CONNECTING the pieces of the World Youth Day 2008 journey, 750 people from across Brisbane archdiocese participated in the October 11 gathering “Be My Witnesses” at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
With engaging testimony, multimedia, drama, worship and prayer, the four-part presentation focused on the initial 13-day visit of the WYD08 Cross and Icon to the archdiocese, BrizStay and Days in the Diocese, the Sydney pilgrimage and beyond.
Archbishop John Bathersby of Brisbane reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s “magnificent” words spoken to millions of youth at Randwick on July 20.
“He said the Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people,” Archbishop Bathersby said.
“Grow in the power of the spirit … open your hearts to that power.”
Following a rousing applause he focused on the message especially given to those whom “the Lord is calling to the priesthood and to consecrated life”.
“Do not be afraid to say yes to Jesus,” he said, recalling Pope Benedict’s words.
“… And to find your joy in doing His will, the giving of yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness and using all your talents in the service of others.”
Challenging young people to grasp Pope Benedict’s message at their tender age, Archbishop Bathersby said they would then be “off and away”.
“(In doing so) you are understanding what faith is about,” he said.
“Fifty-three years ago I gave my life to God and I have never regretted that decision for one moment,” he said.
“Now at the age of 72, I have never been happier in my life … and if that could happen to me it could happen to anyone, to each and every one of you.
“The Church today, more than ever, needs young people to tell other people about the Good News of God.”
Recalling the march through city streets as part of the Fiesta of Faith on July 12, among 5000 overseas guests, Archbishop Bathersby further encouraged the youth present.
“You gave remarkable witness when you marched up Adelaide Street … why not give that witness for a lifetime?” he asked, twice.
“If you can do that not only will you change your own life but you will change the lives of other people and you will also transform the world.”
Sunnybank youth Dony Rodriguez spoke energetically of his Sydney experience and the journey towards World Youth Day in Spain in 2011.
“I was in search of a deeper, intimate relationship with God,” he said of initial hopes for Sydney.
“… (WYD08 was) an opportunity to celebrate our faith with half a million people from all over the world (and) I wanted to gain valuable knowledge for youth ministry from this most valuable experience.”
He animatedly likened the experience of time spent with God during “World Youth Day week” as that of “having a girlfriend”.
“They say falling in love with Jesus is like having a girlfriend,” Dony told an attentive crowd.
“You call him every day, tell him everything, sometimes get a few presents, go to Mass to know each other more.
“So … World Youth Day was like a honeymoon for me. I know so much more about God, I spent the whole week with Him.”
Dony, who has been accepted to serve with NET (National Evangelisation Teams) in 2009, said WYD08 reminded him “the world is thirsty”.
“I have to do something about it … I’m sure God will lead me,” he said.
“Bring on Spain 2001 and call me up for Spanish lessons.”
Looking beyond WYD08, university student Kiri Groeneveld, from Redland Bayside Deanery, said she found it difficult to “readjust to normal life” once home.
“Forced back into that reality that made me appreciate everything World Youth Day offered me,” she said.
“It made me appreciate the people who went and how they got there and why we were all there.
“And it was that appreciation and understanding I see as my preparation for the next one (World Youth Day).”
Kiri encouraged young people to also look ahead with gusto.
“If you are going to take away anything (from today) then ask, ‘What is it in my everyday life that makes me feel appreciative of what World Youth Day gave me and what about that is preparing me for Madrid?'”
WYD08 project co-ordinator Michael Hart, in his address, thanked those who assisted in the four-part journey, especially Brisbane Catholic Education, Brisbane archdiocese’s Faith and Life Vicariate, Centacare and Archdiocesan Services.
He also acknowledged the contribution of secretariat staff, the 300 volunteers who gave constant assistance to locals and visitors, and all those who offered a sense of “welcome”.
WYD08 NET member Laura Moore, accompanied by emmanuelworship’s Patrick Keady, sang a beautifully adapted version of Ray Boltz’s song “Thank You” to express gratitude to all those who had contributed to the journey.
Mr Hart encouraged young people to “stay connected globally, get involved locally” and continue their “personal pilgrimage”.
Michael Mangan, Anne Frawley-Mangan and youth from Albany Creek parish musically and dramatically led the post-WYD event with artistic help from students of Chisholm College.
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