PASTORAL planner for the Journey of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon (JCI), Alice Priest, is going to put truckers singing “Six days on the road” to shame by the end of July 2008.
That is because she will have spent 10 months, out of the previous 12, plotting the travels and accompanying two highly spiritual objects across the length and breadth of Australia.
Alice is part of the Sydney based team, headed by Missionary of God’s Love Father Chris Ryan, and their brief is to look after the cross and icon through the South-East Asian, Pacific and Australian legs of the journey which began on February 18.
The World Youth Day Cross and Icon were gifts from the late Pope John Paul II to the young people of the world.
In bestowing the cross in 1984, John Paul II asked young people to carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption.
Alice said that since the last staging of World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany (2005), the cross and icon had basically been travelling non-stop around Africa.
“We were asked by the Pontifical Council for Laity to really give an emphasis to the whole region, not just to Australia, in preparation for World Youth Day in Sydney, so it’s been our responsibility to make the journey possible,” Alice said.
“We invited all the bishops’ conferences in the Pacific region to register their interest in hosting the cross and icon and the response in the region has really been overwhelming.
“These are places from where they’ve never sent young people to World Youth Day before – they’ve never had an encounter with the cross and icon before.
“We were quite moved by East Timor’s response when we approached them about hosting. because we had a letter back from one of the bishops saying ‘we not only want it, we need it’.
“In a number of these places it’s very difficult to get the cross and icon there as transport is not easy, but the enthusiasm has certainly warranted a great effort being made to get it to these places,” she said.
With the cross and icon set to arrive in Australia on July 1, the Sydney WYD office has recently announced their permanent travelling team.
In addition to Alice and Fr Ryan, it comprises three youth ministry volunteers, a media officer and a dedicated driver to make the tour through each diocese.
“Fr Chris and I will be accompanying the cross and icon for the majority of the time, taking care of the team and being there to support the local engagement with the cross and icon,” Alice said.
“Each diocese is being encouraged to have local transports for the cross and icon that are appropriate to the local landscape.
“There are plans for it to be on a paddle steamer down the Murray River, to be flown to regional remote areas and to be escorted by a group of Harley Davidson enthusiasts and youth cycling clubs.
“The basic mandate of the cross and icon is to go where young people gather so there are going to be all sorts of ways they’re going to be moved around the country and prayerfully engaged.”
The logistics of the journey mean it will be a tour conducted in three different stages.
The first part of the national tour finishes in November before the cross and icon go to end of year “schoolies” celebrations.
In December and January they will be available to youth conferences and movements for their summer camps.
The final part of the national tour will resume on January 26 and will run through to World Youth Day in July 2008.
“My primary role is to support the development of engagement with the WYD Cross and Icon, to work fairly specifically on the pastoral engagement and to look after the travelling team,” Alice said.
“The bishop has appointed local organisations and left it up to them locally at their own discretion to determine what they actually do with it.
“We’ve worked with them in allocating the time that it would come into each diocese and we’re managing the movement in a sense from one place to the other.
“Fr Chris and I very much plan to operate an office on the road, so that for those who are receiving the cross and icon in 2008 we are still offering a level of support for their planning,” she said.
For more information on the JCI check out the World Youth Day special 4-page liftout in this week’s Catholic Leader newspaper or visit www.wyd2008.org and check out the Journey of the Cross and Icon section.
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