YOUNG people “looking for the essence of life” will be surprised to find an answer or two among millions of Catholics gathering in Poland next month, Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman said.
Bishop Oudeman is one of 19 Australian bishops headed to the World Youth Day in Krakow, where an expected two million young Catholics will gather.
It will be the third WYD pilgrimage for Bishop Oudeman, who praised the event for helping young people navigate their faith and spiritual life.
“It’s not about a whole lot of young people together but it’s about young people yearning for something pure, something that makes a whole lot of sense that is fulfilling,” Bishop Oudeman said.
Unlike secular youth gatherings, the World Youth Day’s unique focus on pilgrimage from their home country to host city Krakow offered young people a chance to reflect and meditate on life.
“There’s a whole lot of superficial things in the world,” Bishop Oudeman said.
“I suppose they’re looking for the essence of life – what is life, what is faith, what is God?”
Bishop Oudeman, who is celebrating 50 years as a priest, is among thousands of Catholic clergy worldwide registered for the WYD in Krakow, hailed as being the largest youth event in the world.
While he has been scheduled to hear confessions and give catechesis during the pilgrimage, the bishop’s main priority will be spending time with the youth.
“I go there really to get to know the young people,” he said.
“I hear confessions, yes, I gave catechesis, but I want to be with the young people and they are enthusiastic about their faith.
“And you don’t get a whole lot of young people in the one parish Mass – if they come, they’re very quiet, and they let the oldies take over.”
Polish-born Pope John Paul II initiated the first World Youth Day gathering in Rome in 1986.
“And then when the youth turned up in great numbers, the bishops thought we’d better be there as well,” Bishop Oudeman said.
“And it’s been my experience that you have millions of young people there.”
During his previous two trips, Bishop Oudeman observed that young people “respond most to traditional faith”.
“The faith is not watered down, the teachings of the Church are not watered down,” he said.
“They are given Good News, really, something to make your life happy, complete.
“When you go to schools and you start talking about the faith, very often it ends up being social justice or something like that, and that is necessary in a way, but faith is more than just about social justice.
“It really is about a relationship with Jesus and a relationship with the sacraments – with Jesus through the sacraments.”
By Emilie Ng