NORTH Queensland Catholic Teresa Lemaire is one step closer to catching “a glimpse” of her favourite pope after receiving a sponsorship to attend the World Youth Day in Poland.
The 27-year-old from Weipa, Far North Queensland, was one of 12 young Catholics to receive $1000 from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference youth office and World Youth Day committee to support their pilgrimages to Krakow in July.
The Pilgrim Support Program made a potentially expensive trip of more than $7000 more affordable for Miss Lemaire, Weipa’s only World Youth Day pilgrim.
“When you are living in a rural area you think you’re so far and apart from everything else,” she said.
“It is an amazing opportunity and I feel very blessed to be picked.”
Originally born in Ghana, Miss Lemaire and her family moved to Australia in 2011.
After completing a degree in electrical engineering she moved to Weipa, on Queensland’s Western Cape York Peninsula, to work in the mines.
Miss Lemaire said it was difficult adjusting to the smaller Catholic youth culture in Weipa.
“I come from a culture where Catholic youth are alive (in the faith), jumping, clapping their hands,” she said.
All that is about to change when Miss Lemaire joins five other pilgrims from the Cairns diocese to “be loud” with an estimated two million Catholics headed for Krakow.
This will be Miss Lemaire’s first World Youth Day trip and first visit to Europe.
Pope Francis was the main reason Miss Lemaire applied to join the World Youth Day pilgrimage with the Cairns diocese.
“From the first day he became the pope, there has been a different outlook on what our Christianity should be, the call for our Churches to be ‘messy’, which is very powerful,” she said.
“He is amazing.
“I won’t push for meeting him, but I will do all I can to get a glimpse of him,” she said.
The local support from her Weipa parish has also been a “huge support” for the first-time WYD pilgrim.
“My biggest supporters are the kids (pictured),” she said.
“They will be in my prayers throughout my journey.
“I am praying that I return full, overflowing with blessings to share with my parish.”
The Ghanaian woman also talked of organising a family reunion in Poland.
“I have a cousin (from Ghana) who was picked by the Bishop to go to World Youth Day,” Miss Lemaire said.
“I haven’t seen him in more than a year.”
The ACBC Office for Youth hopes to follow Miss Lemaire and the other 11 sponsored pilgrims as they journey through Europe to Poland.
Office for Youth director Malcolm Hart said all 12 candidates would “undoubtedly absorb and relish all that World Youth Day has to offer”.
“The pilgrims’ faith journey and their World Youth Day pilgrimage will be interesting journeys to follow and share with others,” he said.
All 12 sponsored pilgrims were nominated by their respective bishops and youth ministry leaders.
By Emilie Ng