to help one another be saints and told us to “be holy together.” (Click here for a photo gallery)

Once we left the American Mass, we began the long trek out to the Raceway, the site of our overnight vigil and Papal Mass.  I’m not good with distances but I would guess it was about three to four miles.  It was a little challenging, I’d have to say.  There was a point when it was up hill and so our group got a little spread out and had to regroup.  We finally got to the Raceway and put our stuff down to claim our space.  Unfortunately we put our stuff down on a walkway and so the police told us to move.  “No worries” as they say in Australian English.  We easily found a new spot.  We were in section B2 which was to the far right of the main stage, which was where the Pope was for the vigil prayer and Mass.  Really, our seats were quite excellent; far better than for the last World Youth Day in Germany.

Youth at a VigilAt the vigil, an estimated 235,000 people joined the Pope as he gave a short talk where his focus was on unity.  After his address, he led us in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament followed by a benediction.  He then departed and the chilly night began.  There was a concert and an international Rosary but most of our group was already asleep by then.  The night was cold – probably down in the 40’s.  I slept off and on and that is what I heard from most in the group. We were blessed with no rain, just a little dew that had settled by the morning.  As the night went on, it finally got quieter, though occasionally throughout the night I could still hear singing and laughing from groups across Randwick.  A huge Catholic slumber party – that’s what it was!

By 8 a.m. everyone was awake and it was time for the entire raceway filled with people to pray Morning Prayer.  Soon after, the Holy Father made his appearance in the Pope mobile as he made two laps around the raceway amid cheers and waving flags.  He stopped a few times, rolled down the electronic window in the Pope mobile to kiss a few babies and was on his way to the main altar.  Our group was pretty far from him, but could still see everything well from the large screen in our section.  Even being in the same arena with him was incredible.  He brings so much energy and excitement.  Sometimes I took time to stop and think about how this man, over 80, can captivate hundreds of thousands of young adults and teens.  The Holy Spirit is indeed at work! 

Mass began at 10 a.m. and was glorious, with an estimated 400,000 in attendance.  Because the theme of this World Youth Day had to do with the Holy Spirit, the Pope Confirmed over 20 young people all representing different parts of Australia and countries of the world.  Imagine being Confirmed by the Pope!  In a silly way – I wondered where they go to get their Confirmation certificates when they need them later in life! (Click here for a photo gallery)

One of my favorite moments during Mass was that two times during Mass (after the homily and after Communion) they asked the crowd to take some time in silence to think and pray and it REALLY was quiet.  To think that a crowd of nearly a half million people could come to a stand-still to both ponder the words of Pope Benedict’s homily and to spend time in thanksgiving for the Eucharist they had just received was amazing.  Also, during Mass we prayed all the prayer petitions written by our friends, families, and parish communities from back home, so know that all of you were in our prayers.

YouthPope Benedict’s homily was a challenge to all of us young people.  He talked about the importance of daily prayer in our lives.  Then, he asked us questions about the mark/legacy we will leave for the next generation.  “What difference will you make?” he asked.  He told us that the world and the Church is in need of renewal and that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can be the source of renewal.  He also encouraged all young people to pray for our vocation, especially encouraging us to consider the call to priesthood and consecrated lives.

One of the most exciting parts, besides seeing the Pope and receiving Jesus, of course, was the announcement of the next World Youth Day.  Pope Benedict announced that the next international World Youth Day will be hold in Madrid, Spain in 2011.  The crowd went crazy at the announcement, especially all the young people from Spain.

We had a little change of plans for our housing.  Originally we were going to stay tonight (Sunday) at St. Christopher’s and then move tomororw to Olympic Park for our remaining days in Sydney, however, we had heard from people already staying there that there are literally hundreds of beds there all in huge rooms, so…our wonderful hosts at St. Christopher’s Parish have graciously offered to let us continue staying here for the rest of our time here.  The school children who have been on a winter break do return at some point this week, so one or two of the nights all 90 of us will move out of our classrooms and into the large activity hall.  Hey, we slept outside with 200,000 of our closest friends, what’s 90?  I may have mentioned this already on previous posts, but our group has been fabulous in terms of being flexible and really just letting whatever happens – happen.  We are all actually pretty excited to stay here – the staff and volunteers here have been incredible to say the least.

Our last few days will be pretty relaxing.  Tomorrow we get to sleep in and then have Mass at 10 a.m.  Other than Mass each day and a little time for processing and sharing our experiences, we’re really on our own.  I’ll try to be sure to ask what kinds of things everyone is doing so over the next few days I can give you a good picture of the fun we’re all having.   Thanks for your prayers…we made it through a long hike and chilly night.  Wouldn’t you know –it rained tonight once we were back in our housing!  Thanks be to God it wasn’t last night!

See the photo gallery for July 19 (Vigil with the Pope)

See the photo gallery for July 20 (Mass with the Pope)

Posted by Katie Berger at 2:43 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, 2008


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